By Sheila Askov
Putting Personality in Print
The wonder of a solar eclipse is about to visit us. Oregon is privileged to be in its direct flight path. Along with the excitement comes the warning, “Don’t look directly at the eclipse without protective glasses.”
One of my aunts, now deceased, looked at an eclipse when she was a little girl and lost her sight for several weeks, so I take the warning seriously.
I think the wisdom of this warning should be practiced daily.
Before you walk into your day filled with people & unpredictable events, make sure you put on the right glasses. Not the rose-colored ones that help you pretend ugliness isn’t real, nor the dark shadowy ones that distort even the brightest of subjects. Choose instead the ones that help you look for the best in every situation, yet possess enough tint to protect you from blasts of light you’re not yet prepared to see.
Enjoy the magnificence of the eclipse on August 21st 2017, but may the lessons it leaves behind linger in your own personal universe.
By Sheila Askov
Do you adjust your business practices to accommodate the weather? Successful retail and service providers always do. They take into account what people are likely to want, need, and respond to when the hot weather rolls around. Sometimes expanding the hours of operation to match the longer days is a smart move.
Maybe it’s as simple as adding an impromptu fringe benefit for your customers like ice-cold lemonade and cold water instead of hot tea and coffee.
People like to ‘chill’ in the summer. Check your marketing strategies to see if the language in your advertising and promotion reflects that.
If your business peak time is usually later in the year, take advantage of the fewer demands today and prepare, prepare, prepare. Take a little time to reflect on minor changes you might make to help your customers feel grateful they’re dealing with you.
Be good to yourself, too, and CHILL.
By Sheila Askov
The 4th of July is gone, but the pursuit of freedom and independence continues. As a small business owner, that’s part of your motivation for getting up in the morning and working those long, hard hours.
Isn’t it interesting that the road to independence is in fact dependent on being mindful of interdependence?
The more we find solutions for the problems that plague others, the more likely we are to achieve success. Perhaps the secret to a shorter path requires asking more questions and listening intently to the answers. It may be more comfortable to wait for customers to fit into our ‘boxes’ than to change boxes or redecorate the interior…but long term, it will not be more effective. As the world evolves, change is inevitable and it affects the health of our businesses.
Go ahead, set off a few fireworks in the office. Challenge your conclusions out loud, and ask for input from customers and employees. Dare to try one or two ideas and watch for positive results. No matter how your new experiment turns out…congratulations. It’s much better to try out new fireworks than to continue to burn your old fireworks at both ends.
by Sheila Askov
When the sun peaked briefly through the rain-drenched clouds this week, I felt my spirits soar in response. I couldn’t wait to go outside and see what was blooming in the yard and neighborhood around me. Sure enough, the plants appeared unfazed by the prolonged downpours and many of the bushes and succulents I knew had been killed by the snow & ice this winter began sprouting new greenery.
It was like a weight lifted from my mind when I realized my favorite plants were fine and thriving. Then I became aware that my tummy had relaxed, too, in response to my mental relief.
I took a few minutes to glance around my environment and notice how my concerns & mental conclusions affected my body. Some things I noticed made me smile and I’d feel a rush of pleasure. Other situations triggered worry and I found my tummy tightening once again.
“It’s time for some serious spring cleaning – starting with my mind,” I muttered. I forced myself to look at the items that caused me concern, and stay focused on them until I mentally came to different, less alarming thoughts. It actually worked. I still have concerns because homes & gardens always seem to need something, but now I focus on how I can make improvements without all the self-judgment attached.
Spring feels like a natural time to start cleaning up my brain, boost my physical health, and prepare for the inevitable beauty spring always delivers.
Progress not perfection, please.
LESSONS FROM A GROUNDHOG
When the groundhog makes his appearance on February 2nd and we watch the TV to see if he casts a shadow, humans begin predicting how many more weeks of winter are on the way. Depending on whose stats you use – the groundhog’s shadow is right about 50% of the time.
Fortunately, this cute little critter is unaffected by our conclusions. He goes about his business adjusting to the conditions of the day. I’m sure it never occurred to him to take a poll and see what all the groundhogs in the neighborhood thought his shadow, or lack of it meant.
It might be a terrific idea if people stopped taking action based on popular trends and opinions, and actually thought about what we are doing, and why we are doing it. Then we can decide if being ‘right’ is more important than being fair, honest, and tolerant. Kindness should not be limited to those who agree with us.
I think the groundhog is right…go outside, look around, smell the air, check the weather, and then get busy and have a productive day.
BETTER QUESTIONS = BETTER ANSWERS
Maybe we all need to stop arguing about the answers we’re getting and start focusing on asking new and more productive questions.
Einstein knew better than to waste time and energy lamenting over unsuccessful results. He welcomed them, knowing you have to eliminate what is NOT effective in order to find what is. He focused on other things he might try, ways to influence the end result, and consistently wondered what HE might be missing.
When I listen to the news channels throughout the day, the ‘experts’ keep arguing about the results, and who’s to blame, and how much better things would be if they weren’t the results. I’m suffering from ear-overload.
Monday morning quarterbacks never win the Super Bowl. We have to play the game we’re in…to the best, not the worst, of our ability.
What happened to American optimism? My family survived the Great Depression, the World Wars, plus other conflicts around the globe, and still remained creative, problem-solving optimists. It’s killing them to watch all the whimpering, and finger-pointing criticism dividing the country they fought to save.
AGREE to DISAGREE, please! We all want the good stuff for America – we just disagree on the path to glory.
Let’s collectively put our egos on the shelf, and help EVERY American we meet have a happier and healthier 2017.
November 8th in Our Review Mirror
I’m still grateful I live in America, although this election year has been an extraordinary example of family dysfunction running rampant with the curtains drawn back for all the neighbors to see. OUCH!
I feel bruised and beaten up for watching. But in real life…Thanksgiving Day is on its way and it’s time for the family to take a few deep breaths before sitting down to dinner.
The good news is…we get to disagree! It doesn’t make us comfortable & it does make us question the intelligence of the people we thought we knew, but a functional America requires a willingness to look at ‘ugly’. It also demands sometimes that we have the integrity to acknowledge it when a majority may not see it our way despite our best efforts to influence them. Now THAT is annoying with a big dose of ‘scary’ attached.
Let’s revisit the truth: The good news is…in America we get to disagree! Over time all of us may shift our perspective as facts & figures change position & world leaders make new decisions. There is no ‘set in stone’ condition on planet Earth.
Being GRATEFUL changes everything, so please, my fellow Americans, at least on Thanksgiving Day let’s bite our tongues and take a few deep breaths before sitting down to dinner. The one who says something loving & compassionate first…wins.
According to Sheila…
They both make people VERY uneasy!
Here at The Bookkeeping Company, LLC…we understand your discomfort. Much of our day is spent communicating with government agencies loaded with regulations devoid of common sense. Our search for tangible answers generally transports us to a ‘ghostly’, ever-changing environment where we need to contact some illusive entity somewhere else.
‘The gals’ here at TBC are happy to purge and try to explain some of the ‘spookiness’ surrounding your business challenges. Let us identify and remove some of the ‘ghosts’ from your bookkeeping, payroll, and tax nightmares.
But remember, the supernatural arena also includes ‘miracles’.
by Sheila Askov
If your life isn’t adding up, consider the wisdom of mathematical language.
Imagine the joy you might experience if you subtract things that suck the energy from you each day. Can you feel the difference?
Instead of running around in circles, compounding conflicts, and trying to become the first person to actually make a square peg fit perfectly into a round hole…stop…and evaluate.
Look at your situation from different angles. It’s true that fractional changes made daily will naturally multiply in effect.
Divide your time into segments, and remember to include a slot for fun. Bake a pie with your kids, or enjoy a slice with a friend. Challenge the predictable guilt when it appears, and continue in your quest to return a percentage of your day to you.
Equations require balance…so play around with what ‘x’ means to you. If the scales are still tilting to one side, call in ‘y’ and ‘z’.
To sum it all up…you can TOTALLY do this!
by Sheila Askov
The sad truth…the most common reason taxpayers lose their deductions for business mileage during an IRS audit is because they failed to produce adequate records.
Avoid the trauma and drama by following these record-keeping guidelines:
- Write down your mileage
- Note the dates of your business trips
- Identify the places you drove for business
- Document the purpose of the business trip
The easiest way to keep track of legitimate expenses is to use a mileage logbook that you keep in your car. Whenever you jump in the vehicle to take care of business, grab the book and write down the date & beginning mileage.
It’s okay to combine entries sometimes. For example: You need to swing by the bank and post office for business reasons before you meet with a client. It’s acceptable to document all 3 stops in your mileage log under one entry, but remember to record the purpose & people involved in the client stop. Be sure and keep the post office receipt for future use, noting the business info necessary. Your bank statement will reflect the business transaction. When you complete the trip, grab your mileage logbook & finish the details including ending mileage.
Note: If you’re combining mileage entries as shown above, you may NOT conduct any personal business during that time. If you make a personal stop, the mileage chain is over and ‘ending mileage’ must be noted.
Tip: You may use a mile tracking app like MileIQ that uses GPS tracking to automatically calculate your mileage for each trip entered in the logbook.
The IRS wants to know the total number of miles you drive during the year, not only for business but commuting and personal use. They do not allow estimated mileage in your calculations. The IRS and Tax Court can disallow your mileage deductions entirely if you do not have precise, reliable records. It doesn’t matter if it’s clear that you did in fact drive for business during the year.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, the standard mileage rates are:
- 54 cents per mile for business miles driven
- 19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
- 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations
For precise, detailed IRS requirements visit www.irs.gov.