If you’re thinking about going into business yourself but haven’t worked for yourself before, chances are you’ve considered going to school, you’ve read a book, or you’ve enlisted the help of a mentor to learn the ropes. There are a few universal truths regardless of the type of business you want to start. Here are six of them:
Consider Opportunity Costs
When you decide to invest either your time or your money or both, you are deciding to miss out on other investment opportunities. In other words, everything has a price and every choice has outcomes. It may sound obvious, but thinking with this point of view will help you to research all the possibilities before choosing one to which you’ll dedicate your resources.
Exceeding Your Clients’ Expectations
Depending upon their experiences, your clients have certain expectations of goods and services. If they’ve had an amazing meal at a five-star restaurant, they’ll expect the same of all five-star restaurants. If their former hairstylist always offered them a latte and a head massage and a new salon does not offer the same, the client is disappointed.
Meeting or missing the mark on your clients’ expectations determines the way in which they will discuss your company. Exceed expectations and your clients will describe their experience as great, amazing, and transforming. Miss the mark, and your clients won’t be back; nor will their friends.
Get Hands-On Experience As Well As Credentials
Before jumping in, business owners need to pay their dues. They need education not only via school programs but also through experience. Consider taking on a mentor company where you offer to work for free in exchange for priceless hands-on experience.
Placing theory into practice will make a big difference in your ability to handle real client concerns and needs. Such an internship can also give you confidence and show clients that you’ve done your homework.
Speak Your Clients’ Language
Speaking of your clients’ language today means speaking the language of new media. You need a web presence including a web site, Facebook page, and optionally Twitter and a blog. The more accessible you are to prospective clients online, the more clientele you’ll draw in.
Without a web presence, you may as well not exist for savvy consumers who want, no NEED, to see numbers, examples, images, and have the ability to compare goods and services online.
This is one of the first things you learn in school: play nice with others. Today’s focus on specialization and the refinement of specialty skills makes it ever difficult to run an entire business with only one perspective and one set of hands.
Take advantage not only of your peers but also of the brainpower of those in complementary fields. Work in groups, brainstorm and enlist the skills of others to fill in the blanks. Leave behind the “I can read a book for that” mentality and you’ll save yourself time and costly mistakes.
Be Ethical and Honest
Nothing will shut you down faster than a dishonest dealing with a client. Every businessperson learns about the power of word of mouth and the proclivity of clients to share negative experiences over positive experiences.
The digital age takes a megaphone and holds it up to that word of mouth. You have Yelp, Facebook, and countless other forums where disgruntled clients can vent.
Hopefully, ethics is already at the center of your business practices, but if it isn’t, pure self-interest should motivate you to shift your values. Clients have never been so empowered, and that’s a good thing if you have nothing to hide.
When starting a business, the old adage holds true: failure to plan is planning to fail. Get voracious about learning. Find all of the advice available and translate the advice into your start-up.
5 Features Your Business Needs in a Point of Sales System
Whether you are starting a new business or you are growing, your most important asset is your point of sales system. This is not only a method of taking payments but can also be the nucleus of your inventory management and accounting.
In the past, a cash register still required manual accounting of checks and balances, manual inventory control and was basically a drawer that kept your money. Now with technology advancements, a proper point of sales system can make or break your business.
POS Inventory Requirements
One of the most important features of a quality POS system is the ability to track your inventory based on sales. As you make sales, process returns and enter new products, your POS should automatically track your current inventory and allow easy reporting of your current stock.
This feature will allow your management and sales staff to quickly and easily see what you have and what you don’t have, view reports for loss prevention, and integrate with ordering and invoicing programs.
POS Transaction Options
Many small businesses start the same way; with cash purchases. As your business grows, your payment options should also grow. Your new POS system should not only allow for credit card purchases, but it should also allow promotional options as well. Some of the most common transaction features include:
- Applying Discount Codes
- Computing Taxes
- Computing Sales Commissions
- Gift Registries
- Transaction Voiding
These transaction features will allow your staff to easily implement promotions, returns, and accurate bookkeeping based on sales. Offering your customers more options at the register is a proven method to increase sales and create loyal customers.
POS Customer Management
As the business world turns social and increases individualized services, your POS system should allow your business to do the same. This is often achieved through proper customer management based on consumer interests and trends.
Many point of sales systems allow companies to create a customer database filled with contact information, past purchases and loyalty programs. Showing your customers that you know what they like and offer a benefit to shopping with you will help create loyal long-term customers. Some customer management features that should be present include:
- Customer Database Creation
- Automatic Receipt E-mail
- Customer Rewards Programs
- Customer Service/Sale Alerts
- Customer Sales Report Generation
POS Mobile Device Integration
The world of business is turning mobile. For many companies, this means mobile technology plays a big part in their point of sales system. Integrating mobile payment devices, tablets, and wireless inventory scanners will help increase sales and productivity.
Apple stores have begun using mobile POS tablets that allow their sales staff to process payments during their customer’s critical moments of decisions. As studies show impulse buying as the driving force for e-commerce, the ability to bring impulse buying to your sales floor will increase sales and offer more convenience to your customers.
POS Repair and Support
As important as your POS is to your business, support for your POS is even more important. Technology breaks, system failure, and network crashes are all unavoidable realities where technology is involved.
It is important to compare technical support, response time, and stability when choosing your POS system. If your store is open 24 hours, your support should also be 24 hours.
If you rent your POS system, onsite technical support should also be included. Proper support of your POS system can reduce the effects of malfunctioning equipment and the inability to process payments.
Choosing a point of sales system should take as much consideration as the items you sell. Based on your business needs, customer preferences, and plans for your company’s future, your POS should be adaptable and customizable.
If you plan to integrate new technology in the future, make sure your POS allows easy integration and training to assure a smoother transition, increase in sales, and future success in your business.
5 Reasons to Take Your Business Bank Manager Off
Businesses are heavily dependent on cash flow to stay in operation and to maintain sound financial management. Many businesses rely on their banks to help them acquire the funds needed to solve their credit needs.
Obtaining a little credit to get through a rough patch is the first option many business owners think of when they hit a bump in the road. The thought is then followed up with a call to their bank managers to discuss borrowing options.
This habit can result in a business that is heavily indebted. This does not have to be the case, as there are less costly options for businesses to borrow money. These alternatives can be simpler and quicker than going through a traditional bank. Here are five ways businesses can raise funds.
1. Taking Out a Home Equity Loan / Bootstrapping
Bootstrapping may not be an easy option, but it offers an opportunity for businesses to fund themselves. A major advantage of home equity loans is that business owners are left with total control of their businesses, with no investors to answer for late payments or other issues.
Careful planning and strategic thinking is a must, as it involves the pledging of owned assets — the business owner’s own home. Business owners who opt to use this method should ensure they have sound business plans.
The recession triggered a reduction in the number of home equity loans offered by banks, and those that are approved are usually only offered at approximately 80% of the value the home. Individuals can only qualify if they have a clean personal and business credit record.
2. Partner With, or Obtain Loans from, Family and Friends
This is a very feasible option once you have the right individuals with adequate funds to assist you. Loans obtained through this means usually come with very lenient repayment terms and conditions. This type of loan benefits businesses in the early stages of their operations.
The advantages of a possible low interest rate and long term payment make them ideal. The drawback for many may be the difficulty the lenders will experience if they need to obtain their capital.
3. Angel Investors
These small business financiers were affected by the recession but they are now making a comeback. They provide start-up or second-tier financing for small businesses that will, in return, take on an investor who will receive a percentage of ownership in their company. Angel investors provide the owner with valuable business guidance.
4. SBIR and SBTT Government Grants
Small businesses that qualify can obtain some very useful grants from the Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer Grants (SBTT). Eleven federal agencies, which include the departments of Agriculture, Energy, and Defense, give out substantial grants each year to small businesses with innovative ideas.
5. Small Business Administration 7(a) Loans
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is very popular among small businesses. They do not make loans, but rather act as guarantor for a portion of the loan a start-up business applies for through funding agencies such as the insurance companies, banks, and pension funds. This makes it easier for start-ups to secure bank loans that would have otherwise been hard to obtain.
Tools and Techniques for Accurate Accounting in Business
For most small businesses accounting for their cash flow is a challenge. Expenses grow regardless of how small, they add up. Shortages and surpluses need to be handled accordingly not only physically but on hardcopy.
When owners neglect the bookkeeping of the financial records and ignore the companies accounting the spending frenzy will turn any business into a real circus with the owner as of the main attraction.
Here are some tools and techniques for accurate accounting in your business:
Knowledge – even a small amount of basic know-how of any of the prime areas of business will help your company prosper and grow. The more you can personally do in terms of needed work in the accounting and recordkeeping department the less you have to pay for in professional labor-saving you a few greenbacks in the process.
Software – Thanks to the tech age there are plenty of bookkeeping software programs available for download and purchase. Small business owners that are more electronically savvy can take advantage of the flow and ease of use of electronic books.
For a tech-challenged owner, there are other options and companies that provide courses and coaching in the accounting department. Calculators programs are the most basic solution to track cash flow in a business, and a great place to start for the do it yourself owner.
Help – For some of us hiring an accountant might be the only option in our playbook. A part-time third-string CPA is better than none at all so don’t second guess your gut instinct and put your business in a position that it will easily succeed.
Besides the taxes need to be done in time, and the accounting software needs setup and training (tons of time better spent taking care of business)
Shortages – How you handle this particular situation will not only affect the future of your business but of your business partners. There are four options but a certain balance and finesse are required to stay on top of the cash flow. The most common options are:
- Line of credit
- Postpone payment to your suppliers (ensure some sort of agreement is reached)
- Create liquidity
- Close open tabs
Surplus – In some cases, the revenue is flowing in bunches, yet the improper management will doom the most profit-rich company in the world by overspending and inactivity.
Short term high yield investments are a great option and so are paying down your debts sooner, that way the money can be seen doing great things for the company in the right places.
Tactics – It is essential that you can explain your thoughts and needs clearly to your accountant, banker, and employees. These people are the cornerstone and foundation of your business and crucial to your success. Being able to function as a team is an absolute necessity
Records – the most important task in any successful business is to actually keep track of transactions. This provides awareness of all aspects of the business, not just the financial side of the house providing feedback of areas of improvements.
Separate Bank Accounts – when the company card and your personal bank card are one and the same is very tempting for every owner to spend business revenue on personal items, but this practice jeopardizes the company and complicates matters not only in the tax department but also in the growth tracking areas.
Establish different accounts and ensure profits get deposited in the business account and your salary in your personal account. Your Salary – The most popular way to fix your salary is by establishing a percentage of profits as your salary.
This is the better option when profits are unsteady. If the cash flow is easily predicted then give yourself a fixed amount as a salary. This ensures that unnecessary waste of revenue on personal expenses is a thing of the past.
Factoring Services for Business Growth
Managing a business is not always an easy task. As your business grows, higher levels of management are required, and usually, more staff is needed. As companies bring on more employees, the added cost of signing bonuses, new salaries, and benefit expenses often causes financial strain. Growth is never easy.
There is the training period in which the employees learn to work with the company through trial and error. There are also adjustments that involve redistributing workloads and creating and filling new positions.
If your business is experiencing growing pains that come with success, there are services designed specifically to reduce your stress levels during times of growth. One of the most helpful services is factoring.
Factoring is a financial transaction in which a company sells its invoices to a third party factor for a discounted rate. The factor then pays the company a cash advance of usually 70-85% on the spot, with the understanding that the factor will then pay the remaining balance when the account has been collected from the customer in full.
While companies who use factoring services do take a small hit on selling their invoices at a discounted rate to a factor, their bottom line is much healthier, and businesses tend to grow as a result. Business owners use factoring services because they take the guesswork out of the monthly budget.
Customers can be billed, and businesses sell their invoices to the factor at the same time so they don’t have to wait around for the customer to pay their bill in full. Factoring allows you to get paid as soon as your invoice is created.
The Factoring Advantage
Aside from receiving the majority of your payment immediately, other advantages of factoring services including:
- Happy Customers
- Predictable Cash Flow
- Saving Time
Customers like knowing that they can pay their bill when it fits into their budget. If your business is stressed about finances, that stress carries over to the customer.
Don’ let finances force your business to torment customers. Remember customer satisfaction is the leading determiner of growth rate. Keep your customers happy and they will come back again and again.
Predictable cash flow is not always easy to maintain in business, mainly due to the uncertainty of invoice payment. We already know that factoring eliminates that uncertainty by immediate invoice payment.
Factoring services help you manage your business exactly how you see it on paper. Know exactly how much you are bringing in each month, and exactly when it is coming in. This predictable cash flow means you can spend less time crunching the numbers and more time brainstorming business plans.
Can Factoring Services Help Me?
So are factoring services right for your business? Do you often find your finances strained as you wait on invoice payment? Do you wish you had more time to focus on where your business is going instead of where it is? If so you will likely find factoring services to be a great fit for your business.
Don’t let your business fall victim to the financial hardship of unpaid invoices. If you have big plans for your business, don’t sacrifice your dreams to a pile of unpaid bills. Collect the majority of your invoices when you need them; let a factor set you free.
Keeping Business Energy Costs Under Control
Saving on your energy bills nowadays when costs are spiraling out of control can give your weary business budget some relief and much-needed assistance.
You should work with a reliable company that can help you to compare energy prices and obtain those that suit your business needs and fit within the budget limitations that you are experiencing.
With their assistance, you should be able to find competitive pricing and switch your supplier quickly and efficiently. Find a company that offers you free and easy switching so that you can use the money you are now paying on energy costs for improvement of your products or services and increase your profits for your business.
Making the Switch
Business energy needs can be met in a more cost-effective way by comparing prices
Switching energy suppliers is much easier than you think if you partner with a company that helps you every step of the way. After you enter the details of your energy needs in their online form, they can begin the search within their panel of premium suppliers for pricing that meets and exceeds your energy needs.
A dependable company will have templates that make terminating service with your current provider easy and efficiently addressed.
Be sure that you work with a company that takes pride in being a consumer champion for your business as they begin the search for more affordable energy.
Switching Suppliers Saves Money
Comparison shopping for energy is beginning to save many companies thousands of pounds per year as more savvy businessmen become aware that this service is now available to companies across the UK.
The legwork is done for you by a reputable company that partners with a panel of premium large and small supply companies. Be sure to begin the process before your current contract expires so that you will get a better price and experience no interruption in service.
Look for a company that will provide free and impartial service that’s not linked to any company so that your energy needs assessment will be more accurate and reflect your needs and specifications.
An added plus will be the Renewal Reminder Service which lets you know that your contract is about to expire and it’s time to look for competitive prices again.
Take a Look at Their Website
Before your current contract expires, you should take advantage of a free quote that a dependable company can provide for your business on their website. Also, look for energy saving tips that can help you in your business and home environments and testimonials that let you know what caliber of customer service you can expect.
A good website will furnish you with clear and concise instructions about how to obtain competitive business energy prices and how to switch your service. The company should provide contact information in case you have additional questions about saving energy or need personal service to accomplish your switch.
Working with a team of professionals committed to helping your business save money on your energy costs will be a profitable experience for your company. You can reinvest your savings and improve the products and services that you offer to your clients.
When you work with the right experts you can keep your business energy costs under control for a more profitable future.
Robbery Prevention Tips for the Small Business Owner
Robbers don’t only target homes. In fact, many robbers look for small businesses that are easy targets from which they can make a fast getaway. If you want to prevent a robbery and keep both your business and your employees safe, you’ve got to follow a few basic safety tips.
1. Keep Windows Clear
It can be tempting to plaster your windows and door with signage when you operate a small business, especially if your business is on a busy street. There’s often no better way to bring new customers in than with these brightly-colored signs.
Keep in mind, however, that if your employees can’t see out, no one can see in. Stop a moment and think about how attractive this may be to a potential criminal. He or she can enter your business, make your employees lock the doors and rob you blind; no one would be the wiser. Keep your windows and doors clear.
2. Use a Drop Safe
If you do get robbed, you don’t want to lose a whole day’s take. Make sure that you are using a drop safe throughout the day. Your cash drawer should be emptied at least once per shift, allowing you to keep only a small amount of cash in the drawer itself.
Additionally, keep your cash register closer to the front of your business and in plain view of the door and window. This simple placement will deter a robber who would rather conduct business in the back of your store or office, out of sight from the street.
Mirrors should be installed throughout your business. Place mirrors above the door so that your employees can see who is entering the office or store. Keep mirrors installed on any hallway corners so you always have a clear view of who is coming and going. If you aren’t sure how to install the mirrors so that they will serve their best purpose, consult your local police or security professionals. These people can help you install mirrors so that they are as effective as they can be.
Do your employees know how to spot a suspicious person or activity that may indicate that a crime is about to take place? Provide training for your employees; they are often your first line of defense against a robbery.
Your employees should understand not only how to spot suspicious people, but what to do when they think something isn’t right. You should encourage your employees to trust their “gut.” People often subconsciously know when something isn’t right.
5. Alarm System
No business should be in operation without an alarm system. A professional installer can discuss options with you to help you design the best system for your company. At a minimum, you should have alarms that alert to glass breakage and unauthorized entry.
If you handle money, you may want to include a panic button at the front register, one near your safe and one in any separate offices. These buttons are silent and, if kept out of sight, can be an invaluable safety tool for everyone that works in your business.
Keep in mind that no matter how secure your business, you still stand a chance of being robbed. Your employees should understand that they are to cooperate with any robber. Remember that cash and merchandise can be replaced; people can’t be.
3 Reasons Why Female Owned Businesses Thrive
It would seem that we as a society are slowly but surely moving past the antiquated idea of seeing business as a “boy’s” club. Studies show that women-owned and operated businesses are certainly on the rise and perhaps even succeeding on a larger scale than businesses run by men.
But what gives women a leg up when it comes to the business world? After all, it’s certainly an environment that men have dominated essentially since the dawn of the industry.
It could have something to do with the steady rise of women-owned businesses that have excellent credit scores (which is easy enough to monitor, especially with the various free credit check outlets online) but it’s doubtful this is the only factor.
Perhaps women hold the golden ticket of sorts when it comes to operating a successful business but more likely women have simply adapted more quickly to an aggressively changing business sector. The following are some likely factors in examining the success of women as business owners today:
Too often new business owners rely solely on external sources when it comes to promoting their business. Self-promotion is an important and powerful thing that is absolutely essential when beginning any venture and, thanks to social media, has never been easier to achieve than it is today.
Not entirely surprisingly, being the social creatures we are, women have been shown to use most forms of social media at a higher rate than men. The mass utilization of this incredible tool is most certainly shaping modern marketing, and women appear to be at the forefront of the charge.
Working from Home
As much as many women would like to get away from the label of “stay at home mom,” the fact of the matter is the urge to stay home and take care of the family is still a strong focus with many women.
But these days this poses much less of a problem for female business owners as, with the advent of networking technology, working from home has become so much more possible and even convenient. This has allowed a whole new niche of women the opportunity to succeed in the business sector by being able to work from home.
Higher Graduation Rate
There was once a time in this country where gender inequality allowed only a small percentage of women to pursue higher education and even fewer to actually walk away with a degree.
Thankfully, things have changed considerably and women now graduate college at a rate 5-8% higher than men according to a 2014 report by the Campaign for College Opportunity. This influx of degree carrying and career-ready women almost certainly has factored heavily in the recent boom of success of female-owned businesses.
While gender inequality, particularly in the business sector, is far from over, the recent boom of success from businesses owned by females remains an important milestone for women everywhere.
What Is A High Risk Merchant Account?
There are many things that the modern businessman does not actually understand how to run a company. This is unfortunate and appears because of the fact that many business owners are not actually ready to run a company. Statistics show that most start-ups fail and the main reason for that is not understanding cash flow and accounting.
When referring to transactions that are handled online or when looking at merchant accounting in high risk industries, everything becomes even more complicated.
Everything should start with the merchant account, which is a bank account that is special and that allows businesses to accept payment through credit cards, debit cards and similar. The systems can also accept payment through the internet, fax or phone.
The high risk merchant account is an account that conducts offshore credit card transactions. This means that there is no physical location presence that exists. Two common examples of industries that use such services include adult sites and online gambling.
The main reason why a business offers the possibility to purchase via a credit card is that it activates impulse buying. Any salesperson and business owner know that customers that are faced with an impulse to buy will be much more likely to purchase something.
The business merchant account allows payments to be handled online through credit cards as the account will be available at any point in day or night. Customers will be able to process any payment at any point in time, thus automatically increasing sales.
The big problem with the high risk merchant account is that it does take a long time until it is activated. This is because the service provider needs to be sure that the serviced company will be a good fight. Many things are considered, including finances, sales and business management experience.
Obviously, there are differences between the high risk merchant accounts that can be used by a business. Some companies are better than others.
It is really important that you only deal with those that are specialized in high risk industries, with experience in your industry being preferred. Do consider as many as you can before you make your final choice.
Remember that it is your responsibility to make sure everything works properly. This means that whenever there is a problem that appears, you have to contact the bank or the service provider. The trick to making sure that everything operates properly is to always analyze monthly reports and to have a proper communication channel set up with the high risk merchant account provider.
The last thing we should mention is that all businesses that offer credit card payment possibilities for clients fall under the high risk category. That is completely normal. Do take this seriously! In the event that there are problems in operation, bank accounts are frozen.
This leads towards an inability to keep doing business. Obviously, something like this can lead to bankruptcy. Nobody wants this to happen so do take this seriously at all times.
Read also: Is Entrepreneurship Really Meant For You?