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Finding a Solid Tax Pro and More of Your Questions for April

Like calculating the ROI on a redesign and how to discount correctly.





I seem to be stuck in a cycle of bring it in, mark it up and mark it down. How do I get to genuine profitability?

Discounting. It is damaging to profitability, lowers the expectations of your customers, hurts your business’s brand equity and is usually unavoidable, because having the same boring inventory sitting in your cases month after month will wreak similar havoc on your business. The secret is to be prudent with your initial inventory (meaning buy according to your sales records) and then to optimally discount. That means keeping any sale short, marketing it properly, being smart (don’t discount hot sellers), targeting your best customers first (a customer appreciation night), being creative (bundle, etc.) and knowing what drives your customers. Are they collectors who aren’t swayed by price? Bottom feeders? Or strategic shoppers? In other words, the alternative to reflexive discounting is a lot of hard work.

This has been another fraught tax season for me. Where can I find a good tax pro or even a CPA to take some of the stress out of this process?

The convoluted nature of the current tax system, especially as a result of the many recent changes to the code, rewards expertise in narrow fields. A tax pro with healthcare provider or small retail experience should know all the different breaks open to you, and be able to give you an insight into industry standards. He or she should also keep you out of trouble. “The IRS knows that family-owned businesses tend to be aggressive with their deductions,” says industry analyst Ken Gassman. “You need to find an accountant who knows what the typical ranges are for each class of expense. Stay within those ranges, and your chances for audit are less.” A good tax pro will be a stickler for details and very time conscious. So a useful initial indicator is how long it takes them to reply to your first enquiry. Check professional organizations such as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) or the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB) to find a tax specialist in your area. There are also online directories such as or Draw up a list of prospects and discuss your needs with each of them. If they want to charge for the time, look elsewhere. And as good as the person may be, never ever abdicate responsibility for your finances. Get tax smart. For more on financial issues ECPs face follow our new monthly feature called Money Matters, page 70.

How do I keep someone experiencing a mental health crisis from entering my optical, or get them to leave?

It’s hard but try to deal with this from a position of empathy. The individual is likely experiencing mental health challenges that make it difficult for them to control their behavior. Of course, you also need to prioritize the safety of yourself, your staff and customers. If the person is outside your store and you do not want them to come in, you are within your rights to deny them entry or tell them that you “cannot serve them at this time.” If they are already inside and their behavior is causing a disturbance or is potentially dangerous, you can ask them politely but firmly to leave. If they refuse, you should call the police for assistance. As long as they pose no threat to you or others, do not try to physically restrain or remove the person yourself.

Is there a rule of thumb on the return from an investment in a redesign? Can I expect a certain increase in revenue?

Ruth Mellergaard of design firm GRID/3 said she has seen increases of 5 to 30% after a renovation, but the key is the quality of the job. “This is not tied as much to the amount of dollars spent so much as to the way these dollars are spent,” she says, noting that a successful redesign will not only make your office more beautiful but add functional improvements that will boost business and increase efficiency through improved layout of displays, better lighting, the addition of workstations or a new POS system and a more inviting storefront. Robert Dykman of RAD Construction Consultants says you can also view a rebuild as part of an ongoing marketing budget: “Building your image is your advertising…you add value when you invest in the building.”



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