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Chapter 1: a 12-step checklist for hiring employees
Hiring employees can be extremely time-consuming, but it’s important if you want to grow your business. Your staff can become your most valuable asset, so it’s important to get it right.
Hire the right person for the job
To make life easier, here are 12 steps to make sure you comply with Australian employment law before and after hiring employees.
- Create a clear job description
Make sure you are clear about the type of person you want to hire, the skills they require and the amount (or the range) you are willing to pay. Throughout the hiring process, keep an accurate record of each candidate, including their strengths, weaknesses, expectations and interview notes. You’ll need to refer to this again when selecting your preferred candidate.
- Determine who is doing the recruiting. How much time will it take to recruit each new employee? Think about all the tasks involved, including:
- writing the job description
- advertising the job (online and offline)
- communicating with prospective candidates
- answering questions about the job and your business
- interviewing and screening applicants
- communicating with unsuccessful candidates.
- Ensure each employee has a Tax File Number
A Tax File Number (TFN) is a nine-digit number that every employee needs to have to be identified by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Every employee has different TFN.
Even if an employee changes jobs or leaves the country (and returns later), their TFN stays with them – for life. If they move between states or change their name, their TFN remains the same.
You’ll need a TFN not only to transact with the ATO, but also with many other Australian government agencies. Your employees can apply for a TFN online if they don’t have one, but they’ll still need to visit a post office or an ATO office to finalise the process.
Maintain accurate tax records
You are legally required to keep proper tax records for five years. It’s important that you keep them safe, secure and easily accessible. Your accounting software should be able to do this for you.
The right accounting software will also help you monitor your business’s financial and tax status in real-time – for example, by keeping track of deductible expenses. Deductible expenses are business expenses that can be claimed to reduce your overall tax bill.
Understand your tax obligations
When you hire anyone for your business, you have tax and superannuation obligations. It doesn’t matter if you hire contract workers, part-time staff or full-time employees.
If you are a director of your business, these obligations can also include you and your family members. Your obligations may include:
- pay as you go (PAYG) withholding tax
- superannuation guarantee
- fringe benefits tax (FBT).
Your responsibilities begin as soon as your employee (or contractor) begins working for you until they finish. Even if you stop being an employer altogether, some of these responsibilities will continue.
You need to be very clear about your legal obligations. Talk to your accountant to make sure you understand them and that you’re clear about your responsibilities.
Remember key dates and tasks
There are so many things to remember when you are running a small business. Your new employee should make your life easier. But when they first begin, you may find your workload increases while they are coming up-to-speed with everything.
A good way to remember some of the most important dates is by using some of the freely available online tools to sign up for reminders.
The ATO has an app that can help you out. It can look at key dates and set reminders or alerts for your tax and super obligations. Or, if you prefer to use your desktop calendar for reminders, try the ATO’s reminder service that puts key dates directly into your calendar.
Obtain and display posters about employee rights
All employees are entitled to certain minimum rights under Australian employment law. However, many employees may not be aware of their rights or understand them. To help your employees out, you are required to display posters in your workplace that explain employees’ rights.
Obtain workers’ compensation insurance. What happens if your employees are injured at work? It is a legal requirement to have workers’ compensation for your employees. This provides wage replacement and medical benefits to your employees if they get injured at work. Each state has its own laws and its own government agency that administers workers’ compensation.
- helps employees to avoid workplace injury
- administers health and safety laws
- provides workplace injury insurance for employers
- helps injured workers get back to work
- manages the workers’ compensation scheme
Make sure your accounting software can address all your payroll needs. Adding payroll to your accounting software should make paying employees painless.
Look for software that:
- makes it simple to stay compliant
- can pay your employees efficiently
- files reports with the Australian Tax Office (ATO).
Keep a file for each employee. It’s important to keep up-to-date and accurate records for all your employees so that you can use them to figure out their pay and entitlements. You will also need records to give to your employee or their union/representative if requested.
Each employee’s file should include their:
- full name, address and contact details
- emergency contact details
- a signed copy of their employment contract (full-time or part-time)
- tax details
- preferred payment method and details, for example, internet banking
- any other important information about them.
Create an electronic version of these details and back it up in the cloud with services like Box, Dropbox or Google Drive. These records must be kept for at least five years.
If you’re not sure about what information you can and should collect for each employee, contact your advisor.
Make it easy for your employees to access all your cloud programs
Depending on your type of business, your employees may need access to non-confidential company information such as policies, training manuals, procedures or job-specific instructions. Consider using a single sign-on service like OneLogin, Okta or Google Cloud.
You can set up each employee with access to personalised information. And if you set yourself up as an administrator, you can also restrict their access if you need to. Remember to make sure you can change the passwords to any third-party websites – there may be times when your employees no longer need access to these websites.
Be clear about goals and expectations. Even if you have just one employee, it’s important that you define and agree on what is expected of them from day one. They should already have a good idea about this from the interview process.
The reverse is also true. Let them know what you will provide in return. This is a professional relationship, and it should be based on mutual trust, respect and honesty. The better you treat your employees, the harder they will work for your business.
Your staff are your most valuable asset – choose wisely.
Whether you’re hiring one employee o,r several, it’s essential to follow the steps above. And don’t forget to think about how you will retain and reward excellent work. There are many ways to do this other than salary and wages, for example incentives and non-financial rewards.
Remember that your employees are your company’s most valuable asset. Good people are hard to find. And hiring can be time consuming and expensive.
If you get the process right, you’ll ensure you hire the right people. And if you look after your employees, they’ll stay with you longer and your business will perform better.
Chapter 2: 17 essentials to do before starting a business
If you’re starting a new business, there’s lots to think about. Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of what you need to do and when. This starting a business checklist includes the most important tasks to get you started.
17-point checklist for starting a business
All businesses start with an idea. But you’ll need more than an idea to make your business dream a reality. Planning, skills, resources, time – and a little luck – are all important.
This list will guide you through the early stages of your business. Use it as a roadmap for building and running your new business.
Get your new business up and running with our 17-step checklist.
- Define your unique selling point
You need a unique selling point (USP). It’s important that you define what makes your business different to the competition. Try to sum it up in two sentences – and memorise it. You’ll use it every time you pitch to investors and potential customers.
- Find a business mentor. Whether it’s a business advisor or a financial guru, find someone who will give you honest feedback about your business. Contact Small Business Associations or Small Business Development Centres.
- Create a business plan
When you create a business plan, you’ll need to summarise your business as it is now and map your vision for how it will be in the future.
- Register web domains and trademarks
You’ll need a website, so check for suitable domain names and register them. Think about trademarks too – talk to your lawyer about this.
- Set up your business structure.
Choose a legal structure that works best for you. An accountant can help you here.
- Ensure that your business will eventually be profitable
Can you make a profit from your business? Use accounting software to run profit and loss forecasts. Ask an accountant or financial advisor for their opinion.
- Set up a business bank account
Don’t use your personal account, even if you’re just starting out. It’s always wise to keep your business finances separate. A credit card and PayPal account could be useful too.
- Arrange business insurance
Even the smallest companies need insurance. Talk to a broker to find the best package for you.
- Register for taxes
You’ll need an ABN and TFN from the Australian Tax Office, and then you’ll need to register for GST and PAYG.
- List the items that can be tax-deductiblee expenses
Office rent, equipment costs, internet costs – all of these may be offset against tax, so make sure you talk to your accountant.
- Create your website.
Use the website domain name you’ve already registered if possible. Services like Squarespace, WordPress, Moonfruit and Onepager will get you online quickly. You can always refresh and improve your site at a later date.
- Create social network accounts. Different businesses have different social media needs. You might need a Facebook page and a LinkedIn profile – or you may only need a Twitter account. Do some research on competitors or ask your mentor to see what will work for your business. Look at companies that you aspire to be like for inspiration.
- Ask people to promote you online
Contact members of your social networks. Tell them about your new business and ask them to share the link to your website with the people in their networks.
- Find the right employees
Hiring the right employees is essential. While you may only be able to hire one or two employees to start with, it’s still vital that you hire well and choose the right ones.
- Think about how you’ll use technology
Nearly all companies use technology. Think about whether you need laptops, tablets, smartphones – or all of these. Talk to local IT firms if you’re not sure.
- Choose your business applications
Software is getting more powerful and intuitive. If possible, choose online applications for your work. These include Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365. That way, you can access your valuable data online from anywhere at any time.
- Keep your data safe
Companies that lose data also lose business. Use cloud-based software for peace of mind.
Keep challenging yourself
Successful entrepreneurs keep going when other people would give up. That inner drive is what defines a successful business owner. Your attitude will help determine whether your business succeeds or fails. So keep going and the hard work will pay off.
The steps in this starting a business checklist are all important. But they don’t guarantee success. Only you can do that with hard work, intelligent decisions and great employees. Stay nimble, be prepared for challenges – and go for it!
Chapter 3: 12-step Amazon seller checklist
Selling on Amazon makes a lot of sense. You can get up and running quickly, with a big potential market and low overheads. But it’s different to running your own retail operation. Here’s what you need to know.
12-step Amazon seller checklist
Amazon has one of the biggest sales platforms in the US. Over two million sellers make a living by selling their products through Amazon’s website.
But you don’t need to be a big company with your warehouse. Many sellers are small businesses, or they are hobbyists with other jobs. If you’re ready to get started selling on Amazon, this checklist will help you.
- Understand Amazon’s fee structure, so you know your costs
A professional account costs $39.99 per month to sell an unlimited number of items. But you’ll have to add selling charges and other fees to that fig. ell, this can add up to 15 percent or more.
- Create a new Amazon account in your business name
You may already have a personal Amazon account for buying items yourself. Set up a separate business one for selling. This will help you manage your finances, and it looks more professional.
- Fill in the required Amazon account details, including billing information
Amazon requires company details and a credit card number. They need this information for charging monthly subscription fees and also if you have a negative account balance.
- Find a price that’s profitable and competitive
The right price will attract customers and leave you a healthy profit margin:
- Check out the competition and see how much they’re charging.
- Use quality accounting software to work out what price is profitable for you.
- Consider tools such as Profit Bandit, which uses bar codes. It will give you a profit estimate based on 15 factors, including postage rates and Amazon fees.
- Choose the right category for the products you sell
Amazon has more than 20 different categories. Picking the right one will help customers find your product. There are restrictions on some items being sold. Find out more about category, product and listing restrictions.
- Use great content to increase your sales
When you’re selling on Amazon, the best content will attract customers and convince them to buy from you. Try:
- using keywords in product titles and descriptions – the ones you think users will search for
- including useful product information
- supplying accurate and detailed information
- using great photography – a picture paints a thousand words
- spreading the word on social media – a blog about your products, mention interesting features and keep people informed.
- Think about whether to ship products yourself or use Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)
You have two options when it comes to shipping your products:
- Fulfilment by Amazon will cost you money. But if you choose this option, Amazon will handle warehousing, shipping and returns for you.
- If you prefer to do your own fulfilment, you might save some money. But it may deter Amazon Prime customers from buying because they will be charged for shipping and handling.
As with all selling decisions, use accounting software to test each scenario. That will help you decide which option is more profitable.
- Get your packaging ready and brand it to market your business
Every parcel you send to customers is an opportunity to build your brand. You will need:
- a laser printer
- shipping labels, such as Avery address labels
- strong packaging materials
- scales for accurately weighing your packages and calculating shipping costs.
Amazon will send your products using its outer packaging. But the internal packaging can have your brand on it.
- Start small – test the market with a few products
If you’re new to online selling, the learning curve can be steep. Start small so you can test the waters first. Get to grips with billing, payment handling and customer service.
- Make the most of customized offers and special promotions
You’re not limited to basic sales. You can offer special promotions, gift-wrapping and unique sales items. These are great ways to help differentiate your products from your competitors.
- Use Amazon’s reporting to fine-tune your sales strategy
Amazon’s Seller Central Area gives you reports on inventory, sales promotions and other useful information. Use this when forecasting sales and planning inventory. And don’t forget seasonality – sales can more than triple in the holiday season, so be prepared for a sales surge.
- Measure everything you can, especially when making changes
It’s tempting to make changes from time to time – to stock, presentation or promotions. Make sure you measure the before and after-sales figures so you can see what works and what doesn’t.
Using Amazon’s platform to sell on means you can tap into one of the world’s largest markets. It can also reduce the amount of time you spend on fulfilment. With a bit of hard work, and the right attitude and strategy ,you can be successful at selling on Amazon.
Chapter 4: 10 monthly tasks for good business health
Time flies when you’re running your own business. Days can quickly turn into weeks as you focus on the day-to-day work. And sometimes you can work so hard it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. Our monthly checklist will ensure you keep your business on track.
10 tasks to keep your business in good health
This monthly checklist will help you assess the health of your business and stay in control.
- Step back and do a financial overview
Your business won’t survive unless you have a tight grip on your finances. Make sure you carefully manage:
- expenses and bills – pay quickly to ensure goodwill
- invoices – chase all late payers
- payroll – ensure all staff records are up to date
- taxes – file your returns and pay on time, every time.
- Review account statements from suppliers
Are your suppliers charging a fair price? Are you still getting good value for money? If not, it might be time to look for new suppliers.
- Review annual sales
Look at your year-on-year sales. Are you doing better than the same time last year? Are costs and profit levels where they should be? Refer to your business plan and make changes if necessary.
- Keep a close eye on stock
If you’re running a retail or manufacturing business, then the the stock is your lifeblood. You should:
- carefully match stock levels to sales forecasts
- make special provision for perishable goods
- ensure storage is safe and secure
- work with your accountant or bookkeeper to find the optimum stock levels.
- Make sure your customers remember you
In a crowded marketplace, customers are likely to forget your service or product, so help them remember:
- Use a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) or MAS (Marketing Automation System) tool. This will help keep your customers and partners up to date with news about your business.
- Use all available communication methods. For example, email newsletters are a highly effective way of keeping in touch with customers – as long as they’re well written.
- Spread the word about your business on social media
Social media can be a very effective marketing channel if you use it regularly. Make sure your blog always has fresh content, send new tweets and post on Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Review your website traffic
Google Analytics is a tool that makes it easier to understand your website traffic. It will identify pages that are performing poorly and pages that are doing well. Ask a web developer to help you if necessary.
- Keep on top of industry news
Set aside two hours a month to review industry news. Sign up for Google Alerts and set an alert so that the news comes to your inbox. If you are a medical industry consultant, you could set one up for ‘medical trends’ or ‘new technologies in medicine.
- Keep your data safe
Use cloud-based applications to store data and ensure your information is always available and automatically backed up. Relying on your hard drive leaves you vulnerable in the face of burglary, fire or natural disasters. If you use your hard drive to store data, make sure you do at least one monthly backup online or to an external device.
- Talk to your advisors
Arrange meetings with your accountant or bookkeeper, board of directors and investors. Meet them at the office or a cafe for a half-hour chat over coffee. Review business performance for the last 30 days and last quarter to check you’re on track.
Successful business owners have great habits
Set yourself up for success and get into the habit of setting aside time for monthly tasks. Business can move at a rapid pace, especially in the first year. So make this checklist a priority to ensure your business is going in the right direction. This will keep things on track and in control – which can make all the difference.