Saturday, June 23, 2018

6 Ways to Help You Hire the Best Employees—and Prevent Turnover

When you start your business, you might be going at things alone while dealing with everything that’s involved in launching a new business or startup. There’s so much to do, whether it’s small like finding the right credit card for your business, or bigger like budgeting your overhead costs. But once you’ve started making a profit, it’s time to think about giving yourself a new role and finding more people to help you out with every task you’ve been trying to execute alone.

Making the right hiring choices for your startup or small business is one of the most important things you can do. The cost of training new employees is steep, and your bottom line is directly affected if you experience high turnover. Here are six ways to ensure you not only find, but also retain, the best staff you can.

1. Look for flexible candidates.

When starting out and hiring new people, you’re creating roles and responsibilities that might not be well-defined as of yet. Focus on hiring employees with the ability to work flexible hours and perform a variety of jobs. Keep an eye out for resumes that highlight varied sets of skills, but don’t turn down individuals with more focused work histories. At this stage in the game, it’s impossible to know who may bring the most to the table. 

You can even start by hiring new employees as contractors before honing in on more specific responsibilities and potentially offering them a long-term, salaried contract if they deliver excellent work starting out. That, in fact, can help reduce your overhead costs while you navigate a space where roles might still need defining in the long run. 

2. Keep your standards high.

Set the bar high when bringing on new workers, and never settle for a candidate when you have any doubts or reservations. Remember, it’s much better to leave a position unfulfilled than to bring on someone who might not work out.

Those standards, however, may not be what an applicant’s paper qualifications are. You might just stumble on a “diamond in the rough,” a young, somewhat inexperienced-but-hungry-to-learn professional. High standards are great, but that can simply mean having a high standard of expectations for your workers. 

3. Post clear, search-friendly job descriptions.

When posting your jobs, make the descriptions clear. Include the specific talents and skill sets needed to perform them and note a salary range so you leave yourself some flexibility for negotiation. Make sure the job title and description includes industry-specific keywords so top candidates can find your job.

4. Always be looking for the right candidates.

Even if you think your operation is fully staffed, always have a hiring mindset. You never know when a worker may leave, and you might be surprised by how and when stellar candidates present themselves. Get chattier in the checkout line at the convenience store, talking about your venture, and discuss your business plan with friends and family members. You should always be looking for top talent, no matter where you are.

5. Market the perks of working for you.

As a newly minted small business, you probably can’t offer the kind of salary or perks found in corporate America. Because of this you’ve got to make sure you’re adequately marketing the perks your company does offer. For example, you may want to tout your flexible scheduling, telecommuting options, or rapid career advancement. Remember that for your potential hires, it’s not all about salary.

6. Rely on current staff members for recommendations.

Instead of simply relying on job search boards and other traditional methods of hiring, tap into the staff members you already have for personal recommendations. Your team likely won’t suggest any sub-par employees—their reputation is riding on it. Ask if they know of anyone looking for work and you may be surprised how many talented applicants are available.


Remember that Your Best Tool Is Yourself—and Your Own Judgement

In your dealings with potential candidates, don’t discount your own intuition. Even though a possible hire may have an excellent work history stocked with accomplishments and stellar references, listen to your gut. If something just doesn’t feel right, respectfully decline the individual and move on. Because every person’s personality is different, there is no one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to hiring. However, by listening to your instincts, you’re more likely to stack your team with people who are a perfect fit.

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1099 vs. W2 Employee: Which Is Better for Your Business?

Managing human resources is one of the most challenging aspects of owning a small business. Beyond handling onboarding, employee relationships, and other vital tasks that would fall into a dedicated HR manager’s lap, you also need to account for staffing costs—which usually makes up the largest percentage of a small business’s expenses. Because of this expense, many small business owners need to consider whether to hire a 1099 vs. W2 employee for certain positions.

There are a few major differences between these two types of workers, and classifying them properly with the IRS is absolutely crucial. So, what are those differences, and when is it best to hire 1099 vs. W2 employees? What are the potential pitfalls of outsourcing a 1099 worker as compared to hiring an employee outright?

These questions have significant implications for your small business (and, of course, it’ll impact your business budget), so we’ll help you find the answers. First, we’ll explore the pros and cons of hiring contractors whose payments are reported on a 1099 form vs. W2 forms. Then, we’ll take a look at a few solutions that combine the best of both options.


1099 Worker vs. W2 Employee: What’s the Difference?

Let’s start by taking a look at the differences between a 1099 vs. W2 employee. Both are named after their respective tax forms: Independent contractors are responsible for filing Form 1099-MISC, and employers file Form W2 for their employees.  

Although both independent contractors and employees provide vital services to the small businesses they work for, there are several important differences between the two. Understanding these differences is vital—if an employee is misclassified as an independent contractor, you could be subject to costly fines and legal fees. And W2 workers who are misclassified as independent contractors are denied the benefits they’d otherwise be owed, including health care and the minimum wage.

To cut down on the confusion, we’ll go through the key identifiers for both types of workers, and how you can discern their appropriate classifications.     

What Is a 1099 Worker?

A 1099 worker—or independent contractor—generally provides specific services, as defined by a written contract. Some 1099 workers only work on one project at a time, but many serve multiple businesses providing a service within their expertise. In short, independent contractors are self-employed, so they’re business owners themselves.

By extension, that means 1099 workers pay both employee and employer taxes—so, if you choose to hire an independent contractor, your business doesn’t need to cover those expenses. And, as their own business owners, 1099 workers aren’t eligible for the benefits you offer your W2 employees.    

As is the case in your own business, independent contractors define for themselves how and where they work, and what tools and methods they use to complete the work you hired them for. 1099 workers can also choose to hire their own workers to help them carry out the product or service that you hired them to provide. So, independent contractors assume the risk for their own profit or loss when they carry out their job.

Finally, there’s another key difference between 1099 vs. W2 employees: Most of the time, businesses hire employees with the intention of working with them for an undetermined length of time. On the other hand, businesses engage independent contractors for a defined period of time, as per the conditions outlined in the contract. But that engagement may be renewed as many times as both the 1099 worker and the business owner find it to be mutually beneficial.

What Is a W2 Employee?

A W2 employee is essentially what you’d think of as a typical, salaried employee. Of course, W2 workers don’t enjoy many of the benefits of an independent contractor—most obviously, W2 employees don’t get to define their own schedules.

However, there are a number of perks to being an employee. Among these perks are:

  • Employers provide all the necessary tools and supplies for W2 employees. Independent contractors, on the other hand, must provide their own.
  • By law, employees are guaranteed a paycheck for their salary or hours they’ve worked on a regular and ongoing basis. Independent contractors are paid through a business’ accounts payable process.
  • Employees are typically reimbursed for business expenses they incur over the course of their employment. This is typically not the case for independent contractors unless specifically outlined in their contract.
  • Benefits like health insurance, retirement contributions, and flexible spending accounts are available to all qualifying employees in a business. As we mentioned earlier, benefits aren’t available to independent contractors doing work for a business.
  • As we also mentioned earlier, employers withhold their W2 workers’ Social Security and Medicare taxes. Independent contractors must cover the full amount of these taxes themselves.

How to Determine Whether Your Employees are 1099 vs. W2 Employees

We noted the importance of correctly classifying your employees as 1099 or W2 workers with the IRS. Often, cost and the intricacies of human resources are the key determining factors a business owner considers before choosing whether to engage a contractor or hire an employee. To be fair, it’s much easier to pay a contractor than it is to administer payroll and handle other HR functions required of a business with employees.

But any cost and time savings quickly disappears if workers are reclassified during a labor audit.

Admittedly, the line between 1099 and W2 workers may become a little blurry—but it’s not entirely at your discretion to determine whether your hires are 1099 or W2 workers. The IRS considers three major categories in determining whether workers are employees or independent contractors:

  1. Behavioral: Can your business control what, how, and when the worker carries out their job?
  2. Financial: Who controls the economic aspects of the worker’s job? What’s the method of payment (e.g. a regular salary or a flat fee)?
  3. Type of relationship: Do you provide this worker with employee benefits? What’s the length of this relationship, as outlined in the terms of your contract with this worker?

According to the IRS, what the employee classification process really boils down to is the level of control a business has over the worker, and, by extension, the amount of independence the worker has. If there is less of the former, and more of the latter, then the worker is most likely a 1099 worker. If the opposite is true, they’re most likely a W2 employee.   

But if you’re still unsure whether a member of your staff is a 1099 vs. W2 employee, either you or your employees can file a Form SS-8. In that case, the IRS will make a determination for you about how you should classify your employees.

1099 vs. W2 Employee: Which Is Better for Your Business?

Now that we know the difference between an independent contractor and a W2 employee, it’s time to answer the question you’ve probably been asking yourself: “Which type of worker is better for my business?” As is usually the case, the answer is: “It depends.”

Many small business owners choose to work with independent contractors because of the perceived cost savings. Employment taxes, workers compensation insurance, overhead costs like office space and break-room supplies—they’re all necessary expenses when you hire W2 employees, and they can quickly erode a business’s bottom line.

In addition to the costs, though, you’ll also need to weigh the benefits of each option. Although their services might be more expensive than those of an employee, an independent contractor’s expertise can often yield a higher-quality product, and in less time than it would take an employee to complete the same work. But when you work with an independent contractor, you relinquish control over how and when they do their work. For some small business owners, that’s a no-go.

There’s a lot to consider when you’re choosing between hiring 1099 vs. W2 employees. To help you out, consult the following table. This highlights some of the scenarios in which you might choose an independent contractor over an employee, or vice versa:

When to Choose a 1099 vs. W2 Employee

1099-vs-w2-employeeAs you can see, sometimes it makes more sense to engage the services of an independent contractor than it does to hire an employee. At other times, though, you’ll need to hire an employee to make sure your business runs properly.

If you’re still not sure which type of employee you should hire, there are some solutions at your disposal. These solutions allow business owners to enjoy the benefits of having employees, minus the administrative hassles.


Not Ready to Hire 1099 or W2 Employees? Consider These Alternative Staffing Options

If you’re not ready to decide whether to hire a 1099 or a W2 employee, you have two options to buy yourself some time: You can work with a temporary agency, or work with a professional employer organization. Both of these options allow you access to a pool of qualified workers, but you won’t need to worry about classifying them as either 1099s or W2 employees.

When and Why to Hire Through a Temporary Agency

Is your business seasonal? Do you want to “test drive” an employee before hiring them on a full-time basis? In either case, you can consider using the services of a temp agency.

When you contract with a temp agency, the agency takes care of background checks, pre-employment testing, and timely payroll processing and tax payments. The temp agency also invoices your business for the employee’s wages, taxes, and a service charge for the administrative services the agency provides. This invoice is recorded as a simple business expense in your books, and you don’t have to worry about tax filings, workers compensation insurance, or many other human resources issues.

This option costs more than administering your own seasonal or temp-to-hire workforce, but the time savings could well offset the additional cost.

The Benefits of Staffing Your Business Through a PEO

Of course, temporary agencies are a temporary solution to short-term employment challenges.

There is, however, a longer term solution unknown to many small business owners. A PEO—or professional employer organization—lets businesses outsource management tasks like payroll, workers compensation, and benefits, while retaining control of the employee’s day-to-day responsibilities.

In addition to relieving small business owners of the administrative burdens associated with managing employees, PEOs can also leverage the number of employees they manage to get better benefits options than small businesses alone can negotiate. As is the case with temporary agencies, PEOs charge a fee for their services, but the benefits may outweigh the costs.

Whether you choose to use a temporary agency or engage the services of a PEO, it’s imperative that you do your due diligence. Ask the temporary agency or PEO for references, and follow up with other business owners who have used their services.

And, as is always the case when you enter into a business contract, you should also engage an attorney to review any agreement with a temporary agency or PEO before you sign. This ensures that you’re not inadvertently taking on liabilities that the temp agency or PEO should be covering.

1099 vs. W2 Employee: A Complex Consideration

One of the most important tasks you’ll undertake as a small business owner is staffing your organization with the best possible workers. The question, though, is which kind of worker you should hire. Here’s a quick refresher.

1099 workers, or independent contractors, are self-employed. As such, you can hire 1099 workers for certain projects, but you can’t control when or how they complete their jobs. However, you’re not responsible for covering their Medicare and Social Security taxes, and you won’t provide them with the same benefits as you would for a W2 worker. That may be the less expensive option.

W2 workers, on the other hand, do require a regular salary, certain benefits, and more intensive management. So, the financial and energetic costs of hiring W2 employees may be higher than 1099 workers. But you might prefer to have a steady team of employees on hand, whom you’ve trained and can manage according to your standards.  

In all, you’ll need to carefully weigh a few considerations before making your decision, including the type of work you need completed, how quickly you need that job done, whether the job is a one-time or regular commitment, and the costs attendant to hiring 1099 vs. W2 workers.  

If in doubt, consider consulting with your accountant or an employment attorney before making your final decision about how to manage the workforce for your business.

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Friday, June 22, 2018

How to Value a Small Business If You’re Looking to Sell—or Buy

Raising a new round of funding, applying for a loan, transferring ownership… every financing event in a small business’s lifetime requires some way of estimating the company’s value. Wherever you are in your business’s lifecycle, you’ll want to know how to value a small business sooner rather than later. Feeling confident in your appraisal will help you accurately determine how to pitch investors and raise funding, or price your business to find the right buyer.

A valuation represents your company’s total worth. You’ll calculate your business’s value with a specified formula, taking into account your assets, earnings, industry, and any debt or losses. Entrepreneurs looking to buy an existing business should also be familiar with valuations, and feel comfortable estimating value independently of the business owner or broker’s asking price.

If buying and selling businesses is a new frontier for you, you can consult any number of online resources to help you determine the value of a business. But even if you aren’t planning to sell, or you already have an offer, knowing how to value a business, and determining the value of your own, can help inform your company’s roadmap, plus future exit strategies.


Keys to Determine the Value of a Small Business

Conducting a valuation is an excellent opportunity to assess the financial health and potential of your business, or of a business you’re hoping to buy. Along with doing financial legwork, valuing your business also requires you to exercise control over any emotions. Particularly if this is your first company, or if you run a family-owned and operated business, take care to approach valuation as objectively as possible to come to an accurate number.

1. Understand Your Valuation

Unless you’re a natural-born business or numbers person (or, say, an accountant), business valuation isn’t the easiest process. You’ll need to understand some key definitions first:

Seller’s Discretionary Earnings (SDE)

If you’re familiar with EBITDA, you’re probably already familiar with SDE (Seller’s Discretionary Earnings), too, even if you’ve never heard the term. As a reminder, EBITDA stands for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization—essentially, it’s the pure net profit of a business.

Like EBITDA, business owners calculate SDE to determine the true value of their business for a new owner, so your SDE will include expenses like the income you report to the IRS, non-cash expenses—whatever revenue your business actually generates. Unlike EBITDA, though, you’ll also add back in the owner’s salary and owner’s benefits into your SDE calculation. Large businesses generally use EBITDA calculations to value their businesses, and small businesses typically use SDE, since small business owners often expense personal benefits.  

It’s crucial that prospective buyers understand SDE, too. Most likely, business owners will provide you with that number, so it’s important to understand how the business owner reached that value, and what these values reflect about the actual business.

To calculate your business’s SDE: Start with your pre-tax, pre-interest earnings. Then, you’ll add back in any purchases that aren’t essential to operations, like vehicles or travel, that you report as business expenses. Employee outings, charitable donations, one-time purchases, and your own salary can all be included in your SDE. (Buyers might ask about your discretionary cash flow when you offer them your valuation, so be prepared to include and value each major expense or purchase.)

Finally, any current debts or future payments, called liabilities, are subtracted from the net income. More on liabilities in a bit.

SDE Multiples

Your SDE represents the true, monetary value of your business, but your SDE multiple values your business according to industry standards. (If you used EBITDA to value your business, you’ll use an EBITDA multiple.) As we mentioned, though, more often small businesses should use SDE for their business valuations, since small business owners usually pull a large percentage of their business’s revenue for their salary and living expenses.

There’s a different SDE multiple for every industry. Your particular business’s SDE multiple will vary based on market volatility, where your business is located, your company’s size, assets, and how much risk is involved in transferring ownership. The higher your SDE multiple, as you might expect, the more your business is worth.

2. Organize Your Finances

Because the process for determining the value of a small business is complicated, you might want to consider consulting a professional business broker or accountant that specializes in valuation, rather than going it alone. That said, you’re fully capable of valuing your business using your own resources. First, though, you have to get your financial information in order.

Before even thinking about how to value a small business for sale, both sellers and buyers should organize their financial records—that’s crucial for accurate calculations. And beyond conducting your valuation, you’ll need your finances in order to transfer business ownership, regardless.

Sellers will need to have the following documentation in order to ensure a smooth valuation process:

  • Licenses, deeds, and any proprietary documents
  • Profit & Loss statements for the last three years
  • Tax filings and returns
  • Short overview of your business or personal finances

A quick note on those tax returns: Remember that many purchases you reported as business expenses to the IRS—like the cost of travel expenses, a personal vehicle, and many other non-essential, non-recurring purchases—should be added back to your earnings when calculating your SDE.

Buyers obviously won’t need all of these documents, but they should still review their own financials. It’s likely that any sellers you’re working with will want to see your credit report and basic financial profile. 

Establishing a firm financial foundation will help you maintain realistic expectations about the value of your company (or the company you’re hoping to buy). The more thorough you are in this step of the valuation process, the more confident you’ll be in your calculations.

3. Take Stock of Your Assets

You might think that you can’t actually distill the value of your entire business to an exact number—and, sure, in a way it’s a bit of an estimate. But as a seller, you have to put some number on your operation, especially if you want to be compensated for what you’ve built, taking into account all kinds of equity.

Your best angle is to make a list of the production, property, and resources that comprise your business—assets and liabilities, cash and investments, employees, and intellectual property. Later, too, you can use this list to create an overview of your company’s value for potential buyers. This is another opportunity to seek the counsel of a mentor or a professional advisor, who can provide insight into your business’s assets from a more objective perspective.

Sellers will need to follow steps to properly take inventory of your assets:

Make a detailed report of your business assets and liabilities.

Here, business assets include anything that adds value to your company. This means intellectual property, your production line, your delivery truck—if it’s a part of your business, you’ll either need to account for it as an asset or a liability. There are two asset categories, and they’re weighted differently when calculating a business’s total value:

Tangible assets: When you think about valuing a small business, the most obvious factors in determining value are the company’s material resources and holdings. Examples include:

  • Real estate or property
  • Equipment or means of production
  • Inventory or stock
  • Cash on hand

Intangible assets: These are all the non-material assets that add value to your business. Intangible assets are crucial to your SDE multiple, so it’s important to identify and record their estimated value. These could include:

  • Patents, copyrights, and trademarks
  • Other intellectual property
  • Brand and reputation
  • Customer loyalty or subscriber base

You’ll also need to know your liabilities. Liabilities include any debt or outstanding credit on your business’s books, and they detract from the overall value of a business. (That’s why this number is subtracted from the SDE in valuation calculations.) Often, sellers keep their business liabilities and pay off their debt after their business is sold.

Liabilities that will factor into your calculations include:

  • Notes payable
  • Accounts payable
  • Business loans
  • Accrued expenses
  • Other debts or payables, as well as unearned revenue

Outline your business plan and model.

If you’re selling, your prospective buyer will need to understand how you generate revenue—and will continue to.

Business plan: A strong business plan helps you make accurate projections for earnings and market growth. Plus, it’s crucial to demonstrate to potential buyers how your business will continue to grow and turn a profit. Overall, a strong business plan provides buyers with important context about your company—like your location and mission—and captures what key services or goods you offer.  

Business model: Your business model demonstrates how you make money, be it a subscription-based service, direct-to-consumer ecommerce, or B2B consulting. A valuation is a suggestion of value, but your business model shows potential buyers how they’ll actually reach their customer base to generate revenue if they purchase your company.

But buyers aren’t exempt from this step in the process! If you’re considering acquiring a business, composing a list of your target’s assets and liabilities will ground your decision in sound financial judgement—and make sure you and the seller are on the same page with valuation. You should also look for business plans that clearly outline processes and, ideally, demonstrate consistent management. A well-run business will make transitioning ownership, without losing profits in the process, significantly easier.

4. Research Your Industry

Familiarity with your industry is crucial for both buyers and sellers. Before buyers can confidently make an offer on a business, they’ll need to become well-versed (if not an expert) on that business’s industry. On the sell side, a deep understanding of your industry’s trends can help you reach an informed valuation that reflects your business assets as well as the current market.

As we mentioned earlier, a business’s SDE multiple—and the method of valuation—varies according to a few factors, including the strength of the industry. So, sellers should find out as much as they can about companies that are similar in size, business model, and revenue, if that information is available.

These similar businesses, often referred to as “comparables” or “comps,” can orient you within the marketplace and provide context about the sector. Knowing your peer companies will also help you assess your market share and growth potential. Then, you can demonstrate to potential buyers what makes your business stand out.

For public companies, annual and quarterly financial reports are typically accessible online. Depending on the degree of corporate transparency, you can also see what comparable businesses are selling for. Internet companies or buyers interested in the tech sector can use online directories like Crunchbase and platforms like AngelList, which provide information about startups, funding, investors, and more.  


How to Determine the Value of a Small Business 

With this toolkit, you should be ready to determine your business’s value (or to determine the value of a business you have your eye on.) But you’ll need to choose the right valuation method. Whatever method you choose, know that the key to a solid business valuation is accurate accounting and reasonable estimates. An inflated valuation will skew your understanding of your business—not to mention turn off potential buyers. On the other hand, undervaluing your business could potentially hurt your profits.

So, the best way to accurately value your business is to make fact-based earnings projections. That means focusing in on accurately valuing your business’s assets and liabilities, and doing so objectively.

Approaches to a Successful Business Valuation

Discounted Cash Flow
The present value of a business’s future cash flow, discounted according to the risk involved in purchasing the business.
Newer businesses with high-growth potential, but which aren’t yet profitable.
Capitalization of Earnings
A business’s future profitability, accounting for cash flow, annual ROI, and expected value. This method assumes that calculations for a single period of time will continue in the future.
Established businesses with stable revenue.
The net value of a business’s assets, both tangible and intangible, minus the value of its liabilities.
Businesses that hold investments or real estate; that aren’t generating a profit; or are seeking to liquidate.
A company’s value based on the purchases and sales of comparable companies within the same industry.
Any business, as long as you can find sufficient data on comparable companies.


There are really four business valuation methods (nested within three approaches) that you need to be aware of. Each uses a different aspect or variable of a business to calculate its numerical value—either a business’s income, assets, or using market data on similar companies.  

Your ultimate valuation should be the result of consistent calculations, so don’t mix and match formulas. That said, doing the math is free, so go ahead and plug your earnings numbers into different formulas, and compare. Investigate numbers that don’t seem right, and don’t be afraid to call in an accountant for extra help.

1. Income Approach

The income approach to business valuation determines the amount of income a business can expect to generate in the future. If you want to take the income approach, you can choose between two commonly used valuation methods. 

Discounted cash flow method: This method determines the present value of a business’s future cash flow. The business’s cash-flow forecast is adjusted (or discounted) according to the risk involved in purchasing the business. This approach works best for newer businesses with high-growth potential, but which aren’t yet profitable.

Capitalization of earnings method: The capitalization of earnings method also calculates a business’s future profitability, taking into account the business’s cash flow, annual rate of return (or ROI), and its expected value. But where the discounted cash flow method accounts for more fluctuations in a business’s financial future, the capitalization method assumes that calculations for a single period of time will continue in the future. So, established businesses with stable profitability often use this valuation approach.

Most online business valuation calculators use a variation of the income approach. But if you have more financial information on hand, you can try a more comprehensive business valuation tool that includes both profit and revenue, as well as assets and liability, in the calculation.

2. Asset-Driven Approach

Another common method attributes value to a businesses based solely on its assets. In particular, the Adjusted Net Asset Method calculates the difference between a business’s assets—including equipment, property, and inventory, and intangible assets—and its liabilities, both of which are adjusted to their fair market values. Asset valuations are also a great tool for internal use, and can help you keep track of spending and capital resources.

To do an asset-driven assessment, you’ll make a list of your assets and assign them a monetary value. For equipment or other depreciating assets, that value is usually somewhere between the sale price and the depreciated value. A good rule of thumb is to estimate how much a piece of a equipment would sell for today, and use that number.

Because you’re familiar with your own equipment and production, you can make pretty accurate estimates of each of your asset’s value and depreciation. Even if you don’t adjust the asset’s worth according to the current market, you can still get a good sense of a business’s material value. This method is especially useful if your business mostly holds investments or real estate; isn’t profitable; or if you’re seeking to liquidate. In any of those cases, buyers will be interested in the individual value of your investments or equipment.

3. Market Approach

As you can deduce from its name, the market approach to valuing a business determines a company’s value based on the purchases and sales of comparable companies within the same industry. This approach will specifically help you determine an appropriate selling or purchase price based on your local market. Any business can use this approach to business valuation, as long as they can gather sufficient, relevant data on which to compare their business. It can be an especially useful approach for rapidly growing businesses and industries.


What to Do if You Plan to Sell Your Business

If you’re serious about looking for a buyer, be mindful of the impact that selling your business will have on your employees. In the exploratory stages, it’s a good idea to keep things confidential. Even if you’re committed to ensuring that your employees are taken care of, news that you plan to sell your company will likely impact the work environment.

So, even before you begin valuing your business, decide how much information to share with your employees. Depending on your team and your management approach, you might choose to include everyone in the process—and if you don’t personally handle your business’s finances and tax filings, there’s a good chance your employees will be involved, anyway.

In that case, you might want to consider a non-disclosure agreement. Keep in mind, too, that both your business’s partnerships and your customers will be affected when your business is sold. Although a sale may be far in the future, these relationships will start to change as soon as you announce plans to sell your company.

Learning How to Value a Business Is Important, Regardless 

Whether or not you’re valuing your business to prepare for a sale, having an accurate number in hand can only be positive. Once you’re confident in your valuation, you can mobilize your knowledge about your assets and earnings to make decisive improvements or necessary changes.

No matter where you are in your business’s lifecycle, learning how determine a business’s value is a great way to better understand your own business’s finances and assets within the context of your industry. Plus, knowing the value of your business can help you navigate any unexpected market turns or inbound offers.

And if or when the time comes to sell, you can start thinking about how to maximize your profit as you transfer ownership.

The post How to Value a Small Business If You’re Looking to Sell—or Buy appeared first on Fundera Ledger.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Best Business Airline Credit Cards for the Top 5 Carriers

Odds are, if you’re a frequent flyer for one specific airline, then you’re loyal as a result of generally positive experiences. Rare flight delays or cancellations, responsible baggage handling, and low ticket prices are all reasons that would make you inclined to fly with only one airline.

These airline perks are also the criteria many airline ranking systems use to determine which airlines are the best of the best. The top five airlines of 2018, according to Moneys calculations, are Alaska, Hawaiian, Southwest, JetBlue, and Delta, in descending order. Because airline-loyal frequent flyers are most likely to be loyal to the best airlines, we’ve compiled a guide to choosing the very best business airline credit cards for each of the top five carriers of 2018.

Some of the best business airline credit cards might be a bit obvious—you don’t need us to tell you a card made by an airline will be a good card option for that very airline. However, many of the top airlines will offer multiple co-branded business credit cards to choose from, and even the most obvious choices deserve a highlight and an explanation.

1. Best Business Airline Credit Card for Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines tops off the list of the top performing US airlines of 2018. And the number one business credit card for the number one airlines is surprisingly not the Alaska Airlines business credit card. Even though this Bank of America® business credit card offers a welcome bonus and a companion pass, the worth of these perks won’t quite make up for the employee card fee that this option charges.

You’ll have to pay a base of $50 a year, plus $25 dollars per year, per employee card you attach to your account. And—besides free checked bags and a low-limit companion pass—the Alaska Airlines business credit card doesn’t offer enough airline-specific perks to justify its limited rewards program.

As a result, we suggest that you look into more general business travel cards if you’re an Alaska Airlines devotee. A travel card like the American Express Business Platinum will grant you a $200 credit toward incidental charges (like, let’s say, checked luggage) with an airline of your choice. Plus, it’ll allow you to earn a welcome offer of up to 100,000 points.

Granted, the Amex Business Platinum will cost an annual fee of $450, but you won’t have to pay an additional fee for attaching employee cards to your account. If you’re planning to attach eight or more employee cards to your account, then the Alaska Airlines business credit card will cost you just as much—if not more—than the Amex Business Platinum every year—and offer you a fraction of the value.

→TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read): The highest performing US airline of 2018 disappoints with its business airline credit card. The Alaska Airlines namesake business credit card can’t stand up to more general business travel cards like the Amex Business Platinum.

2. Best Business Airline Credit Card for Hawaiian Airlines

Next of the top airlines—and their corresponding business credit cards—is Hawaiian Airlines and their co-branded Barclays business credit card, the Hawaiian Airlines Business Mastercard.

Unlike the Alaska Airlines business credit card, the Hawaiian Airlines business credit card offers substantial rewards to earn the title as the top card for its airline. This airline card offers one of the most generous travel rewards welcome offers on the market. You’ll just have to make your first purchase with the Hawaiian Airlines business card and—no matter how big or small this purchase is—you’ll earn 40,000 bonus miles.

Plus, for every year that you spend $100,000 or more with the card, you’ll earn another 40,000 bonus miles. Or, if you’re not such a big spender, you’ll still earn 20,000 miles each account anniversary if you’ve spent at least $50,000 over the previous year.

Finally, your Hawaiian Airlines business credit card will come with a one-time 50% off companion discount on a round trip ticket from North America to Hawaii.

→TL;DR: The Hawaiian Airlines business credit card offers one of the most generous travel rewards welcome bonuses on the market. You’ll earn 40,000 bonus miles simply for making your first purchase with the card.

3. Best Business Airline Credit Card for Southwest Airlines

Third in the top five US airlines of 2018, Southwest has also managed to produce one of the greatest airline-specific business credit cards on the market.

The Southwest business credit card is a Chase business credit card that offers 2x rewards not only for the purchases you make directly with Southwest, but also for purchases you make directly with Southwest’s hotel and rental car partners, which is pretty rare for an airline-specific card.

This card will also offer a 60,000-point welcome bonus if you just spend $3,000 in your first three months after opening your account, along with a 6,000-point account anniversary bonus every year you keep the card—no matter how much you spend.

The Southwest business credit card also offers the very best companion pass deal on the market: If you complete 100 one-way flights or earn 110,000 points in a year, you’ll get a free companion pass that’s good for the rest of the current calendar year and through the entire following calendar year.

→TL;DR: Southwest offers one of the very best business airline credit cards on the market, and its companion pass deal is a game-changer.

4. Best Business Airline Credit Card for JetBlue

Yet another top carrier that offers a stellar business airline credit card, JetBlue takes the number four spot of the best airlines of 2018.

The JetBlue business credit card, unlike many travel cards, will reward you extra for more than just your purchases with the airline. Though you will earn a whopping 6x rewards points for every dollar you spend on JetBlue purchases, you’ll also 2x points at restaurants and office supply stores.

This card also offers a welcome bonus along with account anniversary bonuses—you’ll earn 40,000 bonus points if you spend just $1,000 during your first 90 days with the card, plus 5,000 bonus points for every account anniversary you have with the card.

Finally, if you earn 15,000 flight points within a year, then you’ll qualify for TrueBlue Mosaic Status. That’ll open up travel perks like first and second free checked bags, early boarding, and even complimentary alcohol onboard.

→TL;DR: The JetBlue business credit card offers a rewards program that offers elevated rates for typical business expenses, along with elevated rates for JetBlue purchases.

5. Best Business Airline Credit Card for Delta Airlines

Finally, Delta Airlines rounds out the list of the top five airlines of 2018. Delta offers a long lineup of business airline credit cards, all of which are American Express business credit cards. But the Delta Platinum business credit card earns the title for the very best business credit card for Delta frequent flyers.

With the Delta Platinum business credit card, you’ll be able to earn a three-pronged welcome offer. If you spend $1,000 during your first three months after opening your account, you’ll earn 35,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles. Plus, once you make a Delta purchase, you’ll earn a $100 statement credit applied to your account. You’ll also earn 2x rewards for every dollar you spend on Delta Purchases, along with priority boarding, accelerated Delta status, and free checked bags.

Though the Delta Reserve offers rewards that can get you even more than the Delta Platinum card, the Delta Reserve’s $450 annual fee allows the Delta Platinum—at $195 a year—to edge it out.

→TL;DR: The Delta Platinum business credit card offers the optimal balance between a more modest annual fee and lucrative Delta rewards points rates.


A More General Business Travel Card Is Really the Right Move

Though you might think of yourself as a devoted, airline-specific business traveler, there might be a better business credit card out there for you—especially if you ever waver in your travel habits.

Once you become a airline-specific business credit cardholder, you won’t be as inclined to hunt for the best flight deal available. The sunk cost for your business airline credit card’s annual fee might sway you toward lesser deals to fly your carrier of choice. As a result, your airline will be less inclined to compete for your business.

Plus, as we’ve seen with even the very best airline of 2018, Alaska Airlines, some business airline cards just aren’t that good—they tend to charge pricey annual fees, which can be hard to justify for the limited rewards that the cards offer.

If these caveats are changing your mind about business airline credit cards, then it’s time to consider your contingency plan—more general business travel rewards cards. Luckily, non-airline business travel cards make up some of the best business credit cards on the market overall.

Some top options for more general and more generous travel rewards include:

Your biggest takeaway? Airline credit cards are only worth their limited rewards and high annual fees if you travel often and always on the same airline. Otherwise, consider pivoting your business travel credit card search to more general travel rewards cards.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

15 Amex Business Platinum Benefits That Prove It Wins Best Luxury Travel Card

You’ve heard about the many perks of the of the Amex Business Platinum—and you want to know if it’s right for you. Well, for jet-setting business owners, Amex Business Platinum benefits are unparalleled.

With its luxury travel perks and practical travel savings, the Amex Business Platinum benefits are everything a frequent flier could need. And the kind of perks that truly pay for themselves.

But is this card worth its substantial price tag? We break down a comprehensive list of the top Amex Business Platinum benefits so you can figure out if this luxury business travel card will provide you with a ton of value. But we’ll give you a hint: If you’re a serious traveler for business, there’s no better suite of benefits if you want a tip-top luxury experience.

The Amex Business Platinum Benefits

Amex Business Platinum benefits generally fall into five different categories. The one you’ve probably heard the most about are its luxury travel perks—of which there are many. So, yes, you’ll be able to enjoy the upscale airport lounge access and other notable status upgrades, like Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, that you’re looking for.

But Amex Business Platinum benefits also come in the form of travel savings, welcome bonuses, Amex Membership Rewards, and various lesser known-perks like insurances and protections. These benefits come in handy throughout many situations as a business owner—but, most of all, they add up to substantial savings along the way. All of these make the $450 yearly fee more than worth it.

As long as you take advantage of the various Amex Business Platinum benefits, regardless of whether you access them through the card or not, you’ll more than get your money’s worth with the Amex Business Platinum, even with its $450 annual fee. But be sure to do the math on whether or not the Amex Business Platinum benefits pay for themselves, as this card does carry one of the most expensive annual fees on the market.


The Top Amex Business Platinum Benefits: Your Comprehensive List

You likely have a general idea of the kind of benefits the Amex Business Platinum promises—business owners typically consider this business travel card with a silvery halo of luxury travel accompanying it.

But let’s run through the exact Amex Business Platinum benefits that make this business travel credit card so legendary—and makes competing business travel credit cards pale in comparison:

The Top 15 Amex Business Platinum Benefits

1. Airport Lounge Access

As an Amex Business Platinum cardholder, you’ll gain access to Amex’s American Express Global Lounge Collection.

This includes Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges, Delta Sky Clubs (while you’re flying Delta), and more—which means you’ll be traveling in style and comfort with this business travel card. If you’re dreaming about not having to scavenge for a seat by your gate as you wait, or eating yet another bag of trail mix to hold you over until you land, then you’ve struck gold (or, well, platinum in this case).

2. Gold Elite Status at Hilton and Starwood Hotels

Amex Business Platinum benefits don’t just apply to the journey—they also apply to the destination. As an Amex Business Platinum cardholder, you’ll get an automatic upgrade to Gold Elite Status at Hilton and Starwood Hotels.

3. Complimentary Status Upgrades with Top Rental Car Companies

You’ll be able to upgrade your status with multiple rental car companies if you opt for the Amex Business Platinum. This business travel credit card bumps you up to become be a member of Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, Avis Preferred, and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive.

4. Boingo Hotspot and Go-Go Preferred WiFi

Finally, to top off the Amex Business Platinum benefits for luxury travel, you’ll gain access to Boingo Hotspots and Go-Go Preferred WiFi during your travels. With this Amex Business Platinum benefit, you’ll never have to be offline (or burning through your own data) as you travel for business.

5. No Foreign Transaction Fees

The Amex Business Platinum won’t charge you a foreign transaction fee for any purchase you make abroad. Considering some business credit cards charge up to 3% of every dollar you spend overseas on each transaction, this is a huge money-saver for always-traveling business owners—especially for extended stays.

6. Annual Airline Incidentals Credit

The $200 incidentals credit that you’ll receive annually is a huge benefit that isn’t talked about nearly as much as it should be.

This Amex Business Platinum benefit covers up to $200 of additional charges—think checked baggage, in-flight fare, or upgrades, for instance—and that’s the stuff that can really add up. The most notable part is that you can apply this credit to any airline of your choosing.

7. TSA PreCheck or Global Entry Credit

And one more another big one. As an Amex Business Platinum cardholder, you’ll receive a credit to cover either your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry costs ($85 and $100, respectively) so that you can zoom through security as you travel for work.

Ever stood in a security line worrying about making a flight or groaned about taking a computer out of a bag? Then this benefit is your dream. Global Entry (which encompasses TSA PreCheck clearance as well) lets you not only sail through domestic security screenings in priority lines but also makes your return to the country an absolute breeze since you can skip the lines at customs, too.

8. 50,000 Membership Rewards Points

Once you spend $10,000 on your Amex Business Platinum, you’ll earn a welcome bonus of 50,000 Membership Rewards points.

9. 50,000 Membership Rewards

If you spend that $10,000 quickly, though, you’ll access to an even larger welcome bonus. Spend $15,000 with your Amex Business Platinum within the first three months after opening your account, and you’ll earn an additional 50,000. So, there’s a solid batch of 100,000 Membership Rewards points from welcome bonuses up for grabs if your business is heavy on spending.

10. 5x Membership Rewards Points

The sustained rates at which you’ll be able to earn for your business spending are an Amex Business Platinum benefit definitely worth noting. For instance, if you make a purchase through Amex’s travel portal, you’ll see a return of 5x Membership Rewards points for every dollar you spend.

11. 1.5x Membership Rewards Points

Additionally, when you make a large one-off purchases of $5,000 or more, you’ll earn 50% more. There are 1.5x Membership Rewards points on the table for all purchases of above the $5,000 mark on your Amex Business Platinum.

12. Points Transfer to 20 Airline and Hotel Partners

What are thousands of points worth if they’re only good for something you’re not interested in purchasing? That’s why Membership Rewards points that you earn with the Amex Business Platinum will be transferable to all 20 of Amex’s hotel and airline partners, which include Delta, JetBlue, Hilton, and Starwood.

13. Pay With Points Bonus

Finally, if you book your travel through Amex’s travel portal, your Membership Rewards points will be worth 35% more. Not only will Amex Business Platinum benefits let you earn more points, they’ll also let you earn more rewards for these points.

14. AMEX OPEN Discounts

Because this card is a member of AMEX OPEN, Amex Business Platinum benefits also entail every benefit that comes with AMEX OPEN. That means access to a 5% discount on a lengthy list of businesses that your own business could take advantage of often: we’re talking FedEx, 1-800 Flowers, and more.

15. Various Insurances and Protections

Amex Business Platinum benefits also include a bunch of protections, most of which apply to travel expenses or risks. This means car rental loss, damage to lost or stolen luggage, and many other mishaps that you might encounter while traveling won’t be as grave with the Amex Business Platinum in hand.

amex platinum business benefits

Why You Might Hesitate to Take Advantage of These Amex Business Platinum Benefits

We’ve covered the very best Amex Business Platinum benefits, but we do have to address the elephant in the wallet—the Amex Business Platinum’s substantial annual fee of $450.

For sure, this annual fee is one of the most expensive on the market. A $450 yearly fee can be a huge chunk within a small business’s budget. So, the jet-setting business owner who’s not interested in bells and whistles might quickly disregard the Amex Business Platinum.

But there’s lots of serious practical savings here, too—Amex Business Platinum comes with more benefits that will save you lots of money as you travel for your business. So, if you’re able to afford them, Amex Business Platinum benefits are certainly worth their price, and often end up paying for themselves.

The proof is in the numbers, starting with your annual airline incidentals credit of $200. After that one-off perk, you’ll just need to justify the remaining $250 of the annual fee that’s not covered by that airline credit.

That’s certainly easy to manage, especially when you consider the lounge access that this card grants you—for access to Priority Pass lounges, you’d have to pay $99 annually at the very least. Meanwhile, getting into the Delta Sky Club would put you back a solid $495 a year. If you pay for Global Entry, that’s another $100. And we’re not even getting into Membership Rewards, discounts, and more.

Amex Platinum Business Benefits: Luxury Travel, Travel Savings, Membership Perks, Welcome Bonuses, and a Little Extra 

The verdict is that if you’re looking for luxury travel, the Amex Business Platinum is the surprisingly practical master-key to accessing it. Take advantage of all of its benefits, and not only will you be traveling in style, but you’ll be savvy for doing it to boot.

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How to Become QuickBooks Certified to Be an Accounting Whiz)

QuickBooks is, without a doubt, the small business accounting software of choice—just as its more than 2 million users worldwide, and 80%-plus market share. With numbers like that, you might be among those looking at how to become QuickBooks certified for any number of reasons.

Maybe you’re looking for a bookkeeping job, starting a business, or launching your own bookkeeping or accounting practice. Or, if you work with finances in your own business, you might realize that undergoing the process of becoming QuickBooks certified could really give your business an advantage.

Whatever your reason to go the extra mile to learn your business accounting software inside and out, here’s what you need to know about how to become QuickBooks certified.


Why You’d Want to Become QuickBooks Certified

Going for any kind of certification means work—so, why would you want to figure out how to get QuickBooks certification, exactly? There are several reasons why you might want to become QuickBooks certified:

1. It could help you get a job.

If you’re looking for a bookkeeping or office management job, your prospective employer might require QuickBooks certification.

Even if certification isn’t required, looking into how to get QuickBooks certification could give you an edge over your competition for the job. Holding a certification in QuickBooks will give your prospective employer peace of mind that you are capable of operating the software, which in turn will increase their confidence in the work you perform for them. You might even be able to command a higher starting pay rate for the position!

2. You’re starting a new business.

Are you starting your own business and bootstrapping it for a while?You’ll probably take on the responsibility of keeping your bookkeeping up to date.

Although QuickBooks is user-friendly, you’ll want to make sure you’re using it correctly in order to keep your bookkeeping sparking and be able to produce reliable reports for running your business.

When you become QuickBooks certified as an end-user of the software, you can rest assured you are using it correctly, and getting everything out of it possible.

3. You’re starting your own bookkeeping or accounting firm.

Solid fundamental accounting knowledge is essential for anyone starting their own accounting or bookkeeping firm. But knowledge of accounting theory isn’t enough—you also need to know you to operate your clients’ software effectively.

Although you could theoretically do a business’s bookkeeping in QuickBooks using nothing but journal entries, journal entries can compromise the integrity of many of the subsidiary reports in QuickBooks. Journal entries are also much less efficient than using the automation and other features of QuickBooks.

When you become QuickBooks certified as an accountant user, you will learn all of these features, including how they can make your job easier and increase your value to your clients.

Why Endeavoring to Become QuickBooks Certified Makes a Difference

Even if you’re in public accounting, there aren’t any legal requirements that you have to learn how to become QuickBooks certified in order to use the software—or any accounting software for that matter. And, if you own your own small business, going out of your way to become QuickBooks certified might seem to be a waste of your already limited time.

So, what benefits does QuickBooks certification offer?

The actual certification may hold no intrinsic benefit for you, but completing a QuickBooks certification course will still provide you with some very valuable benefits. When you complete a QuickBooks certification course, you gain:

Advanced knowledge of how QuickBooks works. Sure, you could learn all the tricks and nuances as you go along, but taking a QuickBooks certification course can shorten the learning curve considerably. Trial and error is only a good learning method when you have adequate free time to correct errors. Most of us don’t have that kind of free time. What we do have time for is a certification course.

Troubleshooting skills. A thorough QuickBooks certification course will guide you through how to troubleshoot everything from technical issues with bank feeds to how to fix an out-of-balance balance sheet… something a journal entry can’t even fix.

Confidence to train others to use QuickBooks. Whether you’re a business owner hiring someone to operate QuickBooks for you in-house, or an accountant or bookkeeper offering training services to your clients, when you complete a QuickBooks certification course, you’ll have a greater understanding of how to teach others to use QuickBooks. This will make you a better trainer—which, in turn, will lead to more success with your employees or clients.


Here’s How to Become QuickBooks Certified

Now that you’re on board, let’s talk details. The most difficult part of learning how to become QuickBooks certified is deciding which certification course to take.

There are numerous options available, and the best one for you will depend on why you want to become QuickBooks certified and how you learn best:

Option 1: Your local small business center, community college, or technical school.

If you’re a QuickBooks end-user —meaning you’ll be using the software as an employee of a small business or as a small business owner—your best option for becoming QuickBooks certified could be as close as your local small business center, community college, or technical school.

These kinds of education centers often hire practicing or recently retired accountants and bookkeepers to teach their QuickBooks certification courses. Students benefit not only from software training, but also from the real-life examples these professionals bring to the classroom. Often, you can ask questions about specific situations in your business or job and get practical and professional advice as part of your training.

If cost is a consideration, your small business center or technical school will likely be more economical than your local community college. If an actual certificate from an accredited institution is important to you, you’ll want to go with a technical school or community college rather than your small business center.

Option 2: Online courses.

Don’t want to leave your home or office? Your technical school or community college might let you complete the course and earn the certificate online.

Or, there are literally hundreds of online training courses available for QuickBooks. These include free videos on YouTube, or self-paced courses costing hundreds of dollars. Some of these courses even offer a certification upon completion of the course.

When you’re looking for a QuickBooks certification course online, you definitely need to be aware of courses based on outdated material. This is especially true with courses created for QuickBooks Online. Features in QuickBooks Online can change literally overnight, and so a course created just a few short months ago could already be out of date. That’s why YouTube videos are often your best bet when it comes to up-to-date training material on QBO.

You’ll also really want beware of scams, especially if the actual certification is important to you. Anyone can put together an online course and issue a certificate upon completion. That certificate may be meaningless unless it’s issued by a widely recognized organization, though.

If you’re seeking an online training course to help you gain certification as a QuickBooks user, your best—and safest—bet is the self-paced training available from Real World Training. Real World Training is the only training center officially endorsed by Intuit, the makers of QuickBooks. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other good QuickBooks training courses available online, but it does mean getting a QuickBooks User certification through Real World Training carries significant weight.

To actually earn certification from Real World Training, you’ll have to take an exam in person at one of their testing centers, so keep this in mind if you are looking for a 100% online option. If you like to get out and meet other professionals, Real World Training also offers in-person training to help you become QuickBooks Certified.

Option 3: Become a QuickBooks ProAdvisor.

If you’re an accounting professional, you probably already know about the QuickBooks ProAdvisor program.

If you work strictly in QuickBooks Online, becoming a ProAdvisor is free. If you want the full benefits of being a QuickBooks ProAdvisor— including access to Desktop software—there is small annual fee involved. This fee covers access to the current year’s QuickBooks Desktop and Enterprise Solutions software and is an economical choice if you plan to work in either of these programs.

Regardless of whether you choose the free or the paid version of the program, Intuit provides their ProAdvisors with free certification training in all QuickBooks programs. This training is available on demand online, but there are also free virtual conferences and free live training events held throughout the year.

QuickBooks ProAdvisors have the option of becoming certified or advanced certified in QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Desktop, and QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions. If you choose to seek advanced certification, give yourself adequate time to study and to take the exam. The advanced certification exam deals with complex technical and troubleshooting topics, meaning ProAdvisors who earn advanced certification have shown significant proficiency not only in the use of the software, but also in accounting knowledge.


Learning How to Become QuickBooks Certified Is a Great Decision

Whether you’re an end user or an accounting professional, becoming QuickBooks certified is one of the best decisions you can make for your career or your business.

When you become QuickBooks certified, you can rest assured you have the knowledge needed to use QuickBooks to its greatest capacity. This’ll help you get the most out of the software and run your business—or your clients’ businesses—to its highest potential.

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