Your business’s ability to retain customers is one of the most important components to sustained growth and profitability. Here are the three retention metrics useful for every business owner.
Retention rate. Most customer retention is measured over a set period of time, typically one year. To determine your rate, take a look at the number of customers who ordered from you last year. Then see what percent of them order at least once from you over the current year. If you measure this percent each month you can see how your retention builds throughout the year. The key is to compare your retention rate to the same period in prior months and years. A rising rate means you are on the right track; a shrinking rate means you need to make changes. According to the Harvard Business Review, a 5% increase in your retention rate increases profits by 25% to 95%!
Example: Cut’em Nail Salon starts the year with 700 active clients. They add 300 new customers during the year, and their active client base is 800 at the end of the year. On the surface things look good, right? This increase of 100 clients is over 14%! But when you calculate the retention rate, it is 71.4% (800 clients minus 300 new clients means 500 of last year’s clients still use Cut’em. 500 divided by 700 equals 71.4%). What happened to the 200 customers that did not return? Cut’em doesn’t know if this is good or bad news, as it only makes sense when comparing it to the last few years’ retention performance.
Existing customer revenue percentage. Core customers almost always contribute the most to your profitability. But how much? To figure out your returning customer revenue percentage, start with a list of revenue by customer for the last 12 months. Identify the returning customers and add up revenue attributed to them. Divide that number by your total revenue. Use this information to balance your spending between new customer acquisition and retaining your core customers. If you are like most businesses, you will realize there is tremendous value in spending more time and effort on retention, even when your business is full!
Part 2 Cut’em Nail Salon Example: Assume the nail salon’s total revenue is $1 million and the revenue from the 500 returning clients is $900,000. In this case, the core customers represent 90% of the revenue but only 62.5% (500 divided by 800) of the customers!
Most valuable customers. Now identify which customers spend the most and buy the most often. Odds are, many of your top customers have similar characteristics. In the end, your goal is to keep these customers happy and get more just like them!
Part 3 Cut’em Nail Salon Example: In the example above, the average revenue per client is $1,250 per client or over $100 per month ($1 million divided by 800 clients). If the top 20 clients represent $100,000 in revenue or $5,000 per client, you can quickly see how important they are!
The key take away is that sustained growth and profitability comes from the core customers you retain each year. And the best place to start is to calculate and understand your retention numbers and their trend.
Here’s a roundup of several recent tax court cases and what they mean for you.
Thou Shalt Not Commingle Funds
(Vorreyer, TC Memo 2022-97, 9/21/22)
Don’t let sloppy record keeping prevent you from deducting legitimate business expenses. The Tax Court agreed with the IRS that business expenses must first be deducted on that business’s tax return before flowing to the owner’s tax return.
Facts: A married couple, the sole shareholders of an S corporation, operated a family farm in Illinois. In 2012 they paid the farm’s utility bills of $21,000 and property taxes of $109,000 from their personal funds, then deducted these payments on their individual Form 1040 tax return as business expenses.
Even though the utility and property tax bills were legitimate business expenses, the deduction was disallowed because the expenses should have first been deducted on the farm’s S corporation tax return, then flowed through to the shareholder’s individual tax return.
Tax Tip: To pay an expense on behalf of your business, first make a capital contribution to your business, then have your business pay the expense. Then include this expense on your business’s tax return.
Adding Tax Insult to Injury
(Dern TC Memo 2022-90, 8/30/22)
Payments received to settle a physical injury or illness lawsuit are generally considered non-taxable income. But you better be sure that the lawsuit you file is actually to compensate for a physical injury or illness, and not something else.
Facts: Thomas Dern, a sales representative for a paint products company in California, was hospitalized for acute gastrointestinal bleeding and a subsequent heart attack. When the company fired him because he could no longer do his job, he sued for wrongful termination. The parties eventually reached a settlement.
Dern argued in Tax Court that his illness led to his firing, and therefore the settlement should be classified as non-taxable income. The payment he received, however, was to settle a discrimination lawsuit and not a physical injury. The settlement therefore did not qualify to be non-taxable income.
Tax Tip: Pay attention to the tax consequences of settlement payments so you don’t get surprised with an unexpected tax bill.
You’re Stuck With the Standard Deduction
(Salter, TC Memo 2022-49, 4/5/22)
Facts: Shawn Salter, a resident of Arizona, requested and received a distribution of $37,000 from his retirement plan after being laid off from his job in 2013. Salter failed to file a tax return for 2013, so the IRS created a substitute tax return for him using the standard deduction of $6,500 for a single taxpayer. The IRS also assessed an early withdrawal penalty of 10% on the distribution.
Salter, arguing that the distribution was to pay for medical expenses which aren’t subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty, eventually did file a 2013 tax return with $25,000 of itemized medical expenses. The Tax Court disallowed the $25,000 of itemized deductions, stating that once a substitute return is created by the IRS using the standard deduction, the taxpayer can no longer claim itemized deductions for that year. Tax Tip: Try to avoid a situation where the IRS files a substitute tax return on your behalf. Once this happens, you have no choice but to use the standard deduction for that tax year.
Long-term care costs that drain your nest egg is a financial pothole that is hard to avoid. Here are some ideas to help manage this hazard.
How much is needed
Here’s how much money you’ll need for three different types of senior living arrangements according to Genworth’s 2021 Cost of Care Survey:
In-home care – $4,957 to $5,148 monthly; $59,484 to $61,776 annually
Community and assisted living – $1,690 to $4,500 monthly; $20,280 to $54,000 annually
Nursing home facilities – $7,908 to $9,034 monthly; $94,896 to $108,408 annually
The traditional source of payment problems
Too many people unfortunately think that Social Security, Medicare and health insurance will cover the costs of long-term care. While about half of adults age 50 and over believe that Medicare will cover the cost of long-term care services, according to an AARP survey, the reality is that Medicare provides very limited coverage for long-term care.
What you can do
Here are some suggestions for how you can care for yourself and your loved ones when you need it.
Review long-term care insurance. While it’s hard to find a cost-effective policy, long-term care insurance helps pay for several types of services ranging from in-home care to nursing homes. It can be difficult to qualify for long-term care insurance, however. Policy underwriters require you to answer questions and possibly complete an exam to determine medical eligibility.
Some employers offer long-term care insurance that is purchased at group rates. If your company offers coverage, it may be a better alternative than purchasing a policy on your own.
Take advantage of tax benefits. Long-term insurance premiums may be tax deducible. Tax-qualified polices are considered a medical expense and the premiums are listed as an itemized deduction. For more information, speak with an insurance agent specializing in long-term care policies as well as your tax professional.
Research long-term care costs in your state. The cost of long-term care services varies by state, type of services required, and type of services preferred. Knowing the cost of long-term care available in your area is a good starting point in the planning process.
Leverage life insurance. Certain life insurance policies with an early withdrawal for terminal illness or care needs can be an alternative to long-term care insurance. And if structured properly, it can also have tax-free status when used.
Before taking steps for your care as you age, please talk to qualified experts. While long-term care is costly, so is making the wrong decision on how you are going to fund it.
Like a bundle of sticks, good business partners support each other and are less likely to crack under strain together than on their own. In fact, companies with multiple owners have a stronger chance of surviving their first five years than sole proprietorships, according to U.S. Small Business Administration data.
Yet sole proprietorships are more common than partnerships, making up more than 70 percent of all businesses. That’s because while good partnerships are strong, they can be a challenge to successfully get off the ground. Here are some of the ingredients that good business partnerships require:
A shared vision. Business partnerships need a shared vision. If there are differences in vision, make an honest effort to find common ground. If you want to start a restaurant, and your partner envisions a fine dining experience with French cuisine while you want an American bistro, you’re going to be disagreeing over everything from pricing and marketing to hiring and décor.
Compatible strengths. Different people bring different skills and personalities to a business. There is no stronger glue to hold a business partnership together than when partners need and rely on each other’s abilities. Suppose one person is great at accounting and inventory management, and another is a natural at sales and marketing. Each is free to focus on what they are good at and can appreciate that their partner will pick up the slack in the areas where they are weak.
Defined roles and limitations. Before going into business, outline who will have what responsibilities. Agree on which things need consensus and which do not. Having this understanding up front will help resolve future disagreements. Outlining the limits of each person’s role not only avoids conflict, it also identifies where you need to hire outside expertise to fulfill a skill gap in your partnership.
A conflict resolution strategy. Conflict is bound to arise even if the fundamentals of your partnership are strong. Set up a routine for resolving conflicts. Start with a schedule for frequent communication between partners. Allow each person to discuss issues without judgment. If compromise is still difficult after a discussion, it helps to have someone who can be a neutral arbiter, such as a trusted employee or consultant.
A goal-setting system. Create a system to set individual goals as well as business goals. Regularly meet together and set your goals, the steps needed to achieve them, who needs to take the next action step, and the expected date of completion.
An exit strategy. It’s often easier to get into business with a partner than to exit when it isn’t working out. Create a buy-sell agreement at the start of your business relationship that outlines how you’ll exit the business and create a fair valuation system to pay the exiting owner. Neither the selling partner nor the buying partner want to feel taken advantage of during an ownership transition.