Note to Self: Stay on Track

These tips from strategic planning experts, financial planners, and real estate professionals can help keep your business on the straight and narrow.

March 14, 2013

Be strategic—and tactical.

A successful business starts with a solid plan. Once in place, a good plan can help business owners recognize problems as they develop, allowing them to be handled early. Creating one shouldn’t be laborious or intimidating; bullet points are just fine. Plans should include a strategic one-page summary laying out five- to 10-year goals and a tactical day-to-day details section laying out plans for the year. The tactical plan should be reviewed quarterly.

Preserve your reserves.

One critical but common mistake made by real estate professionals is failing to put enough money into reserves. Every business needs cash to carry it through the inevitable slumps. This is money for daily needs, such as paying your office lease or keeping the Internet hooked up, rather than retirement savings. While salaried wage earners can get by with a reserve of about three to six months, real estate professionals who don’t have a steady paycheck are better served with an emergency fund of at least six months worth of expenses. Those with employees might want to consider even more of a cushion.

Don’t wait for the IRS to find you.

Pay your federal—and state—taxes. Build quarterly estimated tax payments into your budget based on what you owed the previous year. If you overpay, you’ll get a refund. If you underpay, you’ll be on the hook for far less than if you waited until April 15 to pay the whole bill. Make it easy by automatically deducting 20—30 percent of each commission check into a separate account so you have the funds available to pay the tax man each quarter.

Bring in professionals.

Consider hiring qualified professionals such a certified public accountant and certified financial planner to help manage the financial end of your business. With the quickly changing financial scene, from taxes to the stock market, certified industry professionals can help make every dollar count.