Which Legal Structure is Best? Choosing which entity is most suitable for your business

business people holding question marks in front of their facesWhich entity is most suitable for your new or existing business?

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has changed the landscape for business taxpayers. That’s because the law introduced a flat 21% federal income tax rate for C corporations. Under prior law, profitable C corporations paid up to 35%.

The TCJA also cut individual income tax rates, which apply to sole proprietorships and pass-through entities, including partnerships, S corporations, and LLCs (treated as partnerships for tax purposes). However, the top rate dropped from 39.6% to only 37%.

These changes have caused many business owners to ask: What’s the optimal entity choice for me?

Entity tax basics

Before the TCJA, conventional wisdom was that most small businesses should be set up as sole proprietorships or pass-through entities to avoid the double taxation of C corporations. A C corporation pays entity-level income tax and then shareholders pay tax on dividends — and on capital gains when they sell the stock. For pass-through entities, there’s no federal income tax at the entity level.

Although C corporations are still potentially subject to double taxation, their current 21% tax rate helps make up for it. This issue is further complicated, however, by another tax provision that allows noncorporate owners of pass-through entities to take a deduction equal to as much as 20% of qualified business income (QBI), subject to various limits. But, unless Congress extends it, that deduction is available only through 2025.  Continue reading here.

Meet Rhonda Stansberry, founder of A’tilob

woman sitting in a chair posing

A’tilob is a company formed by Rhonda Stansberry that serves as a vehicle for her original writing. Her first book is already in stores and on Amazon. She is currently working on several other projects including a screenplay.

Tell us about the book you have written.

The story portrays the unvarnished truth of the life and times of my father, numbers runner, racketeer, policy maker, gentleman, husband and father Frank Price “Chico” Baker. The book Numbers 35 & 53: The Case of the Brown Paper Bag gives readers a personal look as I travel back over fifty years, to when Frank’s dream of becoming a catcher in major league baseball was closed and another door opened. That door was opened to a world of unimaginable wealth, women, fast cars, and a mound of legal troubles. It give the readers an opportunity to feel his actual heartbeat as I tell this riveting saga of right, wrong, and the American Justice System.

How has the FSBDC at UNF helped you?

As a seasoned professional, Kevin Monahan of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has virtually acted as my very own divining rod. As a new business owner and author, the SBDC has provided me with the knowledge needed to make smart decisions and prosper. They have provided no-cost consulting services to help me grow my business to the next level. Kevin has supplied me with the tools to help market my book as well as my company. He has provided face-to-face business consulting on topics including business planning, accessing capital, as well as marketing strategies and who’s who to talk to, to sell and promote my book. His knowledge and connections are endless, and we are not finished yet.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be an author?

Writing allows you to be creative, share a story, and educate your reader. It is self-expression.  Anyone wanting to write a book should be prepared to give their all to their story. You must believe in the project and know that what you are giving the reader is important.  Be proud of your work and be willing to accept criticism. You will become stronger with advice from outside parties.  ALWAYS REMEBER WRITE A STORY WORTH TELLING. Know the difference between a writer and an author.  If you have to make time to sit and read a book, then when will you have time to write a book? But if it is truly your passion, then keep your focus and consider it your plan “A” and do not have a plan “B” in place as it will only take the focus away from plan “A”.  Remember, writings never published means you remain a “writer” and not an “Author.”

What’s New in Digital Marketing Statistics and Trends:

Marketing Trends written on clapperboardHere is a quick rundown on what’s new in digital marketing statistics and trends from Mary Fisher, founder of Fisher Design Advertising and Public Relations, a Jacksonville, Florida marketing professional whose business just celebrated 30 years of success.

Facebook:

  • 68% of American adults are using Facebook, 2.4 billion users worldwide. 243 million in the US and Canada
  • Facebook audiences are skewing a little older: 65% are 35 or older.
  • 30% of the audience is 25-34 years old.
  • The average Facebook user is 40.
  • 2.23 billion users log on each month.
  • The average person is on Facebook 58 minutes a day.
  • 43% of Americans get their news from Facebook.
  • The average Facebook user clicks on eight ads per month.
  • The average price per click on an ad is $1.72
  • Facebook is the 3rd most visited website, after #1 Google and #2 YouTube.
  • People spend 20 times as much on TV ads to reach 2 times the audience as their Facebook video ads and you can target your audience on Facebook.
  • If you have a business Facebook account, and are regularly posting but not boosting posts or running ads, only 2% of your audience will see your posts.
  • 24% of business Facebook accounts are running ads.
  • Facebook ads are powerful and work well, if the campaign is set up properly.

Facebook Messenger: Can be installed directly on your website and act like a chat module. The person you are chatting with must have a Facebook messenger account.  See www.rattlestotassles.com or Dannymonzon.com for examples.

Chatbots: Facebook messenger is the most basic chatbot. Siri and Alexa are also advanced chatbots (artificial intelligence). Chatbots can provide information on your website while you are away. Chatbots can help with customer service and tie into your various systems to answer repetitive customer questions like: “When will my package be delivered?” “What time is my appointment?” “Where are you located?” What is my tracking number? It asked all the questions that a human would ask and was designed to include emojis to make the conversation sound more natural. They have scripts they follow. And if you wish, they can pass the call to a human to answer more in-depth questions.

Instagram (owned by Facebook):

  • Younger audiences.
  • 35% of American adults use Instagram.
  • You can place ads on Facebook and Instagram at the same time.

Twitter: 24% of American adults use Twitter. The news media does use it often, if you are trying to reach them.

YouTube: Advertise on Youtube with videos. Or put an informative video on YouTube and allow Google to place ads on your video.

Yelp: You can advertise on Yelp. The price is about the same as Google Adwords. However, I don’t recommend it for a service-based business unless you are doing pest control or something similar. Yelp is appropriate for restaurants, hotels, plumbers, etc.

Google Maps: Are critical for Google search placement. The Google maps listings for businesses are outranking the organic listings. And the number of 5 star review listings helps the maps ranks you.  You can now advertise on maps. It is part of Google Adwords.

Nextdoor website:  Also, a great place to personally recommend businesses and be recommended.  $100-$1,000 to place a real estate ad. Otherwise, it is very expensive to actually place an ad, $15,000 per month.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization): This is the art of making your website rank on the most popular search engines. SEO includes behind the scenes coding, plus copy on the website. Articles linked to your website from other websites. Directories like Google Maps, Bing Maps, Yelp, White Pages, Yellow Pages also need to be linked to your website. A website with very little copy is unlikely to rank well.

  • SEO for audible search (Siri, Google, Alexa) as well as desktop/laptop.  Optimizing your website for search engines has become even harder. Remember you need to optimize for a Siri and Google assistant’s audible search as well.
  • If you ask Siri who “the best orthopedic doctor in Jacksonville is,” it will use Yelp and rank by the number of stars in the reviews.
  • If you ask for an “orthopedic doctor near me”, it will use Apple Maps from your iPhone. It does not rank by reviews like Yelp.
  • iPhone combines the Apple maps listings with Yelp reviews to serve up answers.
  • If I ask Siri for “orthopedic doctor in Jacksonville”, it did not show the one with the best reviews or the closest one. It showed the website that was optimized for the search engines best and had the fastest load speed on the phone.
  • To optimize your site for an audible search, build an FAQ section that asks questions and answers them.

Website tracking software:

  • Install software on your website to tell you what companies are coming to your website. See Leadfeader. Cost: $59 per month. It will not track personal visitors from their home. You can also track your competitors coming to your website. Then you call to follow up with a call, an email, or postcard.
  • Most importantly, track all prospect phone calls to your business. Ask them where they heard of you. Many times they will say a Google search. In reality, it is typically more than one channel. They may have met you in a networking meeting, saw your ad, got a referral from a friend and then finally they searched you on the internet.

 

by Mary Fisher, founder of Fisher Design Advertising and Public Relations & SBRN Member

 

 

 

 

Plan B

Sorry we're closed signIn action movies, when the hero is thwarted by a situation, they employ Plan B to ultimately save the day. Business owners need to be able to do the same to maintain profitability and ensure sustainability of their company. Hurricane Dorian has shown some business owners the value of such a plan, and has shown others the need for one.

Unlike those in areas in the U.S. where Hurricane Dorian had significant impacts, and certainly for the Bahamas, most businesses in Florida were not affected by the storm. However, some were; those in areas that were evacuated as a precaution; those that performed work that involved the building, like installing skylights, solar pool heating, or involved alterations to the structure, and; those that performed work inside the building that was cancelled or rescheduled because the homeowners chose to leave the area to avoid the storm.

Businesses that did not have a “Plan B” as a component of their emergency operations plan (‘disaster plan’) or did not have a plan at all suffered a worse loss of profits than those with a Plan B.  Business owners need to consider how their company could function during an extended period without one or more of the inputs needed to operate. These inputs include: access to the premises, functioning utilities, ability of vendors to deliver, customer willingness to use the product or service, employee’s ability to get to work, and more.

Lack of access to the premises could be due to mandatory evacuation of an area, a vehicle crashing into the business, blocked entrances due to emergency construction like a broken water main, or damage to the premises themselves by fire, weather, or structural issues. If any of the preceding happened to a key vendor’s premises, they might not be able to deliver. Customers fearing a potential storm might postpone work on their house or business structure or may leave the area and cancel any work inside the home. Any number of issues could prevent employee’s ability to get to work including the need to stay home with children due to an unplanned school closure.

The response options in Plan B will vary with the type of business and the nature and duration of the interruption. Here are some examples from businesses I have worked with:

  • A few years ago, when there was a fear of a bird flu pandemic potentially closing schools and limiting public access to businesses, a bank developed a plan to provide expanded ATM access and online banking to all customers in the event that they had to close premised due to an insufficient number of tellers being available.
  • Both a print shop and a dry cleaner made mutual arrangements with a similar business two counties away to use the other’s shop after hours to produce work for their own customers.
  • A local newspaper made a similar agreement with another in a different county and each used that arrangement several times a year when their presses broke down.
  • A retail store planned pop-up stores in the mall and at a major flea market.
  • A home renovation business made a mutual agreement with a distant one to perform work as a subcontractor in the event that their business was impacted by an event.
  • Several restaurants and caterers planned to use each other’s kitchens, and in the event only the dining area was closed, some of the restaurants had a standby delivery service ready to implement.

As you can see, the options are only limited by the ingenuity of the business owner. The other ingredients for a workable Plan B are available cash or a credit line equal to one month’s expenses and having all important information available from anywhere by being in the cloud.

When I teach emergency operations planning, I begin by having attendees imagine that they are in their place of business when a policeman or fireman comes in and tells everybody to leave immediately without going back for any records, laptops, phones, or purses. He or she says this is due to a gas leak and tells everybody to walk swiftly to the end of the street. As everybody arrives at the gathering point an explosion is heard and there is a crater where the business was. I ask:

  • Can you account for all the employees and customers who were in the business?
  • Do you know your insurance company, agent and policy number?
  • Can you contact your customers? How will you serve them while the premises are rebuilt?
  • Do you know who your vendors are? Can you tell them where to deliver in the interim?
  • Is your alternate location ready to use?
  • Will your banking transactions continue seamlessly?
  • How will you notify the media about what customers and vendors can expect?

If you had a Plan B, answers to above would be ready to implement.

by Dr. Phil Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF

Business Planning: Navigating the Early Stages of Business Growth

overhead image of laptop, clip board, coffee mug, glasses and graphSmall-businesses and start-ups range widely in their problems, patterns, and journey, and categorizing those experiences in a meaningful and useful way can be challenging. Yet, despite the uniqueness of their process, almost all entrepreneurs share a similar set of responsibilities. While timeframes, product complexity, organizational structures, and strategic goals vary, every entrepreneur faces at least three core responsibilities for their business: Survival, growth, and direction. These shared responsibilities occur continuously, simultaneously, and yet sequentially, since only if/once successfully managing one can the others be effectively addressed. Therefore, these ongoing activities might also might be considered as three cyclical stages of progress that all small-business owners face.  This article will discuss three core questions that any business owner should be able to answer clearly, concisely, and specifically at any stage if they want to navigate the difficult cycles of growth.  Continue reading here.

By Bethany Barnes, Prior Business Consulting & SBRN Member

Measuring is Knowing

hands drawing a bar graphI lived in the Netherlands  for 11 years and the Dutch have a saying “Meten is Weten” which means “Measuring is Knowing”.  In business, I translate this to “Know Thy Numbers”!  I have been working with entrepreneurs and small businesses at the Florida SBDC at UNF for over five years and I am still surprised at how many business owners do not have a handle on managing and administering their finances.  I would like to share with you what I call the “5-Line Income Statement”.  Author Sara Schafer’s Equation for Business” states:

Sales – Cost of Goods Sold (Variable Costs) = Gross Margin – Overhead (Fixed Costs) = Profit (Net Margin)

If you know these numbers you can also calculate your break-even sales number in two steps.  First you have to figure out your contribution margin (cm) which is your gross profit divided by your sales.  This is the percentage of every sale you have left over to pay (contribute to) your fixed costs.  This is also known as gross margin.  Then you divide your fixed costs by your “cm” and this gives you your break-even sales number.  The break-even calculation is handy because you can use it to see how much you have to increase sales to cover an added expense (fixed cost) of something (like a new employee or piece of equipment).  Many business owners are successful in spite of their financial illiteracy, ignorance or apathy.  They got lucky.  Other business owners skilled in financial management have built sustainable enterprises where others would have failed.  Which one are you?

by Mark Yarick, Business Consultant, Florida SBDC at UNF

 

 

Celebrate Small Business!

Small Business Week Celebration HeaderAs part of National Small Business Week (May 5th-11th, 2019) help us celebrate the SBA’s 2019 District and State of Florida Small Business Week Award Winners.  Did you know our Northeast Florida Region received seven out of the eight awards including the State of Florida Small Business Person of the Year?  Join us when our winners receive their awards at our 27th Annual Small Business Week Event and hear our keynote speaker Magie Cook, entrepreneur and creator of Maggie’s Award-Winning All Natural Fresh Salsa & Dips.  She will be telling her rags to riches story of starting a business that became a multi-million dollar success.

North Florida District and State of Florida Small Business Person of the Year-Mr. Jeff Turbeville, CEO, Sunshine Peanut Company (Jacksonville, Florida)

North Florida District and State of Florida Veteran-Owned Small Business Person of the Year-Mr. Frank Brewer, President, Alpha Omega Global LLC (Jacksonville, Florida)

North Florida District and State of Florida Rural Business Owner of the Year-Ms. Dallas Hart, President, Hart 2 Hart Academy, Inc. (Lake City, Florida)

North Florida District and State of Florida Minority-Owned Small Business Person of the Year-Mr. Courtney Powell, President, Ace Applications, LLC (Orlando, Florida)

North Florida District Woman-Owned Small Business Person of the Year-Ms. Laurie Morgan Lee, President, Elevate Business Law, PA (Jacksonville, Florida)

North Florida District Young Entrepreneur of the Year-Mr. Brandon Stallings, CEO, SmartBox (Jacksonville, Florida)

North Florida District Small Business Advocate of the Year-Ms. Sue Miller, Business Development Officer, Navy Federal Credit Union (Jacksonville, Florida)

North Florida District Community Partner of the Year-City of Jacksonville, Small and Emerging Business Program (JSEB)

Register Today!

Meet Kalai Sankar, founder of Shiva Robotics

Woman standing next to a robotKalai Sankar is the founder of Shiva Robotics Academy, a robotics education institution for students in grades K-8. A Carnegie Mellon Certified Robotics Instructor and professional LEGO educator, she has introduced after-school robotics programs in 18 Title I schools in Jacksonville. She has partnered with organizations like Renaissance Jax, Communities in Schools, and Girl Scouts of Gateway Council, to help hundreds of Florida students compete in tournaments nationally and internationally.  Kalai is the recent recipient of Florida’s Best Robotics Coach award and Jacksonville Business Journal’s Innovator in Education Award.

Where did the idea for Shiva Robotics Academy come from?

I was a stay at home mom for a number of years and I slowly began to realize that while I was watching Barney, the world was changing and evolving around me!  As a mom with two daughters I had been blogging about my parenting experiences and taking on various part time jobs. The first time I took a full time job was in the summer, so I needed to find a camp for my girls where their minds would be engaged.  I realized quite quickly that it wasn’t making financial sense to pay for camp based on my income, so I gathered the friends of my daughters and started conducting the camp myself.  I guess you could say that necessity was the mother of invention!

What are some of the activities you provide at Shiva Robotics Academy?

We offer a whole range of activities. The daylong robotics camps are our most popular.  We also offer weekly classes that consist of an hour and a half one day a week where any level of robotics learner can learn to build and program a simple robot to see what all the excitement is about.  This is a three-month course – 12 classes, after which students take an online exam to confirm what they have learned.  When they pass we ask these students to try out for the Robotics Teams.

With spring break and summer around the corner, what are some of the events you have coming up?

Spring camp for grades K – 8 will run two different sessions – March 11-15 and March 18-22.  We will have a thematic activity each day. For example, the first day is about animatronics, so kids will build robots that look like animals – spiders, snakes, elephants, etc.  Starting in June we will again run Summer Camp over the entire summer with each week focusing on a different theme.

How has the FSBDC at UNF helped you take this idea from where you are now and help you build your dream?

The SBDC has been very helpful – from the moment I stepped in the UNF office there were so many people there to offer assistance.  I felt reassured that I could make it with their help.  I first met with Don Zavesky, PTAC, who initially showed me all sorts of government opportunities that we could bid for and contracts I could win – he helped me see the bigger picture where I could take my business and helped me envision what could happen 10 years down the road. He then referred me to Linda Teza Kulka.  Linda has been more like a therapist at times – our first session I was sharing all my anxieties!  She is helping me create a master plan and helping me understand all the functions of the business that I will need to pay attention to as the company continues to grow. Having no business background, this has truly been eye opening and with this level of support I have much more confidence in the future.  In 10 years I will remember that the SBDC helped me build the foundation that allowed me to reach my goal.

2019: The Year to Plan Your Company’s Export Strategy

aerial view of cargo ship at loading dockWe say it every year, but it’s hard to believe another year has come and gone. 2018 was a year of professional and private ups and downs for most, but as we usher in 2019 many businesses look for new and sustainable ways to find customers and grow sales.

Economists and investors largely agree that the United States is due for another economic slump in the coming years. With the threat of another recession ahead, a targeted export growth strategy now, could be what sets one business ahead of others in an economic downturn later.

History has shown that companies that export are hardier, meaning that their broadened portfolio of customers outside of the United States bolsters their ability to handle currency fluctuations, varying consumption trends, and flagging employment rates. This makes sense when one considers that a poor economic year in the United States does not often mean the same for other countries. This was made evident after the Great Recession, when it became clear that the Financial Crisis of 2008 impacted developed countries in North America and Europe much more significantly than developing nations such as India. During this period, businesses that were already established in the global marketplace had a much less difficult time making ends meet, often relying in whole or in part on their export sales department.

It is also worth noting that companies that export are typically more profitable and pay higher wages than their non-exporting counterparts. So even if the economists are wrong and the U.S. economy remains in a state of growth and full employment for many years hence, an export strategy is an effective and energizing way to bring in the bacon. What’s more, with the prominence of platforms such as Amazon proliferating the field of e-commerce, there are more and more ways to easily reach customers abroad.

A great way to get started with an export strategy is to contact your local SBDC. The Florida SBDC (Small Business Development Center) has a network of international trade specialists around the state that can assist you with the development and implementation of an export strategy that fits your business culture and your financial goals. You may even be eligible for an Export Marketing Plan grant, which covers the majority of the cost of having an Export Marketing Plan written exclusively for you and your business by a trade specialist with experience in the field.

For more information about getting started with your own export strategy, please call (904) 620-2476 or reach us on the web at /sbdc-services/international-trade/.

by Julia Montgomery, International Trade Specialist, Florida SBDC at UNF

 

 

Tax Efficient Sales of Your Business

So you’ve decided it’s time to turn that lifetime of sweat equity accumulated in your business into cash to support your dreams of traveling around the world, or at least around a few golf courses. You are convinced that it is worth millions, but when that first offer comes, you find that at best, after a broker’s commission and income taxes, you will see a third or more evaporate before you have the chance to find a broker to invest those few remaining bucks.

Here are a few suggestions to consider:

1 – Allocate as much of the sale to the sale of goodwill, not toward non complete agreements or asset sales. That will maximize the portion of the sale to be taxed at capital gains rates.

2 – Consider selling under an installment agreement, meaning that you hold a note for a few years from the buying instead of taking it all in cash. That defers the income tax over the life of the note keeping your annual income down. It also will pay you a rate of interest somewhat higher than you would get at a bank. It might even get you a better price, because they can better afford to pay more over time than in a lump sum. It could save the buyer some closing costs over bank financing.

Continue reading here.

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