30 October 2012

Countdown to Christmas - Article by Tina Zawila

I don't want to alarm you...but its 9 weeks to Christmas!  Surely you have noticed the Christmas items sneaking into the shops, there to tempt you to get organised and get in early! 

Whilst Christmas is usually a special time of the year with friends and family, the lead up to this event can also be a stressful time for some of us trying to find the "right" gift at a price that we can afford.  This often leads us to making rash decisions and making impulse purchases, usually on our credit card.

So let's talk credit (and dare I say it ... budgeting!).  
  • Review your current financial position.  Do you have an amount each week in your budget that you can "allocate" to Christmas gifts/celebrations?  
  • Who would you like to buy gifts for, and at what value?  
  • How much would you like to have to spend on Christmas celebrations - food, drink, parties?
So, now to the crunch - will your savings between now and Christmas be sufficient to cover gifts and celebrations?  If not, you have two choices - cut back on gifts and celebrations to come within you budget, or consider using credit.  Obviously the first choice is the wise financial decision; however, most of us will choose the latter.


If you are thinking of taking the credit option - do your homework!  If possible limit the amount of credit used to the amount you can repay within the interest free period (usually 44 or 55 days on most cards).  So ask yourself "how much will I have available to pay off the credit card by the end of January 2013?"  Then limit your additional Christmas budget to this amount.  

If you are concerned that you may not be able to pay the balance in full within the interest free period, and then look for a low interest rate credit card, and make sure you know exactly what the repayments will be and how long it will take for you to pay it off.  Remember, the interest charges have just increased the amount you have spent on Christmas gifts and celebrations -so those "bargains" at the shops, may not be a great buy after all!

Let's make sure Christmas 2012 is memorable for all the right reasons, not because we are still carrying debt into mid-2013.  If you need help with budgeting, or comparing credit cards or finance facilities, please contact the finance professionals at Sothertons Gladstone on 49721300.


23 October 2012

My website is up and running...what next? Article by Steve Marsten

Many businesses spend many dollars to get their websites up and running and like their Budget that’s in their bottom draw, they forget about it! In a recent report in the US by Vertexera, 85% of consumers prefer to use a search engine when looking for a product or service than anything else. I guess the iPhone and the iPad mean that we no longer have to get off the lounge to look for the Yellow Pages guide anymore thanks to Mr Jobs. Interestingly, Australia ranks ahead of the US in terms of internet penetration. So to me this indicates that if you want to be found in today’s internet connected world - you absolutely, definitely and unquestionably MUST have an internet presence.

What I see are business owners who have rushed to get the website up and running then forget about it! Also many people don’t bother to regularly check the functionality of their website. They fail to put themselves in the position of their customer. They don’t ask the questions that go through the customers mind when they are on your site. Remember we want customers and potential customers using our site. 

So here are a few questions I think are imperative to consider once your website is finalised and the every couple of months.

1.   Does the site seem to take forever to load?
2.   Has your IT supplier spoken to you about caching the browser to speed things up?
3.   Does your website connect to posts, pages, categories and tags on your blog?
4.   When you carry out a search on your search engine for your service, product or business – does it appear on the first page? How far down the page? Do you need to improve your optimisation?
5.    Do you use a good statistics tool? What do you do to manage the traffic on your website? Do you know who and how many people land on your website? How many drill past the first page? How many new customers or existing customers contact you as a result of your webpage? What you don’t record, you don’t manage!
6.    Do you have an events calendar?
7.    Is your site easy to navigate? Some sites have so much information on them it’s sometimes difficult to work out where things are. Consider having someone, maybe a family member or friend or your accountant who is going to give honest feedback - “test” your site.
8.    Build connectors with your customers. Have them “Join your membership”. Formalise a Login to your site. Receive a newsletter or updates on your business events etc.
9.    Ask your customers for ideas or test your customers with surveys – most of all get them involved with you and your business products and services.

Finally, have an IT internet professional who has experience in your industry, to carry out an audit on your site and to give feedback to improve the site every year, otherwise you may not be getting the return on your investment. 

To obtain more information on this topic you can contact Steve Marsten of Sothertons Chartered Accountants on 4972 1300.

16 October 2012

Technology: Allowing Small Business to act like Big Business

Recently, Steve Marsten and I spent two days in Sydney attending the annual ATSA (Accountants Technology Showcase Australia) conference, immersing ourselves in technology.

To say that technology is moving quickly is an understatement.  However, with all of the advances in technology, are we working smarter and more efficiently, or are we only using a small part of the capabilities and capacity of our IT systems and software?  A comment was made at the conference "work is something I do, not somewhere I go".  It's true, armed with a mobile device and a good internet connection, it is possible to work or do business anywhere!

Enter the era of the "cloud"... This was certainly the most talked about topic at the conference...what is it?...where is it?...how does it work?  The cloud is not so much new technology; it is just that it is becoming more widely available to businesses of all sizes and to the general public.  For the first time since the dawn of computers, input is exceeding output. We are "uploading" data - information, photos, ideas etc at a staggering rate.


Businesses are using the cloud to store and share data, to record financial information via online accounting systems and to market the business worldwide.  However, before you sign up for cloud-based technology for your business, there are some key questions you should ask:

Does the software meet your needs and requirements - will it grow with your business?
What is the cost?
What do you know about the cloud provider - how long have they been in business, how financially stable are they, do they have references?
Where is your data actually stored?  Storage sites vary widely in terms of security, replication and back up policies etc.
Who owns your data?
What happens if you want to leave the provider?
How reliable and strong is your internet connection?
What support is offered and what are their response times?

The marketplace is being flooded with software and IT providers entering this space - they see the opportunity!  So buyer-beware...do your research, talk to others, particularly your accountant/business advisor.  At Sothertons, we are committed to staying in touch with the latest technology and are happy to assist you with any questions you may have.  Call us on 07 4972 1300.