Is your business dependent on too few?

Many small business owners share one problem, especially in their early days. It’s being over-reliant on a single customer or supplier for much of their business. If you’re in that position, your business is operating with higher risk. Just as with investments, you don’t want all your eggs in one basket. Your goal should be a well-diversified portfolio of customers and suppliers.

That’s in an ideal world. In the real world you may have to live with the situation, at least short-term. But there are steps you can take to understand your risk and, over time, to change it.

Measure the problem. Work with your managers and accountant to quantify how your sales break out by customer. You only need do this for the top five or ten customers to see whether you have an over-reliance problem. If you’re a manufacturer or retailer, take a similar look at your principal suppliers. Quantify how dependent you are on the top few.

Understand the risks. List the factors that could jeopardize your business with your chief customer or supplier. These will vary with your specific circumstances. They might include a natural disaster that interrupts your customer’s business or that prevents you from shipping or receiving goods. It could be a change in the marketplace or a new technology that cuts demand for your product. It could be actions by your competitors. It might even be problems in your own operation, such as a drop in quality, delays in shipping, or poor inventory control. The list may be daunting, but until you understand the risks, you can’t develop solutions.

Look for ways to minimize your risks. Brainstorm with your managers on long-term steps to reduce each risk. It might be to enter new markets or to tweak your product design. Think through contingency plans to address possible disasters or find alternative suppliers. Discuss how you would respond to changes in the marketplace. Try to set measurable goals for change and clearly assign responsibility. Changing the situation won’t be simple, and it may take a long time. But that’s what strategic business management is all about.

For assistance with this issue or with any of your business concerns, give us a call.

David Bradsher, CPA

Selling vacant land could bring a tax break

You probably know that you can exclude up to $250,000 of gain ($500,000 for most joint filers) when you sell your principal residence. IRS regulations may now allow you to apply this gain exclusion when you sell vacant land that is adjacent to your home.

To qualify, the land you sell must be adjacent to the parcel on which your house sits. Also, the land sale must occur within two years before or after the residence is sold. You must meet the other usual requirements for claiming the exclusion. If you qualify, you can apply your $250,000 or $500,000 exclusion to both sales combined.

Example: You own and live in a house which sits on four acres. You decide to sell the house on a one-acre lot and sell the other three acres of empty land to a developer. Provided the land sale occurs within two years before or after you sell the house, you can exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 if you file jointly) of the combined gain from both sales.


David Bradsher, CPA