Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It's Almost Here!!!!!

The Countdown has started, and it's a day away. And forgive me for seeming to be extremely excited. But I think anyone would be if they knew they were a part of a project that is going to affect so many people. The Ultimate Fitness Professional's Business Success System - the name says it all, huh?

http://www.fitnessbusinessrevolution2007.blogspot.com/

I'm hope that most people have heard by now about the product we have just finished that we put together with Alwyn Cosgrove - maybe you have heard of him - where we explained in detail every aspect, every system, every 'secret' that we have used to build our businesses.

Here's what you need to do if you haven't already - go to http://www.fitnessconsultinggroup.com/business-roadblocks.html. That will put you on the 'early-bird' mailing list. That list will get access to the product release prior to the normal release time. We are offering a teleconference for the first 100 buyers, so the benefit to getting in early is obvious. FYI, Fitness Consulting Group currently charges more per hour for phone coaching than we are going to charge for the Ultimate Fitness Professional's Business Success System. So it only makes sense to get in early and get the product and the call.

We are excited. The product turned out better than expected. The interest has been overwhelming.

This is the product our industry has been waiting for.

Oh, the early bird list is closing sometime today I think. I recommend getting your name on it.

Nick Berry

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Let's Hit the Ground Running

I’ve been pretty absent online for the last few weeks, between the holidays and our offline businesses. I hope everyone had a great holiday and are as fired up about 2007 as I am. There are soooo many things about to hit our industry, so many things that can change nearly every aspect of your business for the better. There are already some valuable resources out there, but 2007 is going to bring automated billing, autoship supplements, automated marketing, referral systems………….the list keeps growing.

If you’ve been to www.fitnessconsultinggroup.com, or read the Fitness Riches newsletter, you’ve read our tag line, “Dedicated to growing your business”. Never has that been more true. 2007 is going to be the best year to be a Fitness Professional in history. There are more opportunities to grow, expand, improve, and make more money off of your business. The avenues to a more profitable, less dependent business, and a richer, more flexible future are being provided. Now are you going to implement them? The blueprints to your ideal business are there (I thought that appropriate since one of our own is now a ‘Blueprint’ coverboy.) Are you going to read them?

The hard work has been done. The systems are almost ready. Now it’s up to Fitness Professionals to make a decision: do you want to keep grinding, long hours, constantly searching for prospects, trying to get more clients to make more money? Or does the thought of putting all of that hard work into several implemented systems that are proven to bring in more clients, with less work, and then maximize their lifetime value – and do it less expensively – appeal to you a little more?

You know, don’t answer that.

You don’t have to. The answer is obvious through your actions.

And I can’t tell you how excited we are about working with those of you who choose the latter.

Nick

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bring On The New Year

I’m going to offer a few year end tips – some we learned from some past mistakes, of course – to help you save some money. First off, discuss all of this information with your accountant. They are far more qualified to give advice than I, but here are a few things you might want to inquire about:

Any Accounting Updates: Any changes in bookkeeping can be made simpler and more efficient if done at the close of the fiscal year, which is more than likely December 31. It's important as part of your year-end tax strategy to have a good understanding of your company's financial situation. Spend extra time ensuring your books are up-to-date and accurate.

Defer Income: Any revenues you can receive during the first week of January as opposed to December cuts your tax bill for this year. All revenue earned up to December 31st has taxes paid in April of 2007; whereas income deferred to January will not owe taxes until April of 2008. Talk with your accountant and make sure your cash flow can handle the deferment.

Of course, any deferral should will depend on your profit and losses for the year and your legal structure.

Increase Expenses: I’m not a big fan of this method for Fitness Professionals, but after consulting with your accountant, you may want to purchase items your business will require in the immediate future to maximize deductions for this year. If you can see a need for goods and services in the first quarter of the new year, buy them now, if cash flow permits. Consider paying bills early also, so long as the payment shows on your books before the new year.

Beyond Taxes

If you haven't already done so, now is an excellent time to review your company's year-end results and plan for the coming year. If you've already created your annual plan, you may want to look at it in a new light.

A typical approach to business revenue planning suggests multiplying last year's quantitative results by an acceptable growth factor. Industry standards vary, but you don’t have to go by industry standards, you can set your own standards. You should set goals relative to past performance. You may want to increase revenues by 10, 20, 40%. Like all goals, they should be realistic, but challenging.
A well rounded strategy which will provide a platform for continuous growth should impact these critical factors:

  • revenue and profit
  • product and service development
  • customer service
  • productivity
  • strategic partnerships
  • new client growth
  • client retention
  • employee retention

What can you learn from last year?
What did you do right - what worked - what should you do more of? What did you do wrong - what didn't work - what should be stopped immediately? What is missing? What should we eliminate? What results are you committed to produce? These should be quantifiably results that I mentioned earlier. 25% increase in retention. 20% increase in monthly revenues. Zero employee turnover. This list could go on forever.

How are you going to achieve these goals?
Who is accountable for each result? What steps are going to be taken? What strategies and tactics have the best chance to produce the results? The approach to some targets will be simple, others more complex. While there are no guarantees of success, each target should have an identifiable path with a good probability of getting your business to where you want it to be. That path will also include benchmarks to measure the ongoing success. What structural and procedural changes will you make? Does this initiative have any staffing implications? Do you need to create new job descriptions or add managers?

What happens to your business if you don’t?
Can you live without addressing all of these factors? Of course you can - but will you prosper, and for how long? Increase sales, but neglect quality - what will happen to customer satisfaction? Improve product quality but neglect employee retention? What will happen to quality next year? And then what will happen to sales? Focus on profits but not new customers or strategic relationships - next year's sales (and profits) decline, and so on. Each aspect's improvement contributes to your company's prosperity.

Can you do everything at once?
You may not be able to do it all at once, but the solution can not neglect any of your critical factors. Create a breakthrough in planning which commits your company to some level of advancement for each of the factors. One that ensures they all receive some level of attention so that each is moving forward, although maybe not all to the same degree.

And finally, a quote:

“Cleanup and planning tasks don’t just happen in December and January. If you review these tasks quarterly, they won’t sneak up on you at the end of the year.”

That was in the email Kelly, my fiancé, sent me when I told her I wanted to put some year end and goal setting information in the blog.

Ironic, huh.

Nick Berry

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Who Moved My Cheese??

We’ve all heard there are two kinds of people in the world; those who wonder what happened, and those who make things happen. Typically we assign that first group as unsuccessful, and the second as successful. And although success is not guaranteed by ‘making things happen’, there is a correlation between those who take action and those who are successful.

Everyone in our industry has heard the ‘take action’ credo. And hopefully most have been inspired by the success stories and have made the move towards their dream. I’m not going to repeat what you’ve heard over and over – you know by know you need to take action in order to achieve. I’m posting this because this weekend I went back and re-read ‘Who Moved My Cheese Pizza?’ by Pat Rigsby – no, wait, I mean “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson. (That first one is still in the works.)

If you’ve read “Who Moved My Cheese?” you know it’s got a bit of a silly storyline, but an excellent underlying message. If you haven’t read it, you need to. Excellent illustrations of Action vs. Reaction, and how people (or mice?) deal with change, in work, life, etc.

With the amount of time we spend working on our business, building systems, automating, trying to relieve ourselves of the constant battle for our time and freedom within our businesses and our lives, and for all of the time spent trying to provide predictable results and eliminate waste, we will never be able to completely eliminate one thing – human error. There will always be human contact and free will, at least to some degree, as long as we are providing a service.

To deliver my point: As I was going back through this book and the notes I had made the last couple of times I had read something hit me that I feel almost naïve for not having thought of earlier. The ability to adapt, change, and respond is built inside of most of us – that’s why we are entrepreneurs. We are resilient, relentless, we persevere, and we will continue to grind and move forward until we reach our goals. But that’s not everyone’s nature, by a long shot. So while we are busy trying to replace that human error in our business, let’s not neglect that there are those around us who need that side of them nurtured. And I’m talking primarily about employees or others who work in your business. They need that spirit to grow, and with that your business will grow. Your success may ultimately hinge more on a subordinate’s resourcefulness or refusal to let adversity get the best of them – so shouldn’t you be helping them build that side of their character??

You need everyone within your business to be a problem solver. You need answers, not questions. When the roof is caving in – do you want to look over and see your right hand man in the corner in the fetal position sucking his thumb?? Of course not. And although you can’t turn a whiner into a winner in most cases, you can foster that little piece of ‘I will get the job done’ that exists in everyone. It will make your business and your life a better place. Promote creative solutions, problem solving, open suggestions, teamwork, and seeing how it all contributes to the big picture.

And if you want to get them a holiday gift, I would start with “Who Moved My Cheese?” Get them primed for the January rush!!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thanksgiving Lecture

I just want to mention something very quickly that Pat, Alwyn and I were just talking about and I think is worth bringing up.

Don’t dispute a credit card charge with someone who offers a 100% money back guarantee. Please. That’s ridiculous. I’ve had a couple of people who over the course of time have disputed their charge for an info product of ours, and I’m nothing short of amazed. We offer a 100% money back guarantee, which we honor and never ask any question other than to constructively improve our products. If we have a guarantee, it’s for a reason, and we honor it. What’s more, those individuals who have entered a dispute won’t return emails sent to resolve the issue. The reason we would prefer resolving through a refund is because chargebacks reflect poorly on our business. (And for the individuals who do this, it reflects poorly on your credit as well. Whoever issued your credit card is going to snatch it back out of your little hand if you keep abusing.) Alwyn said he even has someone who received a physical product and disputed, without contacting him, kept the product, and won’t return correspondence. I think that warrants posting a blacklist. Ridiculous.

Rather than diminish my post by only fussing about a couple of less than classy individuals, I want to make a positive point. For every one person like that, we’ve had probably 1000 good experiences with good people, and we appreciate them. We enjoy what we do, and the people we get to work with, and we hope that it shows in what we provide. We also appreciate everyone in the fitness industry who has helped us over the course of time. So rather than me just venting about a couple of bad customers, it is Thanksgiving, and I want to thank all of the rest of you who make our industry so much fun. Keep up the great work. And we can just make a joke out of the jackasses that think they are ‘beating the system’.

Be safe and have a great Thanksgiving.

Nick Berry

The Wal-Mart Articles

I’m going to change up from my usual topics a little, let’s expand our horizons. I’ve got a couple of links to articles that I think everyone should read. The first one, the Fast Company article, is pretty long, but an interesting article. The second is shorter, but still interesting. They are both a little old, but that doesn’t diminish their meaning.

The articles are written about Wal-Mart and the pressures that they put on suppliers and the economy. This is not any attempt to persuade, influence, or even give my opinion on Wal-Mart and their business practices. As an entrepreneur and a business coach, I feel it is important that we think outside the box – seeing things for what they are, rather than just from a single perspective. I, probably like most, used to look at Wal-Mart from a consumer’s angle…………low prices, everybody wins. Now I try to educate myself on both sides of every coin. For every nickel saved here, there’s a potential nickel lost there. We see those types of examples every day, the proverbial ‘swinging of the pendulum’.

I guess my intrigue with Wal-Mart in particular stems from a growing understanding of our economy, and the potential effects a company the size of Wal-Mart could have.

Again, I’m neither lobbying for or against Wal-Mart. Form your own opinion with whatever information is available. My intention is that we learn to look past the glow of the smiley faces and flashing signs we are bombarded with daily, and start to understand the economics behind it all.


http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/77/walmart.html

http://www.commondreams.org/scriptfiles/views03/1208-08.htm

Nick Berry

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More Resources

Typically, but not always, Fitness Professionals are compensated by 1099, contract labor. Which means they are NOT employees and are responsible for their own taxes. This will obviously reduce the business expense of withholding taxes, and will change your legal liability, so make sure you have consulted with your legal and tax professionals regarding each. You should also inquire about being ‘at-will’ employees and what that may imply in your state. ‘At-will’ directly relates to your liability for the individual as well as your obligation to them.

You will probably at some point have an employee on payroll, even if it is just a small salary for an assistant. In this instance, you are going to have to withhold taxes and pay in at certain intervals.

As an employer you’re required to withhold chunks from employee paychecks, plus you must pay other employer taxes -- and provide timely and proper reports to the IRS and various other federal and state agencies. It is imperative that you understand exactly what is required.

Employer tax responsibilities are so complex and handling them right is so critical that you want your accountant’s input on how you go about this. My recommendation is that you have their office to help you set up your employer tax system, whether it will be handled in-house by you, coordinated with an outside payroll service provider, or your accountant. Outside sources will handle the ongoing detailed paperwork for you correctly, cheaper and quicker than you could do it yourself. They are also extremely beneficial if there is a change in policy, which happens often, and you don’t have to bother with the headache.

Here are a couple of resources for you to check out (which will reinforce any information I have given as to why you want someone else to do your bookwork).

www.irs.gov

http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p15.pdf - The Employers Tax Guide. This you should probably have on hand for reference.

IRS FAQ – Questions answered regarding reporting tips, mailing W-2s, providing benefits, day care, tuition reimbursement and topics of that nature.

http://www.statelocalgov.net/ – This site is a directory of state, county, and city agency websites.

Also check with your local Small Business Administration. One of their main goals of this Small Business Administration (SBA) program is to help small companies create more jobs. They may offer classes and other help for employers. You can find more info about your local SBA by clicking here.

If you are going to hire employees, you will have to withhold taxes, and you will need an Employee Identification Number (EIN). An EIN is an Employer Identification Number that is the equivalent of your social security number, except for your business. The EIN serves the purpose of identifying a company, and is issued by the IRS.

After you have talked with your tax or legal professional you will have determined which form of business entity you will start with -- sole proprietorship, LLC (Limited Liability Company), or corporation. Based on that you will then know if need an EIN or not. You are required to obtain an EIN if you are:

  • Business entities that are separate from you as an individual, such as corporations and LLCs.
  • Any business that will have employees

You are not required, but may want an EIN if you are:

  • A sole proprietor who wants to separate the business from his or her individual social security number.
  • A proprietor who wants to establish business credit that is separate from personal. A good idea, especially if your personal credit score is less than great and would hold back the business’ opportunity to make purchases and borrow to expand.
This page will give you more information about the EIN and point you to the application:
IRS.gov Employer ID Numbers (EINs).

I won't write about this again for a while, I promise. Again, I'm trying to provide the info and guidance that I wish someone would have given me early on, rather than having to learn the hard way.

Nick Berry

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Quick Accounting Tips

During just about every coaching call I take at some point bookkeeping or accounting gets brought up. Which, I suppose is good, because if there is a mistake to learn from, I’ve probably made it. In most if not all instances, the client either doesn’t have a bookkeeper/accountant working on their books, or if they do, they aren’t communicating with that person well enough to know exactly what to expect out of them. So, I’ve jotted down some quick notes to ask your CPA when you meet them. You may have decided already on your legal entity or your chart of accounts, but it won’t hurt to ask, so you get his or her perspective.

1. What form of business entity should you establish?

Ask your CPA what form of business he or she thinks you should start with -- sole proprietorship, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Partnership, C Corporation or S Corporation. They will ask you a few questions, then recommend which form seems right for your startup. There are both tax and liability issues involves, so if the form you choose requires legal help, they can probably recommend an attorney.
CPAs and attorneys in the same general location typically know which of their fellow professionals have experience in what types of work for which industries. If they refer another professional to you, their referral is based on working experiences, which are much more helpful than yellow page ads.

2. If and when do you need to start paying estimated taxes?

Being self employed means you have to keep track of (and pay) your own taxes rather than have someone else withholding it from your check. As miserable as that sounds, there is also the benefit of the ‘write-off’ that you will be able to take advantage of.
Depending on your situation, you may or may not have to pay estimated taxes to begin with. The CPA will be able to advise you, and if you’ll need to pay, give you or direct you to the proper forms to use.
Be responsible and have your taxes done properly. It can become a tremendous hassle if you don’t, and could be the one mistake that will run you out of business.

3. Which accounting software do they recommend?

You may or may not plan on doing any data entry or bookkeeping yourself, but you need to understand what to look for if you need accounting software, as well as how you use it and what your options are.
When you meet with your accountant, discuss which accounting software program, if any, you’re considering for your small business and see what they think. You don’t want to go with something that’s going to cause problems down the line. And you certainly don’t want to change programs, converting from one program to another is a hassle you want to avoid if you possibly can.

4. What chart of accounts should you set up in the software?

Every accounting setup has a chart of accounts, it’s the accounting framework which organizes all of a company’s transactions. But it’s not a ‘chart’ – it’s more of a list, and they aren’t bank accounts like we are accustomed to. The best description of the accounts is they are like buckets which can accept numbers that represent amounts of money. Some buckets are grouped together. Maybe that wasn’t a great analogy – that’s why I have an accountant do all of our work.
Many of accountants prefer to provide you with their own list to set up from scratch instead of using the software’s default. Make sure you give them every bit of the information regarding your business so they can design the chart of accounts with that information in mind. They are trying to save you money – do what they say.

5. Can they help you get organized to handle employer taxes?

Having employees requires whole new levels of paperwork and money management. Make sure you inform them of your current and planned employee status, as employee and payroll issues – when handled improperly – will snowball in a hurry.
I will make my next post with some information regarding employee withholding and all of that garbage.
I am quite familiar with how boring and irritating this kind of stuff is. But I would have loved for someone to have given me this information when I started out – so I’m passing it on. It will save you a lot of money. USE IT.

Nick Berry