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Ask Toolkit Your Business Questions Answered

Featured Questions

  1. Ask About 2014 Minimum Wage Rates

    Dear Toolkit,

    Can you let me know what the 2014 minimum wage rates are for federal purposes and also for the states?

    Planning A. Head

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  2. Ask About Foreign Qualification And Business Licenses

    Greetings Toolkit Gurus,

    My business has been growing rapidly and I am thinking about expanding into another state. I've heard that a business needs to register to do business and get business licenses in every state where it's doing business. This seems like a real hassle. What's wrong with just "flying under the radar?"

    Don't Wanna Be Bothered


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  3. Ask About Employee Social Media Posts

    Dear Toolkit,

    With so many of my employees constantly checking and updating their social media profiles, I'm worried it won't take much for them to post something unfavorable about my business. As an employer, what can I do to stop my employees from making disparaging posts that could hurt my business--and my ability to keep their pay checks coming?

    Sincerely,

    Socially Concerned 

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  4. Ask About Succession -- Part Two

    Dear Toolkit,

    I'm the founder of a pretty good sized business I built up myself over many, many years. My wife is on my case to retire and let one or more of our kids take over. Any helpful hints on how to do this painlessly?

    Thanks,

    Dithering Dad

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  5. Ask About Starting an Online Food Business

    Dear Toolkit,

    I want to start an online business selling cupcakes. For now, I will be baking the cupcakes in a rented kitchen. The orders will be placed online, and I will deliver the cupcakes on the date specified in the order. I plan to file a fictitious owner certificate and obtain a business license but I'd like to know if there is any other paperwork I should be completing?

    Thanks,

    Bursting To Bake

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  6. Ask About Announcing a New Owner to Customers

    Dear Toolkit, 

    After decades in business, it's time to trade in bookkeeping for beaches and sales quotas for siestas. Soon, I will be signing the sale papers and relinquishing the throne to a new owner. I'm about to announce the sale of my business to my customers. What should I include in this letter to keep customer retention high during this period?

    Sincerely,

    "Saleing" Away 

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  7. Ask About Business Closure Documentation

    Dear Toolkit,

    I'm in the process of closing my business. At this point, my biggest concern is ending things on a positive note with my current customers—and receiving my security deposit in full from my landlord. A friend suggested I notify my customers and my landlord via good ole snail mail. Do you recommend any boilerplate language or legalese to include in these letters? I'd like to remain on good terms with both parties while still protecting my company.

    Sincerely,

    Meticulous in Metropolis

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  8. Ask About Income for Services Paid Through C Corporation

    Dear Toolkit,

    I've formed a C corporation to help make sure my personal assets are protected in case my business doesn't take off as I hope it will.  When I am hired to do work for another business, how can I make sure the income is income to my corporation, rather than to me personally.  Do I need to file any special forms to make this happen?

    Prudent Planner

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  9. Ask About Amending Tax Returns

    Dear Toolkit,

    Oops! I just filed my tax return electronically and arrived home to learn that my wife found a Form 1099 hidden in the pages of  a magazine. How can I amend my return to include this prodigal 1099?

    Thanks,

    Chagrined in Sheboygan

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  10. Ask About Sales Taxes

    Dear Toolkit,

    I can't seem to get a straight answer to my many questions about sales tax, particularly about taxes to be charged on out-of-state sales. Please help!

    Thanks,

    Wannabe Compliant

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  11. Ask About Sales and Use Tax

    Dear Toolkit,

    Can you explain the difference between sales tax and use tax? My Montana cousin and I can't seem to agree on what these obligations are.

    Thanks,

    Wondering in Wyoming

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  12. Ask About Foreign Exchange Risk

    Dear Toolkit,

    Our fairly young small business is branching out by selling our product in other countries. How can we protect ourselves against a loss of profits due to fluctuations in currency exchange rates?

    Thanks,

    Nervous Novice

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  13. Ask About Organizing a Nonprofit

    Dear Toolkit,

    I just got elected to the board of a new little not-for-profit group here in town, and I'm supposed to get us registered as a "tax exempt 501(c) entity" (whatever that is) so that folks can deduct their contributions to us. How do I go about this? Is it something I can do myself? Or should I have the lawyer I use for my small business stuff do this?

    Committee of One

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  14. Ask About Letters of Credit

    Dear Toolkit,

    I recently decided to order a large quantity of small toys which I intend to use as giveaways with the kids' meals at my several snack shops. I discovered that it would be much cheaper to order these in volume directly from a manufacturer in Taiwan rather than buying them from a local supplier.

    But—there's always a but—when I went to finalize the deal, their rep told me I'd need a "letter of credit" to complete the purchase. What in the world is that all about?

    Bothered in Boise

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  15. Ask About Insuring Your Home-Based Business

    Dear Toolkit,

    I recently set up an office in my home for a sideline business I've started. Eventually, I hope to quit my "day job" and work full time at my own business. In the meantime, I'm concerned about insurance risks. I know my homeowner's policy covers some aspects of my home office, but do you think I need more coverage now or is my HO policy sufficient until my business grows a bit?

    Worry Wart

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  16. Ask About Co-Ownership - Part 2

    Dear Toolkit,

    Can you explain the differences between owning something in joint tenancy and in tenancy by the entirety? And what other ways of owning property are there, if any?

    Tentative Tenant

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  17. Ask About Franchise Fairs

    Dear Toolkit,

    There's going to be a franchise opportunity fair in my town next month, and since I'm interested in getting into my own business, I think I'll attend. Do you have any hints on what to look for at this type of event?

    Rookie Researcher

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  18. Ask About Co-Ownership - Part 3

    Dear Toolkit,

    Can you explain the differences between owning something in joint tenancy and in tenancy by the entirety? And what other ways of owning property are there, if any?

    Tentative Tenant

    Read More »

  19. Ask About Co-Ownership - Part 1

    Dear Toolkit,

    Can you explain the differences between owning something in joint tenancy and in tenancy by the entirety? And what other ways of owning property are there, if any?

    Tentative Tenant

    Read More »

  20. Ask About SBIR/STTR Grants

    Dear Toolkit,

    How can a small business owner learn about the SBIR/STTR Grant and Contract Program. . .including how to apply for (and hopefully win) this funding?

    Seeking Support

    Read More »

  21. Ask About Due Diligence

    Dear Toolkit,

    Can you explain what "due diligence" means? It sounds like the name of a rock band to me.

    Curious in California

    Read More »

  22. Ask About Business Incubators

    Dear Toolkit,

    I recently heard about something called a "business incubator." Is this for real? It sounds too good to be true. Tell me more about this way to start and grow my business.

    Cluck N. Gurgle

    Read More »

  23. Ask About Family Limited Partnerships

    Dear Toolkit,

    My husband and I want to start transferring our family business down to our kids, and we're considering using a Family Limited Partnership. One adviser told us this is a very effective tool, and another told us it's more trouble than it's worth. How would you cast your vote on this issue?

    Mom in Muskegon

    Read More »

  24. Ask About the New I-9 Form

    Dear Toolkit,

    Didn't I hear somewhere that there was a new I-9? Where is it? If DHS revised it, where did they hide it on their website along with new instructions?

    Thanks,

    Paymaster Disaster

    Read More »

  25. Ask About Bootstrapping

    Dear Toolkit,

    My new small business is experiencing some cash flow problems. I asked a banker friend if he thought I might qualify for a loan, and he said I ought to concentrate on bootstrap financing at this stage. I thanked him and said I'd act on his suggestion immediately, of course. And I will--if you can tell me what bootstrap financing is and where I can get some.

    Ignorant in Illinois

    Read More »

  26. Ask About Leasing

    Dear Toolkit,

    My printing business is growing and I'm going to need some new equipment. Would I be better off leasing or buying?

    Thanks,

    Vacillating in Vermont

    Read More »

  27. Ask About Budgets

    Dear Toolkit,

    Does a budget really have any value to a small business? I know I probably should have done one earlier, but now that the pre-holiday rush is upon us, is it really necessary?

    Thanks,

    Delinquent in Des Moines

    Read More »

  28. Ask Toolkit About LIFO and FIFO

    Dear Toolkit,

    I need to learn about how to value my inventory. This mysterious process seems to force one to choose between two things known as LIFO and FIFO. Help!

    Thanks,

    Jarred by Jargon

    Read More »

  29. Ask About Marketing 101

    Dear Toolkit,

    I need basic marketing information so that I can compete with the big guys without exceeding my budget.  Can you give me some tips to get started?

    Waiting in Wisconsin

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  30. Ask How To Meet the Press

    Dear Toolkit,

    Help! A reporter from a local weekly called and asked if I'd do an interview about how it is to do business in our community. How do I handle this sort of thing?

    Tongue-tied in Tallahassee

    Read More »

  31. Ask About Manufacturer Reps

    Dear Toolkit,

    We're beginning to look at different forms of product distribution for our growing firm. What can you tell us about manufacturers' reps? Would this be a good way to go? And if so, how do we find one?

    Branching Out

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  32. Ask About the New Phishing Scams

    Dear Toolkit,

    I've received two emails from the IRS this week, each asking me in a slightly different manner to fill out some attached W-4 forms and fax them to a given number. I'm afraid to answer these and I'm also afraid not to answer them. Do you have any advice for me?

    Concerned in Chula Vista

    Read More »

  33. Ask About Newsletters

    Dear Toolkit,

    How useful are newsletters as a marketing tool? Are they worth the effort and expense?

    Contemplating Communicating

    Read More »

  34. Ask About Irate Customers

    Dear Toolkit,

    I'm trying to work up a little training talk to help my employees better deal with the occasional irate customer. Any suggestions about what to emphasize will be appreciated.

    Trying Harder

    Read More »

  35. Ask About Phishing

    Dear Toolkit,

    As if the enormous volume of spam we all have to delete daily weren't enough, now I'm told we have to be on the lookout for email "phishing." Any hints on what this latest incursion into our online lives is and how best to combat it?

    Phlustered in Philly

    Read More »

  36. Ask About Gallup Polls

    Dear Toolkit,

    Can you tell us how Gallup polls came about and if they're legit or just another scam?

    Doubting Thomas

    Read More »

  37. Ask How To Get Some Free Press

    Dear Toolkit,

    Our new business can't afford much advertising just yet. Do you have any suggestions as to how we might get our message out to the public without spending big bucks?

    New in Nevada

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  38. Ask About Demographic Fact-Finding

    Dear Toolkit,

    I'm commencing work on some market research for a new business and I'd like to know what reliable resources might be available to a do-it-yourself seeker-of-facts such as myself.

    Digital Diogenes

    Read More »

  39. Ask About Product Pricing

    Dear Toolkit,

    Please, please, please give me some direction on how to go about pricing my product.

    Grateful in Galveston

    Read More »

  40. Ask About Cookies

    Dear Toolkit,

    A friend recently told me to beware of "cookies" being downloaded to my computer. Tell me - what are cookies and will they really give my new computer indigestion?

    Sublime Surfer

    Read More »

  41. Ask About RFIDs

    Dear Toolkit,

    A potentially large customer has told me that I need to "get with RFIDs and away from bar codes" if I want to do business with his firm. Not wanting to seem completely out-to-lunch, I responded that we were developing our plan to do just that. Help! I haven't a clue what he's talking about.

    O.T. Lunch

    Read More »

  42. Ask About Competition

    Dear Toolkit,

    I applied for a small loan to do marketing for my business. My banker wants a report from me showing how I evaluate my competition. I need to do this before he'll consider my loan request, but I'm not quite sure how to go about it. Can you help?

    Snack Attack Jack

    Read More »

  43. Ask About Salesmanship

    Dear Toolkit,

    I've just taken my first job as a part-time sales person in a local store. I want to succeed at this job as I work my way through school. I hope the practical experience will help me have a career in retailing management after college. Can you tell me something about good salesmanship so I'll know what to strive for?

    Sold on Retail

    Read More »

  44. Ask About Branding

    Dear Toolkit,

    Seems like I run across the term "branding" every day. What does this latest business-babble really mean--if anything?

    Plain Vanilla

    Read More »

  45. Ask How To Segment Your Market

    Dear Toolkit,

    How do I figure out who or what "my market" really is?

    Semantically Challenged

    Read More »

  46. Ask About Brand Discounting Perils

    Dear Toolkit,

    Why do companies go for price cuts? Doesn't this spoil their brand image?

    Iman Mba

    Read More »

  47. Ask About Boosting Business

    Dear Toolkit,

    My business needs a boost. Can you suggest a half-dozen things I might do to get back on the cutting edge?

    Read More »

  48. Ask About Boolean Searches

    Dear Toolkit,

    When I'm looking for information on the Web, some search engines ask if I want to do a "Boolean search." Maybe I would if I knew what the heck it was! Can you shed some light on this cryptic conundrum?

    Boggled in Beloit

    Read More »

  49. Ask About Employee References -- Part 1

    Dear Toolkit,

    A local businessman called me this morning to check references on one of my former employees. I am at a loss to respond to his perfectly reasonable and sensible request. If I tell him why the individual is no longer in my employ, I could probably be sued by the former employee alleging defamation of character or whatever. If I don't disclose the reason, I could probably also be sued, in this case by the new employer who might suffer severe consequences if the person, for example, runs over hapless pedestrians while driving the company delivery truck--just as he came close to doing on several occasions with our van.

    What do I do about giving out references on former employees? Looks like I can't win either way.

    Tentative in Tennessee

    Read More »