As 2020 winds down, St. George business owners focus on avoiding mistakes common to small businesses

ST. GEORGE — Small business owners across the U.S. are preparing to wrap up not only the fiscal year but also a year when keeping employees and customers at the forefront has been especially important. Payroll Vault, which is based in northern Utah and specializes in workforce management and payroll services, released a list of five mistakes businesses often overlook as the year winds down.

A sign encouraging customers to help restaurants by ordering out three times a week hangs in 25 Main Cafe’s front window, St. George, Utah, Dec. 21, 2020 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News.

They say avoiding these mistakes will help small business owners cap a challenging year and begin 2021 on a positive note.

Among those mistakes are: failing to keep employee addresses current, forgetting to express appreciation for customers and employees, burying the books or misplacing financial records, forgetting to institute change and failing to learn from past mistakes.

Local business owner Jason Legg, who owns and operates TwentyFive Main Café in downtown St. George, said that he has made many of these mistakes since he and his brother, Adam, bought the café.

“I didn’t go to culinary school or business school,” Legg told St. George News. “I’ve spent the past 10 years learning on the fly.”

Legg said that he has updated addresses for all 22 of his current employees. He also has employee appreciation taken care of.

“We put on a Christmas party,” he said. “There was a potluck dinner. We also do employee spotlights on social media, as well as birthday celebrations.”

As far as customer appreciation goes, Legg said their approach is not necessarily “over-the-top.”

“Really, we just try to take care of them daily,” he said, adding that part of this means getting to know clientele. “We have one married couple — Al and Bunny — who come in and order the same thing each visit. They come in and ask for ‘the usual,’ which means two orders of French toast.”

TwentyFive Main Cafe in St. George, Utah, Sept. 19, 2020 | Photo courtesy of TwentyFive Main Facebook page, St. George News

Bookkeeping isn’t an issue for Legg, as his brother handles the books.

“If it wasn’t for him, bookkeeping would definitely be an issue,” Legg said. “He focuses on the books so I can focus on operations. I’m lucky to have him.”

As far as learning from the past, Legg said that mistakes are all too human, and he’s had some difficulty accepting them in the past.

“I was a perfectionist,” he said. “I worked 80 to 100 hours a week for five years because I couldn’t trust others to help me. I burned myself out like that.”

Being burned out doesn’t necessarily have to be all negative; Legg said that it led to a realization.

“I learned that I can’t do it all by myself. So I started to learn to trust others to make mistakes, to succeed. I learned to delegate tasks so that we could get more done. I learned how to build a team.”

Heather Graff, manager at Thomas Judd’s Store, said she knows something about perfectionism.

Manager at Thomas Judd’s Store, Heather Graff, makes a sale to (L-R) JJ, Carson, and Halle Linford, St. George, Utah, Dec. 21, 2020. | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News.

“Yeah, I’m a perfectionist,” Graff said, who’s managed the store for two of her 12 years with the company. “I invest a lot of time into my job, because everything must be perfect. It can get stressful.”

Graff said that most of the mistakes on Payroll Vault’s list don’t apply to her business’s situation. Of course, because of COVID-19, some things have changed by necessity. For instance, Judd’s Store removed all of its indoor tables, offering curb-side service instead. Some of their loyal customers stopped by for the treat fix, but sales dropped steeply.

“We lost a lot of money,” Graff said.

However, while this may have affected the customer appreciation element of business, there was definitely an aspect of employee appreciation that she felt throughout the pandemic: “We didn’t lose our jobs. Also, when some of us got COVID-19 and had to stay home for a couple of weeks, we still got paid.”

A true small business, Graff said that Judd’s Store employs seven people, which, this year, is a blessing.

“We won’t be giving out bonuses this year,” she said. “Instead, we’ll be handing out lots of praise to show appreciation to our employees.”

When asked about bookkeeping issues, Graff gave a sigh of relief.

“We have an accountant, so we don’t have to worry about the books,” she said.

While some of the mistakes listed by Payroll Vault are going to vary from business to business, Austin Smith, co-owner of the Payroll Vault franchise, said that many businesses tend to ignore accounting and federal aid programs at their own peril.

“We had one client who payed 1.5% more than they were supposed to on their unemployment taxes,” Smith said. “They just didn’t know what rate they were supposed to be paying.”

In response to the pandemic, the federal government rolled out a number of aid programs, including the Families First Response Act.

“That’s a helpful tax credit to know about,” Smith said. “If one of your employees gets COVID-19, an employer would give that employee two weeks of paid time off. Then they would be reimbursed dollar for dollar. It’s only for small- to medium-sized businesses. But if you don’t know it exists, you won’t benefit from it.”

The Smiths like to think themselves as a small business who supports small businesses.

“We advocate for our clients,” Smith said. “Often times, business owners don’t want to take the time to learn about all this stuff, so they focus on sales. We can step up and be that resource for them.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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