28 March 2017

When there is a problem with your business - Don't Panic

By Steve Marsten
During our gas boom I’m sure you will agree we have seen a fair amount of money wasted on things as the Gas plants were built. For us it was hard to fathom however I am sure there were commercial reasons to ‘get things done quickly’. What I have noted recently is that some business owners can easily fall into the trap of throwing good money and resources at marketing as soon as their business is not going well.
Often when dealing with problems we should ask ourselves some well timed questions like….
  • Why aren’t our regular customers returning?
  • Are we failing to exceed their expectations?
  • Is the experience we are offering stopping them from referring to others?
  • What’s the highlight for customers when they engage with us?

We need to spend some thought time on the root cause of the issue and make an informed decision. Hence, take time out to define the problems. By doing this, we identify the key to finding an answer. Consult your staff as well as they may perceive the problem differently to you.
What impact is the problem having on your business? This step is important to ensuring the problem is real! Remember, always ask yourself; where is the evidence to prove this issue? It may well be on your Profit and Loss statement.
Are there any contributing factors to consider once the problem is defined? This may be an issue when arriving at a workable solution.
Never stop engaging other members of your business team. Brainstorm the solutions and then prioritise them. Only chose those answers that provide the greatest impact from the customer perspective.
Seeking professional support external to your business allows you to hear objective feedback and can sway you to ensure the best solution is implemented first.
So when faced with business problems, whether they are customer, service or product related, the important thing is to maintain and build repeat business. That means exceeding customer expectations on a regular basis. At Sothertons we assist businesses as a third party with objective solutions to problems. Call us on 4972 1300 for further information or come and see us.

21 March 2017

Fixing the Deficit one Penalty at a time by Tina Zawila

I’ve been in this industry for 30 years, and recently it seems that the ATO Is handing out more penalties than any time that I can recall.  In particular, the Failure to Lodge On Time Penalty (FTL) is a favourite at the moment.  A cynic might suggest that this is a deliberate strategy to collect more taxes to fix the Federal Government’s deficit!

Once upon a time, if you lodged a return or activity statement late, you received a letter from the ATO warning you not to do it again.  If you were lucky you may have received a few of these before the ATO seemingly lost it’s patience and slapped you with a fine. 

These days, it seems that there is a first and final warning system and the next time you lodge a document late, a fine will apply.   And these penalties are not small change, often around $360, but can be upwards of that - recently we saw penalties of $900 for each activity statement lodged late and there were five of them!

Fines and penalties are not tax deductible, so you should not simply see them as a cost of doing business, or a cost of deferring lodgement of a return to defer the payment owing.   This strategy of putting off lodgement to put off payment is truly flawed.  Using this strategy exposes you to interest charges and a fine.  Whereas, lodging the document on time and then negotiating a payment arrangement with the ATO for the debt avoids the FTL fine.  There may still be interest charges on the delayed payment; however this interest is tax deductible to you or your business.      

Therefore, at Sothertons we strongly recommend our clients comply with their tax lodgement deadlines, and are happy to assist you in meeting these obligations to avoid fines and penalties.  We understand that there are times when cashflow can be difficult, so we can also negotiate a payment plan with the ATO on your behalf.  And remember your investment in our services is tax deductible, so in fact in some cases it would have been cheaper for the client to have us attend to the lodgements as opposed to incurring a fine with the ATO.

If you need help meeting your tax obligations, please contact our professional team on 4972 1300 today, we would be happy to help you.

14 March 2017

What happens when you receive your DCM? By Steve Marsten

It’s sad to see more people being laid off in Gladstone. I guess it’s the sign of the times and it highlights the ongoing issues in our local economy. Many workers are receiving redundancy payments for the first time and though this can help soften the blow of losing your job, it’s still a difficult time in everyone’s lives.

The key thing to be aware of is making sure you received all the money you were expecting and that it has been taxed correctly.

Determining what to do next or what to do with your redundancy package can be a bit of a minefield. Whatever you decide, don’t leave the lump sum in a bank account that doesn’t pay any interest. It’s important to actually have a plan for both your funds and your re-employment.

Be realistic about your future employment prospects. Many people make light of how easy it is to get a job again. Right now I think it’s harder to land a similar paying job and hence expectations need to be focused on the reality.

Once the redundancy is in your bank account – don’t think about holidays, new cars or home renovations. Prepare your financial plan for a 3 to 6 month layoff depending on your industry and willingness to travel. It’s time to focus on needs and cut wants. This is where your financial advisor can earn their money making sure that your funds last as long as possible.

It’s time to do a career check and upgrade your resume. A good resume gets you the ticket through the door. This will only get you to an interview – the rest is up to you. Do you need to upskill? Often there are government funded programs for retraining that are useful to look into.

Volunteering or joining a community group demonstrates you are active and expands your network, so it’s quite a good idea. I know many people who have actually gotten their next job by working in a community group. Often when you are out of work, it becomes more complicated the longer you are out of a job, and the harder it is to sell yourself to a prospective employer. Volunteering shows you are not one to sit around.

Being made redundant is not the time to sit in silence – especially in this current market, it is not like you are alone in searching for a job. As well as recruiters and job applications, social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook provide important tools to connect to professionals that could be your next employer.

At Sothertons we have always assisted those who are facing redundancy to have a clear plan, both financial and job-ready. Call us for more information on 4972 1300.

07 March 2017

Celebrating your Business Milestones by Tina Zawila

This year at Sothertons we are celebrating 40 years of serving the Gladstone community, recognising the ‘birth’ of our current business as the formation of a partnership of Lex Fagg and John Cathcart on April Fools Day (1st April) in 1977. Steve and I as the current directors, have plans to make this year one to remember!  We are taking this opportunity to pause and reflect on where we have come from, what we have achieved, and why we are still here.

Most businesses don’t celebrate success often, not because they are not successful, but often it’s because they haven’t set goals and targets that they can measure.  If you can’t measure your success, then how can you celebrate it?  

At Sothertons, we practice what we preach and have annual goals and targets which are broken down into quarters and months, so that we can manage and monitor our progress.  To keep us focused, each quarter we ‘theme’ the office to remind us of our quarterly projects, targets and goals.  And of course, at the end of the quarter, if we have achieved our goals we celebrate!

Given that this is a special year for us, we decided to use our 40th anniversary as a theme for the whole year and set 4 lots of 40 goals for the year (40 per quarter, 120 for the year):
  •          Do 40 good deeds for our community - volunteering, donating, or just helping others in some way.  Giving back to the community that has supported us for 40 years.
  •          Complete 40 professional or personal development activities – doing a course of professional study, joining a gym, reading one book a month.  Improving ourselves to improve our service to our clients.
  •          Help 40 new clients this year – continue to grow our business and help more people – start ups, business owners, investors, or salary and wage earners looking to get ahead.
  •         Undertake 40 office improvements – improve our systems and processes to drive efficiencies and productivity.  Declutter and updating our physical space to create a positive, uplifting environment.

Each week we are checking in on our progress and each quarter we will celebrate the achievement of 40 activities out of the 120 target.

What goals have you set for 2017? Are they documented and communicated with your team?  What will you do to celebrate your achievements and when?  Call us on 49721300 to tell us about your goals and plans for success.