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.

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.

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.

The Customer is Always Right

I always say that the most important asset of a company is its customers, and I will reiterate that again here. If you have no customers, or more accurately, no paying customers—you have no business. It is impossible to have a business without any customers. This gives your customers unbelievable power, they own you! So, if you believe owning a business means you get to be the boss, forget it; the customer is the number one boss, bar none.

If you think that you have worked for some of the most incompetent, god-awful, foolish, horrible superiors before, they may pale in comparison to your new bosses—your customers. This is exacerbated if you work in a business that services end-customers (rather than a business-to-business scenario, which isn’t a picnic either). I have worked for nearly a decade and a half with businesses that sell products and services to the consumer; let me tell you that customers as a group can be beyond anything you have imagined.

Have you ever spoken to someone who works in customer service? If you don’t work directly with customers in your current job, then I suggest you speak with someone who does before going to work serving customers. Some customers will blatantly try to scam you or steal from you. I have spoken to numerous customer service representatives that have recounted stories about people wanting refunds because their dog chewed up a product and now believe it is “defective.” There are the representatives who work for a major bath and home retailer who explained that every year, right after Christmas, customers would return dozens upon dozens of used holiday tablecloths. One customer even had alterations made to the tablecloth to fit her unusually shaped table. The reasons for those returns—it “just didn’t work for me.”

There will be customers that will try to not pay you, there will be ones that try to nickel-and-dime you, customers who return products as damaged that they actually broke themselves, and customers who will take the product out of the box, replace it with something that you don’t even sell, and try to return it for a full refund. There will be customers who will dispute your charge on their credit card because they didn’t like the way they were treated or who will complain that the meal you served them was too cold and needs to be “comped” or discounted. Then, there will be customers who are so lonely that they will want to keep you on the phone, tied-up in person, or engaged in an email dialogue about all of their personal problems (none of which relate to your business).

You will send promotional emails to customers with a 50 percent discount on one item from May 1–6, and dozens will email back asking when the offer is good through, how much is it good for, and whether they can use it when they get paid on May 10. Guess what? All of these people are your new bosses. Lucky you—as a business owner, these are the people for whom you now work!

Starting a Business in 2015?

We talk a lot about personal finance here on this blog, as our regular readers know. Of course many of our readers are entrepreneurs and, in 2015, many will start a new business.

With that in mind, we wanted to remind all of them (and maybe even you) that there’s one vital step that they need to take, and make, in order to increase their chances of success incredibly. Some of you might say “well, duh we already knew that” when you hear it, but the reason we’re writing about it is because many entrepreneurs simply don’t do it.

The “it” we are talking about is writing down your business goals.

You might call them something different, maybe objectives or accomplishments, but it’s incredibly vital that you think them out, write them down and, over the next days, weeks and months, come back to them and make sure that you’re on track.

Some experts will tell you that, without writing down goals, you can’t make a marketing plan because you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish.

Even a basic marketing plan should include the end result, and without goals you don’t know what the end result would look like or should look like.

Again, some of you might be thinking that this is so incredibly obvious that it shouldn’t even be mentioned, but the simple fact is that many entrepreneurs don’t write down their goals but instead simply just launch their business, even though they still don’t have an idea of where they want that business to end up.

For example, do you want to build your business for a year and then sell it to the highest bidder? Do you want to own a chain of businesses, or just one? Do you have a specific number in mind for how much money you want the business to make, or how long you are willing to take in order to get there.

No matter what you are planning to start in 2015 (or whenever) you need to identify your business goals first before anything else.

One other thing that’s important about goals is this; they need to be measurable.

Every single goal that you write down should have some kind of quantifiable component that you use in order to measure whether or not you’ve been successful in meeting that goal. For example, if you’re launching a small boutique cosmetics store, you should have goals in terms of numbers, sales, customers and so forth. You also need to have measurable goals for your marketing and advertising as well.

As you can see, setting goals is incredibly important part of starting a business and writing your marketing plan. Indeed, writing them out and seeing them on paper is sometimes enough to put a fire under your butt to get going or, in some cases, slow you down a bit to take a look at exactly what you’re planning, and possibly change those plans.

No matter what type of business you begin this year, write down those goals, check back on them often and, of course, good luck!

Four Ways to Finance your Wholesale Business Start-ups

Each year, a number of people come up with attractive ideas to start retail or wholesale business. No matter, how ground breaking your idea for a new business is, you cannot get it off the ground without arranging finance. You need money to make money. You might think that there are many ways to fund your business but most of them are suitable only for established businesses. Following are a few ways that can surely be financially helpful for start-ups.

Contact investors with a well-written business plan

Before even considering financing your business, most of the investors ask for a business plan. Your business plan must be brief with clearly defined short and long-term goals for your business venture along with sale, cost and revenue projections. You will have to mention how much money you require to start the business, how much finance you already have and if you have any assets or resources to start a business. Depending upon the type of investor, you will have to indicate the degree of control an investor would have over your business operations.

Evaluate possible financing options

Personal Savings

On average, more than 60 percent of start-up financing comes directly from the pocket of newbie entrepreneurs. Even if you do not have a lot of liquid assets, there are other ways to finance your new business by leveraging your other assets such as property, jewellery or half-priced items. Your personal investment shows investors that you are personally handling some risk and are committed to your business.

Equity Investment

Equity means ownership and equity investment means money in the form of personal savings from your banking and checking account, loans from any individual including you or other people. Investors agree to fund your business in exchange for a share in the ownership of the business. You must do full homework before considering the equity investment option by first determining how much ownership you are willing to offer and at what price. Remember, if you will sell 51 percent of your business shares, you lose the control of your company.

Angel Investment

Another form of business financing is to approach investors or venture capitalists. These are the individuals or financing companies that fund businesses with high growth potential, based on the merits of business plans. Make sure, you have a proper exit plan when you sign up for angel investment. Most of the angel investors offer money, not as a loan but as an equity investment. Be very careful before accepting angel investment. On the contrary, you do not have to worry about regular payments with varying interest rates as angel investment is not a loan.

Commercial Loans

Commercial loans from banks and financial institutions are considered as the most common form of financing for wholesale businesses. You can go for long-term loans for larger expenses or for fixed assets such as property, machinery and equipment. Banks also offer short term loans that are viable to finance small and daily expenses such as inventory, payroll and emergency items. Short-term loans are usually issued for one year or for a few months and can include revolving lines of credit.

Securing loan for wholesale business start-up is usually difficult but you can increase your chances by making a good impression on your lender with a strong and practical business plan and by showing dependable projected cash flow.

How to Make the Most Out of Your New Business

Getting your modern business on its feet is one thing, getting it to make money can be a total beast. Running a business can also be overwhelming without the right tools and ideas to create success in this day and age. From smartphones to the internet, and advertising right, to getting people to like and trust you–it can be a real nightmare. Take the monsters out of the think tank, and set sail for success with these great business development tips for the modern entrepreneur.

Smartphone Savvy

Get smartphone savvy, and create apps that promote your business. People are constantly face first in their mobile device. Which is where apps come in. These little guys are great tools that take the load off your back, and get your company rolling. If you have a restaurant offer delivery on GrubHub. Sell fabulous fashions and beauty items on Etsy. Have a lawn service or beauty salon? Offer deals on Groupon. All of these and more are there to help you get your name out there.

Create Coupons

Online coupons and promo codes are the smart tools for the modern business. Companies like Groupon will run your sale items for a minimal price. Remember, you have to invest your own money wisely in order to make money. Then watch the purchases fly in! People are constantly looking for that ‘big deal’ or ‘way to save BIG’, give them a good reason to do it with your business.

All in Advertising

Get with the social media program. Twitter, Facebook, Google plus, Tumbler, Linkedin, Pinterest and your email are all hard to manage just for your personal life. They can also enhance your business life! Ever searched for an item on Amazon, then mysteriously see that same item in your facebook feed reminding you you really want it? Yeah. That’s social media for you. Programs like HootSuite can help you manage all your social media posts at once, or if you want the big guns to come out you should search for an SEO/Social Media Management company. These guys can even track where you see the most traffic, get the most for your money, and tell your facebook friends what’s new this week!

Post it!

People forget about the power of the U.S. Post Office. Create fun postcards for local advertising or sweet ‘thank you’ notes. No matter what sort of business you have, some people think through sight and touch. You can do this on the cheap with stores like Shutterfly. Use simple design software to create a logo or a classic design that is eye catching, include your contact information and what you offer, and send it to potential customers or people you’d like to thank for their business–and spark a good relationship.

Want to be Successful? Avoid These 5 Emotionally Charged Habits

There are, to be sure, many things that contribute to your overall success. Things like your attitude, your ability to lead, your people skills and so forth all have a big influence on it, no doubt.

One factor that many people don’t realize is extremely important however their ability to manage their emotions and, when under pressure, remain calm. Below are a number of behavioral factors that the president of TalentSmart, Travis Bradberry, advises that you avoid in his post on LinkedIn entitled “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”

If you want to make sure emotions don’t hinder your success, read on. Enjoy.

1) Successful people never live in the past. Bradberry says that “Emotionally intelligent people know that success lies in their ability to rise in the face of failure, and they can’t do this when they’re living in the past.”  He goes on to say that “Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow [past failures] to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed.” In other words, living in the past makes it very difficult to move forward in the future.

2) Successful people don’t try to be perfect. Here’s the thing; perfection doesn’t exist. Bradberry says that “Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible”, and adds that “when perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure, and you end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently instead of enjoying what you were able to achieve.”  Realizing that perfection is an impossibility, successful people instead aim to do their very best and are content with the results.

3) Successful people avoid surrounding themselves with negative people. The fact is, it’s human nature to listen to people who complain because we don’t want to seem impolite or insensitive but, as Bradberry says, “There’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral.”

Unfortunately, negative people are quite toxic and, if you associate with them too closely or too often, that toxicity can definitely cause you problems you don’t want or need.  Bradberry gives some excellent advice about how to deal with negative people; “Think of it this way: If a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the secondhand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers.”

4) Successful people don’t hold grudges or dwell on past problems.  Highly successful people are usually emotionally intelligent and they focus on solutions rather than focusing on problems or holding a grudge for an error that someone made in the past. Bradberry explains that a person’s emotional state is determined by where they focus their attention. “When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress, which hinders performance. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance.” He advises that anyone looking to be successful avoid holding grudges, and anger, at all costs.

5) Successful people can say “no” if it’s necessary.  Interestingly, it’s been found that people have a difficult time saying “no” are more likely to burn out early in their careers, suffer from stress and even from depression. Bradberry says that “Saying no is indeed a major challenge to most people,” adding that “it’s a powerful word that you shouldn’t be afraid to wield.” In fact, successful people don’t “beat around the bush” when they feel the need to say “no”, especially if it means honoring their existing commitments. They simply say it and move on.

Hopefully the information and advice above has opened your eyes to some negative habits that you might have yourself and will help you to change them. Working on these things regularly can, over time, change your negative habits to positive ones, and usher in a success that you never thought possible.