Top 5 changes for small business in 2011

– Jason Beahm is a contributor to FindLaw’s “Free Enterprise” blog. FindLaw is owned by Thomson Reuters. –

The cliche is true: the one constant is change.

This year a series of regulatory, compliance, and legislative changes will occur that will affect small business owners. Paychex, Inc., recently put together a list of the most influential business regulations in 2011. We narrowed the list down to five that we found the most interesting.

1. Tax changes – In 2011, taxes are going to get even more complicated for small business owners. (What did you think, it was going to get easier?) However, as a plus, there will be a retroactive extension of some of the tax incentives that expired at the end of last year.

2. Healthcare reform – Obviously healthcare reform is going to have a big impact on small businesses in 2011. Under the reform, small businesses will receive tax credits to purchase health insurance. Health plans that existed on or before March 23, 2010 will be grandfathered in, but you cannot make any significant changes to the plan.

3. Employment law – There is going to be an increase in measures requiring greater transparency to workers on the wages they are owed. Specifically, there will be an emphasis on minimum wage and overtime requirements laws.

Top 10 tech investing trends for 2011

– Dave McClure is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and the founder of Internet seed fund 500Startups. He has worked with companies such as PayPal, Mint, Founders Fund, Facebook, LinkedIn, SlideShare, Twilio, Simply Hired, O’Reilly Media, Intel and Microsoft. The views expressed are his own. –

Over the holidays Silicon Valley is a ghost town while most geeks and venture capitalists are busy hitting the slopes at Tahoe or playing Angry Birds Holiday Edition.

If you haven’t had enough football or eggnog yet, stop reading this blather and go watch some grown men beat the snot out of each other while drinking yourself into yuletide stupor. If that doesn’t sound more appealing then you’ll just have to settle for my crazy tech predictions for this year.

5 marketing tips to grow your business in 2011

– Stephanie Chandler is the author of “LEAP! 101 Ways to Grow Your Business”. She is also a business advisor to Project REV – a small business marketing lab by Deluxe Corp. The views expressed here are her own. –

As the year comes to a close, now is the time to assess business performance for the previous year while you develop plans for a successful 2011. Because marketing is so essential to business growth, the following are some strategies to help you get a strong start for the new year.

1. Give your website a makeover

Like a house that needs periodic maintenance and improvements, your website should improve and change over time. Take a close look at your site and make a plan to refresh or add content, upgrade site design, or improve the experience for site visitors. Your website can be the first introduction potential customers have to your business so it’s important that it makes the right impression.

SMBs make hopeful New Year’s resolutions

– Lisa Barone is a contributor for Small Business Trends. This article originally appeared here. –

While it may have been an unfriendly economic climate over the past few years, small business owners are hopeful heading into 2011. Sixty percent of small business owners polled said they expect their business to swell over the next 12 months, signaling not only good spirits, but a 6-percent increase over December 2008. That’s according to a recent Intuit, Inc poll of 1,000 small business owners from across the United States. And what do SMB owners plan to do with the increased cash flow their businesses attract?

According to the survey:

    56 percent will focus on retaining and growing current customers 41 percent will look to expand marketing and attract new customers 30 percent will look to reduce costs and save money

It’s not surprising to see that many small business owners will be looking to use the surge of cash to try and attract new customers. One of the largest pain points for small business owners is often trying to keep a steady flow of customers. In fact, Intuit’s survey found that 54 percent of SMB owners experienced a declining customer base over the past year, with another 32 percent naming delayed payments as their sore spot.

Top 10 challenges for CEOs in 2011

– Charley Polachi is the co-founder of Boston-based executive recruitment firm Polachi, Inc. The views expressed are his own. –

1. In 2011, CEOs will be challenged with balancing expectations for earnings per share (EPS), which in most cases are already set, and their investors’ growing impatience for top-line growth. To grow, CEOs have to invest again. But if they invest, they could miss EPS estimates. The CEOs who walk this tightrope successfully will pull away from the pack and outperform their peers.

2. Maintaining momentum in the slow growing market. Solution is innovation.

3. European governments and their economies continue to perplex – look at Greece and Ireland. Who’s next? Finding efficient ways to get revenue internationally through distributors and partners instead of employees may be the way to go.

Baby boomer inventions that changed the world

Patrick J. Kiger is the co-author of two books, “Poplorica: A Popular History of the Fads, Mavericks, Inventions and Lore that Shaped Modern America” and “Oops: 20 Life Lessons From the Fiascoes That Shaped America“. This article originally appeared on Second Act. The views expressed are his own. –

Try this free-association exercise. When you hear the word inventor, what names pop into your head? Chances are, you’ll think of some long-dead genius from the 19th or early 20th century, such as Thomas Edison, creator of the phonograph, motion pictures and the first practical light bulb, or Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone.

Or maybe, if you’re a little more knowledgeable about the history of technology, you’ll summon up Nikola Tesla, inventor of the alternating current mode of power generation, whose brainchild flows through the outlet that lights your home and illuminates the computer screen upon which you are reading this. Or you might think of Guglielmo Marconi, the early 20th century tinkerer credited with inventing the wireless communication technology that led to everything from garage door openers to the smartphone clipped to your belt.

Hot healthcare investing trends for 2011

– Dr. David J. Brailer is the chairman for San Francisco-based venture firm Health Evolution Partners and served as the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology under President George W. Bush. The views expressed are his own. –

2011 will be a chaotic and unpredictable year for investors.

We will see the first big changes of health reform play through – regardless of what the incoming Congress does. No one can predict what health reform means, particularly alongside the dwindling of the financial crisis and the ongoing jobs bust. The only sure thing is that 2011 won’t be a replay of the last two years where safe deals got done and a lot of companies traded from investor to investor.

Here are a few trends – and a few pitfalls – to pay attention to:

1. Please, no more meaningful use. Health information technology has been hyped into the stratosphere, and every entrepreneur is trying to raise capital while they can. Many are spinning their wheels because they mistake the investment bubble for their own shrewdness. The market will figure out in 2011 that federal subsidies will happen far slower than planned or that they may be cut back by a deficit-hawk Congress. Once the bubble pops and people get their feet back on Earth, deals will start to happen again. There are some very good health information technology companies coming to market in 2011 and they are going to rock healthcare in the coming years.

5 year-end tax planning tips for small businesses

–- Glen Wielandt is head of franchise business development at Fiesta Auto Insurance and a veteran in the income-tax services industry with more than 20 years of operational experience in the tax center franchise industry. The views expressed are his own. –-

It’s the end of the year, and you know what that means: tax season is right around the corner. Recognizing the positive impact that early tax-season planning can have on the small business community, below are five practical tips to better prepare yourself and your business for the 2011 tax season: Keep a calendar. Deadlines differ depending on the type of business and when your tax year ends. Meeting filing deadlines will minimize penalties and interest. Organize your records. Good organization may not cut your taxes, but there may be other financial rewards. Maintaining regular bookkeeping of your financial records year-round will make tax season a less daunting time of the year. Plus, your tax accountant will spend less time organizing your records, and you will pay less money for his/her time and services. Contribute to a retirement plan. The benefit to this can be two-fold – if your business is profitable and you have employees. You can shelter income in a qualified retirement plan that will provide you with a tax deduction for your contributions. This will defer tax on earnings on those contributions, which ultimately becomes paid for when you start taking money from the plan. In addition, providing employees with a retirement savings opportunity can gain employee loyalty. Defer income and accelerate deductions. There are several steps you can begin taking now to put off income into the next tax year and increase your deductions in the current tax year. Send your bills out a few days later, in the last month of the year. This means that you will get paid a few days later in January of the next year, and you will be able to defer the income, instead of having to declare that income immediately. Similarly, see what bills you have due in January and pay them before the end of December. This way, you can take that deduction during the current year. Business tax credits. Keep in mind that there are many tax credits that your small business may be eligible for, including: Alcohol Cellulosic Biofuel Fuels credit, Alternative Motor Vehicle credit, and Disabled Access credit, to name a few. You can view a complete list of available tax credits by visiting the IRS website.

As you begin wrapping up your year, take these tips into account now and you will be pleasantly surprised by how much easier you’ll get through the tax season and the savings you’ll find.

from Reuters Money:

Death and Taxes: Year-end estate tax craziness

USnow covers the gravestones in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia after sunset two days before Christmas day in Arlington, Virginia, December 23, 2009.Estate taxes affect very few people, but for those with seven- or eight-figure estates that are impacted, the end of this year is a crazy, crazy time.

That’s because going from a year with no estate tax (as 2010, oddly, was) to a year in which the estate tax is back (but with a $5 million exemption and large gifting possibilities) raises all kinds of quandaries for those who are very ill and for their families.

What if staying alive another week would save tens of thousands of dollars in state estate tax because the elderly person had already used up the gifting possibilities for 2010—but not for 2011? Or, if dying after New Year’s, rather than before it, meant paying the Treasury tens of millions more tax? The possible scenarios of spouses and children, second wives and estranged children, large sums of money, and elderly relatives on life support could make a movie.

Grow revenues before seeking VC funding

– Russell Rothstein is the founder and CEO of business social networking site SalesSpider. The views expressed are his own. –

Small businesses owners want to grow their companies, but their ability to expand operations is limited by their own profitability or otherwise lack of capital.

Faced with this dilemma, many turn to venture capital firms (VCs), which embrace high-risk, high-growth startups and offer the money and management they desperately need to meet the growing demand for their product.