Why You Should Get Your Personal Finances Into Shape Before Starting a Business

If you are thinking about starting up a business of your own, you might assume that it will fix all of your financial problems. However, you should know that the opposite is often true. Even though going into business for yourself can be a wonderful thing, it’s also financially risky. Half of the start-ups that are opened in the United Kingdom fail within the first year, and you don’t want to be a statistic. This is why it’s critical to get your finances in order before you ever try to open your doors.

Owning a Business is Stressful Enough

The truth is that owning a business is stressful enough as it is, especially during the infant stages of the company. Financial issues can be stressful, too, and you probably don’t want to deal with a double whammy of both of these types of stress at once. Eliminating your financial issues before you get started in business can prevent you from staying too stressed out once you open your doors.

It Can Cost More Than You Think

No matter how carefully you have planned out the opening of your new business, there is still a chance that things will be more expensive than you anticipate. Unfortunately, this means that you can go over your budget quite easily while just starting out and while operating your new business after its opening.

If you square away your finances first, you will be better able to handle any additional expenses that pop up with your business, and you won’t have to worry about these costs affecting your personal finances as much.

You Shouldn’t Skimp on Your Business

Some people who start their businesses on a limited budget end up cutting corners to try to save money. Even though there is nothing wrong with looking for ways to save cash while opening and operating a business, cutting corners in the wrong places can be harmful for your new company. If you have a little more money to spend, however, you may be able to afford better things for your new business.

It Can Take Time

Businesses don’t usually take off overnight. It can take time for even the best of businesses to begin to see a true, steady profit. If your finances are in bad shape, it can be tough to make it through these times. If you get your money in order beforehand, however, it’ll be easier for you to wait it out and allow your company to grow.

If you’re thinking about starting a business while your finances are in bad shape, you should know that you are better off getting things under control first. Luckily, you can take out a loan or look into other options to get your finances into a good place before you start your business.

Money Saving Tips for Small Businesses

The world of business is highly competitive and always changing. In order to be successful, small start-ups must embrace a flexible approach and be constantly mindful of the balance between their outgoing expenses and the profits coming in. When competing against well-established companies, it’s important that small businesses do everything they can to boost their bottom line. There are plenty of simple ways that small businesses can save money, and most of them are easy to implement.

Smart Technology Choices

Laptop computers consume around 90 per cent less energy than their desktop equivalents. Think about whether your office really needs to invest in desktop computers, when portable alternatives are cheaper, lighter and will save you money in the long term. You can even go a step further and purchase second hand laptops from specialist retailers like SSC Trade. By using second hand technology, you’ll save a packet on the cost of kitting out your office. Another way to save money is to review your office telephone usage and research ways to reduce this expense. You may want to cut down on the number of phone lines that your office has, change your usage plan or replace your current provider with an internet based service. For instance, When in need of a loan, one can always leverage the equity of their home. It is important to become familiarized with a home equity line of credit.

Office Supplies

How often do you order office supplies? You should order in bulk once a month or once every two month. Printer ink can be very expensive and have a serious impact on your budget, so look into ways to cut down your use of ink. Encourage employees to share printers and print only when absolutely necessary. Moving towards a paperless office is great both for your budget and for the environment. You can also save money by using staff to do simple things like turning their computers off at the end of the day, and therefore reducing your office energy bills. Consider having overhead lights fitted with daylight sensors. These sensors will automatically switch off lights if there’s enough natural light in the office.

Working Remotely

Renting a commercial space can be a very costly endeavour, so it’s important to think about how big your office really needs to be. If some members of staff would be better suited to working at home, why not offer this to them? Employees who have young children or elderly parents to look after will appreciate the opportunity to work remotely, and this will save your business valuable office space. The unused space can be sublet or you could make a deal with your landlord and negotiate not paying for rooms that are not in use.

Money Saving Tips While on Vacation

I love to travel and it’s important to me to spend my hard earned money on experience and memories that will last a life time, rather than materialistic goods.  Every paycheck we save money specifically for vacations and at least two to three times a year we take a trip.  We build vacation funds into our budget therefore there is nothing extra coming out of our savings account or typical spending money each check.  Over the past ten years I have learned some great money saving tips while on vacation I think could benefit others.  Below are some of my favorite tips I have collected during my travels.

When planning for a vacation, spending money is very important to budget out prior to your adventure. Don’t just start swiping the credit card for fancy cocktails and over the top souvenirs just because you’re on vacation.  I learned that I should plan about 70% of my trip actives and meals ideas prior to the vacation, thus I will have a good idea of how much I will be spending.  For example, if you are going on a cruise, research all the off shore excursion prior to leaving home.  You can for them on the ship or before leave, but at least you know how much you will be spending.  Always look for travel deals like two tours for the price of one, and the bucket of beer promotions rather than the cup refill discounts.

If you prefer a more of a low key vacation with the family and are planning to drive, budget out gas and hotels stops/stays if necessary.  For a long road tip see if it is actually worth it to drive over fly and remember speeding tickets can cost you hundreds of dollars too!  Don’t make the same mistake I did driving from Michigan to Florida and getting a $375 speeding ticket in Georgia, because obviously flying would have been much cheaper.  When packing for your road tip put together a cooler with water and soda, make sandwiches, bring yogurts and bags of chips and snacks.  This will keep your family eating healthy, save you money from having to buy overpriced fast food, and you can use the cooler in your hotel room once you arrive at your destination for water and beer.

The best part of saving money while on vacation is allowing you to save and invest that money for future vacations! Set a vacation budget, and then work to come in under that budget. Then take that difference and make smart and wise investments.

Basically, if you pre-plan your trip, then it’s very easy to save money while on vacation.

London: can you afford a workspace?

London is where all that’s hip and happening stays hip and continues to happen. It’s the heart of the tourist industry, where creative types come to thrive and corporations set up shop.

But the runaway success of the city has made it markedly more expensive than anywhere else in the UK. The living wage, for instance, is £9.15, compared to £7.85 in the rest of the country.

Such inflated prices are pushing residents from the city, as local authorities are accused of gentrifying the capital.

Rents are increasing along with protests about living costs – and it’s a situation that has a knock-on effect for small businesses.

As more affluent residents populate the capital, those offering bespoke goods or running quainter businesses will struggle to meet the heightened expectations of high rollers.

SMEs are already being pushed from high streets thanks to the success of online retailers – will they soon be rushed out of the capital by big business?

Only individual bosses can really answer that question, but they’ll have to fight for survival.

One of the major issues facing a business lies in the price of a property in the capital.

Many have had to make do with smaller properties in poorer areas. But that doesn’t mean they’ll flag under the strains of their location.

With the right knowhow, even the grittiest areas can hold their own against the big hitters. You just need to know how to transform your office.

So how can you alter your London workplace, and turn it into a place that will wow clients?

Level up

Even a small warehouse or office can double its space – you just need room above your head.

Mezzanine floors London have been helping small offices for years. Essentially a platform held up by steel girders, they can give you a new floor and plenty of extra space.

These raised platforms have a rustic quality to match a hip agency or computer specialist. So you’ll be splashing out on aesthetics as well as space.

Know the zones

London is split into several zones that, although ostensibly for the underground system, can help you find exactly the right location – and at a decent price.

Some cheaper districts sit directly next to their more affluent counterparts. If you can find a place that sits neatly between zones, you could find customers flocking to you.

Each zone attracts a specific kind of clientele, so always bear that in mind before you rent a workspace.

Price will always be a factor in London – but the right changes to your workplace could stop you being pushed out of this bustling city.

Shoddy Accounting is one of the biggest reasons Startups Fail

Approximately 90% of all new businesses fail according to statistics, a frighteningly high number that makes you wonder why anyone would even start a new business these days.

If you do plan on starting a new business however, you need to know that poor accounting is one of the reasons many startups fail, and do your very best to avoid both the legal and reputation problems that it can cause.

Today’s blog will look at a number of excellent invoicing and accounting tools that will help you do just that. Enjoy.

The first is QuickBooks,  which has been around for quite a few years. It offers everything you need as far as accounting software is concerned, and can take care of invoicing, payroll, profit and loss sheets, balance sheets and bill management, among other things. You can also use QuickBooks to prepare your taxes, print out checks and also use it to accept online payments, because it’s integrated with Apps like PayPal, Constant Contact and Square. Even better, you can choose the features that you need and only pay for those, and the software comes with a 30 day free trial.

One service with an excellent task management tool is Invoicera, which will track the amount of time that you spend on any particular project and also assign tasks and evaluate their progress so that you can increase your productivity. If you’re a new startup with less than 3 clients you can use Invoicera for free but, at only $19.95 a month for their premium plan, it’s still a good deal.

If an intuitive accounting program is what you’re looking for, Zoho Books might be your answer. It can help you to calculate your taxes, has a time tracking tool and you can use to access customer data and send quotes from any device and, like QuickBooks, you can also integrate it with payment gateways like PayPal.

Over 1 million entrepreneurs and small business owners are already using a cloud-based, integrated accounting software called Wave. Approved by certified accountants, Wave provides accounting software that’s easy to use and understand, let’s you create a business reports and help you to keep records straight by uploading receipts into your Wave account. It’s also, for super low cost startups, absolutely free.

Lastly there’s FreshBooks, an invoicing and accounting tool that Forbes magazine has called “incredibly user friendly”. It allows you to do such things as schedule recurring invoices, track monthly expenses, capture billable hours and even see if a specific client has viewed your invoice or not.

All 5 of these excellent accounting programs and services are readily available to entrepreneurs and small business owners and, if making sure that your accounting stays up to date and correct is important to you (and it should be), using any one of them would be a good idea.

Legit Reasons Why You May Need a Cash Advance

A cash advance is where a company will advance you cash in the form of a short-term loan. There are usually few restrictions attached and you don’t have to worry about long application times. These emergency loans are ideal in certain circumstances.

So what legitimate reasons could you have for taking out a cash advance?

 

A Medical Emergency

While no hospital will refuse to treat a patient – because legally they can’t – they can and will charge you afterwards. You don’t want to find yourself in debt to your hospital. It’s a burden you don’t need.

On the other hand, a cash advance gives you the chance to pay for medical care immediately. You don’t have to re-mortgage your house or sell any of your belongings.

 

Pay Off a Toxic Loan

When we talk of ‘toxic’ loans we mean those that are hammering you with interest charges. For example, a payday loan with 300% interest will cripple you and your ability to pay it off. A cash advance can eliminate it in one swoop.

Yes, you will have another loan to contend with, but a cash advance is a far more manageable option.

 

Save Your Possessions

Sometimes loans can get out of control, as is the case with payday loans. Your only option may be to give up and accept the fact your home and possessions may be heading for repossession. But don’t give up right now. There are still options available to you.

You have a chance to save yourself through a cash advance. It’s a difficult situation to deal with and a cleverly timed cash advance can save you from this fate. It will give you some breathing space to get everything together and resolve your financial issues.

 

Choose Your Cash Advance Service Wisely

Before you accept a cash advance, carefully check the terms and conditions of the loan. Make sure they don’t have an absurdly high interest rate attached. You should also be able to pay off a loan early without any penalties. Don’t get dragged into more financial trouble by not reading the terms and conditions carefully enough.

If you have any questions, ask a representative of the company. This isn’t a decision to make in haste.

So we know there are some situations where a cash advance can come in handy. Just make sure this is an option you’ve given consideration to before making any financial moves.

 

Crowdfunding: The Solution To Your Startup’s Woes, Or Fraught With Peril?

Crowdfunding has taken on the business world by storm, with a new way to grow companies that never existed in quite the same way before. While the idea of gathering funds from community members to start a business is an old idea, the speed and scale of the internet has created conditions for growth on an incredible scale.

Advantages

Sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Quirky, Crowdcube and Peoplefund.it have grown enormously in recent years. These platforms have provided billions in seed funding for new companies. In exchange for funds, crowdfunded companies provide everything from their hearty appreciation, to beta products, to dinner with the founders to equity in the companies. The rules of the platform and decisions by the company provide the value of each dollar invested into the crowdfunding campaign.

Some companies achieve spectacular results. Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset maker that raised over a million dollars on Kickstarter to launch its product. The original investors received the beta product in exchange for their money. However, the funds helped the company lift-off and it was eventually sold to Facebook for $2 billion.

Disadvantages

Unfortunately, the vast majority of campaigns do not have such an excellent outcome. Most campaigns fail to meet their funding goal, raising nothing to several hundred pounds.

The companies that do raise funding have a very different problem. They now have a public timeline to develop and deliver their product. Without delivering on this timetable, the company can get very bad publicity and sour relations with its earliest customers. In addition, resources are diverted to focus exclusively on delivering on the product, even if it turns out not to be ideal for the company. Finally, there is a chance that those that receive the beta product will be unsatisfied and leave poor reviews. In all, many companies must consider whether crowdfunding is the ideal path for them. For some, they are fraught with peril.

Business Credit Card

Instead, many companies are choosing credit cards from business banking institutions. These allow greater flexibility and choice by the business with how to spend funds. They can also manage cash flow by paying back a small percentage of the balance each month. Finally, business cards provide additional benefits such as cash back and travel rewards.

Overall, businesses must consider whether they can accept the burdens of crowdfunding. While their is significant potential for a big payoff, it is not 100% certain. Instead, many businesses are choosing to use credit card financing to accelerate their company into the future.

The Jobbie Entrepreneur

When hobbyists want to make money from their hobby, often they end up with what I call a “jobbie.” A jobbie is a hobby disguised as a business or a career. This happens because, as noted, someone decides to make a product or offer a service associated with a hobby. Or, they have a pursuit in an area that they love that doesn’t really make them a full salary. My litmus test is that if you are pursuing the endeavor full time and are not making in profit—not sales—the minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour at the federal level, higher in some states) on an hourly basis and have no real, credible plans to do so, you have a jobbie. Additionally, if you are not pursuing your endeavor on a full-time basis, and are rather dabbling and making some cash on the side, you also have a jobbie.

Jobbies tend to disproportionately affect certain groups, such as stay-at-home moms, creative types, recent college graduates, and good-old dreamers. There is nothing wrong with a jobbie inherently. It is actually great if you can make a bit of extra money from your hobby or can support your hobby, instead of having a hobby that just sucks up your money with nothing to show for it except for some fond memories. Just be realistic about it and know what it is. Make sure that you are not dependent on the jobbie as a source of income. You are not going to do yourself any favors by pretending that you are starting a business that ultimately goes nowhere because it didn’t have the foundation to be a business. Also, when you have a jobbie, you can sucker yourself into buying crazy amounts of inventory, spending an outrageous sum on a high-end website, and costing yourself a lot of money with delusions about your jobbie’s potential. Jobbyists sometimes dream that they will make huge sums of money from their side business. If you think that you are going to make a ton of money, create a real business plan, complete with financial statements and reasonable assumptions, and then evaluate whether it is a bona fide business opportunity or a jobbie.

You can also delay making real money by kidding yourself that this jobbie is actually going to become a full-blown business. Sometimes that is the point of a jobbie—a crutch to fall on so that you don’t have to get a real job. Just be honest with yourself, even if you aren’t with those around you.

That being said, a jobbie may actually be a perfect alternative to starting a real business. If you can pursue your passion and make a bit of side money, you may be able to satisfy your personal wants and needs without taking on an inordinate amount of risk (again, assuming you are cognizant that you are starting a jobbie and not investing at the same levels that you would for a bona fide business).

The Idea of Get Rich Quick Scheme

Many people who want to get compensated for their business ideas are basically get-rich-quick type of people (otherwise known as lazy and/ or delusional). There is no getting rich quickly in business. Businesses require work. Here is my final attempt to demonstrate why you can’t depend on ideas to get rich quickly.

There is a young man who calls me every six to nine months. He was pawned off on me—I mean “referred” to me—by one of the lawyers I do a lot of business with. Sometimes referrals are great, and sometimes referrals are someone’s way of passing the buck. This particular situation is the latter, and I have never forgiven my lawyer friend for this “referral.” I will call this young man Chad. Chad is desperate to make money from ideas, but doesn’t have much else to offer.

Chad first contacted me because he knew of a great niche food manufacturing and marketing business that he wanted to buy. He had a contact (I use that word very loosely, as it was his word, not mine) who was a part of said company’s board of directors. This contact apparently told Chad that the company’s shareholders would consider selling the company for the right price. He wanted to see if I could help him raise the money to purchase the business.

I will keep a long story very short. When asked how much money he was going to contribute, Chad had none. Not $10,000, not $1,000; he literally didn’t have a penny to contribute toward the potentially multimillion-dollar purchase price. When I asked Chad what his previous experience was in the food business that he was going to bring to the table ostensibly to help grow the business and create more value from it, he said he had none. Invariably, I told him with no money and no experience, he wasn’t going to make a great partner for any investors who might consider helping purchase that food company. He was expecting to earn ownership and even a management position in the company, but what was his added value to the business going forward?

His answer; “It was my idea to buy it.” I quickly explained that it wasn’t a very novel idea and that without anything else to contribute, he wasn’t going to be able to make that happen. I thought he understood, and Chad dropped that idea.

Chad and I had many similar conversations relating to other “ideas.” My most recent contact with Chad was a few months ago. I felt a bit of dread when I heard his voice on the other end of the phone, but I always do try to provide a few words of encouragement (or a quick reality check, as the case may be) when possible. This time, Chad informed me that he knew of a business that was struggling that he again wanted to buy, but his “financing” (again, his words, not mine) had fallen through, and he wanted to see if I could help him find new financing. I was shocked to hear that he had financing in place for an acquisition, so I was compelled to learn more.

Successful Businesses without Business Ideas

Let me quickly give you a few businesses that were very successful without a novel business idea.

  • McDonald’s certainly was not the first, or last, hamburger joint, so clearly that business idea—“Let’s open a restaurant selling hamburgers!”—wasn’t what made McDonald’s successful.
  • Starbucks wasn’t the first coffee retailer, nor the only means to get coffee. In fact, when Starbucks was founded, you could get coffee at nearly every convenience store, Dunkin’ Donuts, or even at home if you preferred. The business idea of opening coffee stores on every corner certainly wasn’t the reason why Starbucks was successful.
  • Then, there is the Snuggie—the blanket with arms that’ s basically just a bathrobe that you put on backward. This wasn’t a new idea— bathrobes have been around for a long time— and Snuggies aren’t even attractive (you look like a monk when you wear one), but they are marketed brilliantly and more than $100 million worth of Snuggies have been sold in a year’s time. It may be more of a product than a business, but whatever you want to call it, the basic idea is not what made Snuggie successful.

As you can see from the aforementioned examples, the business ideas had very little influence on the outcomes of the various businesses. Basically, the ideas are just a starting point to help you get focused. It is what you do afterward that creates the value.

Nobody whose head is screwed on straight will buy a business idea from you, or anyone else, because any value related to a business idea is in its implementation. Maybe if you give someone a business idea, they will one day send you a coupon for a free product, but that is about it. The further something gets away from an idea, the more value that exists. Things like customers, profits, and competitive barriers to entry create value. The reality of the lack of value in business ideas is a shock and a disappointment to many people who want to get compensated for thinking of “the next big thing.” If I haven’t persuaded you yet, then the best way that I can illustrate to you why, in the grand scheme of business, the idea has such little value is through the chart on the next page. I have taken some, but certainly not all, of the facets required to run a business and broken them down. A few of the tasks are specific to certain types of businesses, but most are required by all businesses.

So, in looking at this whole thing we call a business, would you place a lot of value on a one-time idea that took no risk to produce, or on the other thirty-plus tasks that have to be done indefinitely, day in and day out, that take a ton of risk and hard work? Hopefully, that answer is crystal clear, and my breakdown gives you more insight on why business concept ideas have no value so that you, like me, can also make peace with not getting compensated for them.