Louisiana needs to collect roughly $510 million more in corporate income and franchise taxes before the current fiscal year ends on June 30 to hit current budget projections, the state’s chief economist says.

“By the time we close the books, which is actually Aug. 14 … the books for fiscal year 2015-2016 are counting on $359.3 million,” says Greg Albrecht, the state’s chief economist.

The state is projected to come out $359.3 million ahead when all corporate taxes and refunds are paid, but collections have so far fallen short when compared to $709 million doled out in corporate and franchise tax refunds so far this year, says Albrecht.

Daily Report has the full story.

The post Louisiana needs roughly $510M in corporate income and franchise taxes to be paid by end of next month to hit budget projections appeared first on Baton Rouge Business Report.

Does this sound familiar?

Samantha is a photographer living in central N.J.

While her work is beautiful, she often works for less money than she’d like because she doesn’t know how to sell her services that well.

She ends up wasting a lot of time either on the phone or in person meetings with people who have no context for what a professional photographer charges and what their value truly is.

They don’t understand photo composition, lighting, and that “sixth sense” a photographer develops for snapping the perfect shot at the perfect moment.

In other words, they don’t value her work.

They’ll just use their iPhone, or get their nephew/spouse/friend to take the pictures.

As a result, no one is particularly happy. The would-be customer doesn’t get the quality they want because they didn’t appreciate the value of a professional.

The professional is busy beating herself up over not getting the work and stressing over the bills.

Does any of this sound familiar?

When Samantha Gets Smart

Tired of the grind, Samantha realizes something has to change. That’s when she takes a good look at her business. In fact, she spends an afternoon going through her past invoices and thinking through who she REALLY likes working with and why.

Who are the clients who appreciate her and don’t cancel sittings and quibble over prices? Who she enjoys working with?

AHA!

Samantha takes a good look at her business.

Who has she gelled with the best?

Where has she been able to do her best work….and which, it turns out…also been most profitable?

She realizes she enjoys shooting weddings and making a couple feel like royalty on their special day.

They also are the group least likely to complain about price. After all, Samantha’s checked around and her prices are in the mid-range of most other area wedding photographers.

So she decides to focus only on the bridal market. She revamps her website to showcase her bridal work. She starts showing up at nearby bridal shows and she develops referral relationships with a couple of large caterers, wedding venues and a florist.

Within a few months, Samantha is booked a year in advance and she’s doing it with less effort.

Love your clients

Now THAT’S What I’m Talkin’ About!

Do you hear the music?

Ok, ok, what does this have to do with you? After all, you’re not a photographer. You’re a writer/designer/consultant/sales person.

Exactly!

I tell you this story to illustrate a point about honing in on your market. It’s easier and more effective to focus in one area than it is to try to be everything to everyone.

It’s Ok Not to Know Right Now

It’s usually takes a few years before your ideal market and your interests/skill set become clear.

In the meantime, stop wasting your time trying to talk people into your product/service when they clearly don’t value/understand it. Instead, show your value as best as you can through your work and focus on finding your ideal clients.

I know that can sound “grandiose” when you have bills to pay but stick with me for another minute.

Ideal clients are not people “who will pay you something.”

Instead, they’re people:
1- You can help
2- Who value your work
3- Can pay your rate

That’s it in a nutshell.

You get to be picky here. In fact, you NEED to be choosy. This is your LIFE we’re talking about.

You get to CHOOSE.

This is so critical to your business success that I’m building out a course on defining your target market, where to find them and what to do once you do find them.

THAT’s the crux of all of your marketing efforts, just as you see with Samantha.

And it’s true for everyone: shoemakers, graphic designers, salespeople of all kinds. Your message (product/service) needs to align with their needs/desires at the right time.

When it does, your life is so much more joyous.

by Tim Steffen, CPA/PFS, CFP®, CPWA®, Director of Financial Planning for Baird

startup finance

Among a growing number of Millennials, there is a real desire to become an entrepreneur, and a belief that starting a business can be a way to attain both independence and wealth. Yet too many people put their personal finances at risk to launch a business, but I believe it can be done without sabotaging your financial future.

I’m a fan of the show ‘Shark Tank’ because I think it inspires many to think seriously about starting a business. Yet while “Shark Tank” makes it seem easy, successful entrepreneurs will tell you how hard it is. A business failure can become dicey when an entrepreneur takes on too much debt, taps personal or family savings, and later needs to declare bankruptcy.” In fact, many new businesses don’t pan out. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), only half of business start-ups survive more than 5 years.

While I would never want to discourage anyone from pursuing a dream, I do think it’s possible to reduce the personal finance risks of a business start-up by making smart choices. Here are some tips:

Delineate between business and personal assets.

Set up a limited liability company (LLC) and separate bank account. Not only does this keep a clean line between business assets and your personal or family assets, it can help reduce your personal liability and make tax compliance simpler.

If you tap your savings, leave yourself a cushion.

According to the SBA, the number one source of financing for new businesses is personal assets/savings.1 Most entrepreneurs pour some of their own money into a new business. If the business takes off, that can be a great investment. While you may believe your business will be a sure thing, it’s important to set parameters around how much of your personal savings you’re willing to contribute. In other words, don’t tap it all.

Be careful about using retirement accounts.

For many young people, retirement accounts can be some of their only savings, and it can be tempting to use those accounts believing there will be time to replenish them once the business succeeds. Some qualified retirement plans like 401(k)s allow participant to borrow from the account. Keep in mind, however, that you must pay the loan back within a stated timeframe. If you fail to do so, it will be treated as a distribution from your account and will be taxed. In addition, you may face a penalty for early withdrawal. Tax rules prevent borrowing from an IRA, so any withdrawal from the account will be considered a taxable distribution, and possibly a penalty as well.

Another technique gaining publicity is called “Rollovers as Business Start-ups” (ROBS), which are arrangements in which business owners use their 401(k), IRA or other retirement funds to fund a new business without triggering taxes. The IRS has made it clear it’s watching these transactions for abuse, so be sure to follow the rules very carefully if you choose this approach.

Don’t build your business on personal debt.

Financial planners generally recommend limiting your total monthly debt service payments (including housing and personal debt) to 36% of your monthly gross income. If you personally borrow money for your business and it fails, you may have to declare personal bankruptcy.

Don’t rely on credit cards if you need to finance the business.

It can be easy when cash flow is slim to charge expenses to your business credit card. But most commercial credit cards charge significantly higher interest rates than other sources of credit such as a business line of credit. In addition, many small businesses owners need to provide a personal guarantee when applying for a business credit card. So even if you’ve kept your business and personal accounts separate, if your business fails, you may be personally responsible for the credit card debt.

Consider funding your business with money from outside investors or family members.

While most entrepreneurs don’t want to give away a slice of their dream, it can be a way to avoid taking on personal debt and it may force greater discipline as you will have to report to investors.

Take advantage of small business loans.

These funds can be attractive sources of financing. If you’re a woman or minority investor, take advantage of special loans that might be available to you.

Don’t forego insurance.

Many married entrepreneurs rely on their spouse to provide health insurance coverage for the family, but if that isn’t an option, buy a personal policy. A severe illness or accident while uninsured can devastate your finances. As a business owner, consider any specialized insurance coverage you may need to protect those interests.

Keep a fall back.

If you are an attorney, CPA or other professional, be sure to maintain your license, and give careful consideration to continuing to work full or part time while your business is getting started. Once your business does become your full-time pursuit, it’s important to keep up your skills in case you ever wish to return to your old line of work.

Know when to throw in the towel.

There may come a time when, despite all your hard work and effort, it becomes clear that a business is not going to be able to support you and your family. Identify goals upfront to define business success, and on the flip side, failure. Once it is clear that the business will not be successful, accept that and move on.

While not easy, launching a successful business can be tremendously fulfilling and in time, financially rewarding. When your business does start to take off, be sure to dedicate time to rebuilding your personal finances, if necessary, and working with a team of experts who understand your vision and can help ensure you are on track to meet your goals for the future.

 

tim steffen

Tim Steffen is Director of Financial Planning for Baird’s Private Wealth Management group. In this role, he meets with clients and prospects to discuss their financial and estate planning needs, as well as serves as an income tax specialist for Baird Financial Advisors. Tim also supports Financial Advisors in a marketing and training capacity, helping them understand the benefits of using financial planning in their business and educating them on planning techniques.

why handmade matters

We live in a world where many things are mass produced. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that. It’s great that some things are manufactured in massive quantities in order to fill a worldwide demand for them.

But it’s also wonderful that more people everywhere are beginning to embrace things that are made by hand in small quantities. In case you hadn’t heard, here is why handmade matters.

Options Are Why Handmade Matters

1. Handmade is the New American Manufacturing

The past few decades have seen a consistent decline in traditional American manufacturing. It’s sad on one hand. On the other, it has paved the way for a new type of American manufacturing … one that embraces human potential and gives individuals a voice they might not otherwise have. To buy a handmade product is to affirm and give continues life to that human voice. When done throughout a community, multiple times over, an entire city can find new life. We see it happening all across the nation today and it’s making our nation a better place, one community at a time.

2. It’s Human Nature to Value the Creative Spirit

“Art and love are the same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.” – Chuck Klosterman

When you make something, you leave a part of yourself in it. When you are finished creating, you take pride in the work partly because you see yourself in it. When you buy something someone else made, you yourself are reflected in that purchase. Whether it’s the color, the texture, the shape, or just the mood you happen to be in, an item that has been crafted as an expression of the creative spirit person who made it is treasured and valued far beyond an item that was made for worldly mass consumption.

3. Handmade Items are Crafted in an Environment of Joy, Honor, and Respect

Have you ever studied the work space of a person who creates for a living? Their creations are almost always made in a space of joy, honor, and respect. Those same values somehow find their way into the very fiber of a handmade item. For example, consider that every inch of the yarn that forms a hand knit garment once flowed through the fingers of the Maker who knit the garment with intention and purpose. Who wouldn’t take extra special care of such an item.

4. A Handmade Item Cannot be Duplicated

No two handmade items are exactly alike. Variations in color, shading, texture, shape and grain are inherent in a handmade item. No two items are alike, so that every single one is one-of-a-kind. This means that every handmade item you purchase is also one-of-a-kind. What’s not to like about that?

5. Everything is More Beautiful When it’s Made with a Heart

You can serve your guests a frozen, mass produced pound cake or you can treat them to the one your mom made. The frozen one will do in a pinch, but only the one your mom made will touch the very heart of every one of your guests.

A consumer shift is happening. A movement if you will. More and more, people are willing to be educated about the value of a item that is made by hand.

People are starting to dream about things that don’t exist, but should, and then making them come to life.

This is why handmade matters. Surely everyone can understand that.

Want to learn more? Log onto your favorite search engine and search for “artisan local handmade in [your city, state].” Find something wonderful. It won’t take long, I promise. Go out and buy it. Then come back here and tell me all about it in the comments below.

Why do you think handmade matters?

Cabinetmaker Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Why Handmade Matters" was first published on Small Business Trends

As content marketers, it goes without saying that most of us spend the better part of our day on the web. We’re content enthusiasts. We’re always on the hunt for a campaign or idea that will wow us or (preferably) click “Share” on social.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that 44 percent of Facebook users like content posted by their friends at least once a day, and nearly a third do so several times per day. For marketers, this means that consumers value what their friends and like-minded individuals share. It also emphasizes why more brands are turning toward influencer outreach.

Influencer marketing isn’t anything new. Before the digital revolution, celebrity endorsements were the go-to tactic for this marketing strategy (think any “Got Milk” ad from the late ’90s). But what has changed is the nature of influence, particularly because high-level reach doesn’t always equal conversions.

The good news for marketers? New analysis shows you only need a handful of influencers to give the impression that everyone is talking about your brand. (highlight to tweet) Researchers at the University of Southern California recently uncovered the majority illusion, a phenomenon within social networks that explains why some ideas, behaviors, or attributes appear widespread, even when they are not.

How the Majority Illusion Works

In short, posts from a few users that have a lower number of social connections won’t go very far because of the lack of connections. But if a few users with a very large number of connections share or post something, it is far more likely to spread. This may seem obvious. The counterintuitive part? The number of people with the large followings needed to create the effect is actually incredibly small.

Consider the diagram below.

Majority Illusion Diagram
Study by Fractl.

Let’s say that each red dot is a user who shares a spoiler from the latest episode of Game of Thrones (blasphemy, I know). The network structures in both figures are identical, yet the placement of users who share the spoiler differs.

Figure A illustrates the majority illusion in action: A few well-connected people share the spoiler, causing a large fraction of the network to see the post. This can give the impression that a lot more people are learning about what happened in the episode than is actually true.

Figure B demonstrates a “winter-free” social media feed; the Game of Thrones fans in this scenario are less well-connected, so members of that network are less likely to see the spoiler.

Interesting, right? But how can you use this for your brand?

How to Leverage the Majority Illusion to Optimize Your Influencer Marketing Strategy

A whopping 75 percent of marketers consider finding the right influencers the most challenging aspect of an influencer marketing strategy, so my team decided to eliminate some of the grunt work through an interactive visual.

We created the influencer marketing network graph below using 77 midlevel Twitter influencers (between 30,000 and 500,000 followers) across eight different verticals—automotive, business, entertainment, finance, health, lifestyle, technology, and travel—to illustrate strategic positioning of influential accounts.

Each dot is a Twitter user, and each line represents a relationship with another user. The larger the dot, the more connected that individual is within his or her network. We also highlighted the vertical each influencer belongs to through different colors. As you can see, the larger nodes often have connections across multiple verticals.

Let’s say I work for a brand that just created a new dining app that bases restaurant popularity on how many photos are tagged at an establishment on Instagram. We’ll call it InstaDine. To get the word out quickly, I’d want to send info about the app to a handful of influencers who are highly connected. Using the interactive above, a great place to start would be @ZagatTravel because their influence spreads into more than five verticals.

The visibility for InstaDine is greatest among these strategically positioned individuals with the larger dots because their diverse network will make it seem like everyone is talking about this new app, when in reality, only a select few shared a story about it.

Remember to Factor in Timing

Keep in mind that influencer marketing focuses on earning a person’s attention, and the majority illusion helps you break through the noise by creating a sense of high demand and popularity. If you really want to boost shares, coordinate with a handful of influencers to push your content out around the same time. It will truly give the impression that “everyone” is talking about your brand.

The biggest takeaway from our research? Don’t confuse reach with influence.Instead of looking for influencers with a large following, it is important to understand how influencers are connected to your audience. Review this deck to learn more about how you can use the majority illusion to boost your outreach efforts.

Targeting strategically positioned individuals is the key to getting your content in front of the right eyes. Brands, take note of the majority illusion and this final thought from Jay Baer: “Influencers are the best way to amplify content in a hyper-competitive marketing environment.”

A version of this article originally appeared on Convince & Convert and has been republished with permission.