What Every Business Can Learn from Justin Bieber

Let me confess, I’ve never been infected with “Bieber fever” let alone been a “Belieber.” However, having recently watched his documentary, Never Say Never, I’ve come to realize how much startups and small business owners can learn from this under-aged, pop hearthrob.  Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and even Charlie Sheen are all masters of marketing themselves and their own personal brands. What’s their recipe for success? Of course luck is a crucial factor, but they all adhere to some underlying principles that we entrepreneurs and business owners should pay attention to.

1) Know Your Audience and Connect

Just like any startup, Bieber started from scratch: no industry connections, no millions of dollars in capital at his disposal, not even U.S. citizenship (he’s actually Canadian).  Yet, he was determined to prove himself and worked his little tail off to get noticed by people that could help rocket his career (think of Usher as his venture capitalist). Bieber found his audience, catered to their wants and built their support. His success largely came from his use of social media – one of the cheapest and most effective ways a startup can build brand awareness and engage with customers. Social media gives a voice to anyone who has something to say, and allows those who successfully market themselves to gain more buzz within the community. The beauty of using social media as an entrepreneur is the lack of filter; there are no layers of management permission that one might come across in a well established company. With over ten million followers on Twitter, “the Beebz” keeps his fans engaged by constantly updating them and maintaining very close, sometimes even one-on-one, contact.

2) Customers Come First

Before every show, Bieber’s team has a tradition where they go out on the streets to give away leftover tickets to unsuspecting fans. During the show, they select random audience members sitting hundreds of rows back, and invite them down to the VIP section by the stage. His team even picks a random girl from the crowd to come onstage to be serenaded by Justin during a certain song. Little gestures like these show J.B.’s fans that they’re appreciated, without incurring high costs along the way. Lady Gaga has also been known to order pizza and donuts for her fans while they camp out in line for her concert tickets. Whether it’s excelling in customer service or revving up a better product, remember that your customers are your lifeline and the reason you exist – not to mention your greatest marketing asset.

3) Focus on What Makes You…You

For Bieber, the big buzz on his pre-fame Youtube videos caught the attention of his first manager. Once you’ve pinpointed what makes your business unique, run with it! Market it like crazy. Taking risks and always stepping outside the box are essential to make yourself stand out. After all, no one ever got attention by being timid and passively waiting for someone to notice them. Case in point: Charlie Sheen. Remember to always keep your core values and long term goals in mind, as they’re the heart of your business.

Quarterly Estimated Taxes: A Newbie’s Guide

What?! Another tax deadline?!

As if one major tax deadline isn’t enough, you can imagine my horror as I discovered Quarterly Estimated Taxes. If you’re one of the millions of self-employed or small business owners, then you’ve probably dealt with these additional tax deadlines. But for those that are new to QET’s or aren’t as tax savvy as you’d like to be, rest assured. I’ve complied some rules and resources in efforts to help get you ready for the upcoming deadline.

Rule #1: Know whether or not you qualify.

I’ve read too many horror stories about the person who had no idea they needed to make tax payments for both income and self employment taxes. Whether or not you need to make quarterly estimated tax payments is based on three criteria:

  1. What you expect to owe (if anything) when you file your current year tax return
  2. What you expect your current year tax liability to be
  3. What your prior year tax liability was

A side note: If you happen to be a farmer or commercial fisherman, different rules apply to you.

Rule #2: Keep your invoices and receipts organized.

Keeping an organized system of your receipts enables you to have proof of purchase for warranties, proof of major expenses, expense reimbursements, and tax deductions. Also, your chance of misplacing or losing an important invoice is automatically reduced, which will help you avoid number discrepancies and tax penalties. You can even manage all of your data online, simply by scanning or sending in all of your documents for filing to services such as Shoeboxed. Being able to keep track of all of your receipts online makes it a lot easier and faster to calculate your income for your estimates filing.

Rule #3: Be sure to set aside funds for these tax payments.

As obvious as this seems, you’d be surprised at the amount of people who have set aside the money and then used it as a down payment on a home, yacht, or to buy shares in a sketchy investment scheme.

Rule #4: Figure your estimated tax using the IRS’s Form 1040-ES.

To figure this, you must calculate your expected adjusted gross income, taxable income, taxes, deductions, and credits for the year. When figuring your estimated tax for the current year, it may be helpful to use your income, deductions, and credits from the prior year as a starting point. Use your prior year’s federal tax return as a guide.

Rule #5: Be aware of the deadlines and submit your payment online.

The year is divided into four payments, with the third deadline on June 15th. Using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System is the easiest and most efficient way to submit your tax payment.

If the DIY approach isn’t for you, a helpful resource is Teaspiller. You can still and manage all of your documents online, but with unlimited phone and email support from a tax expert. The service is even integrated with Shoeboxed, enabling you to use your imported data to link your accounts with Teaspiller.