hackers and cybersecurity

Are Your Clients Safe from Hackers?

hackers and cybersecurity

When it comes to cyberattacks, the targets are typically the behemoth companies and organizations you read about in the news. But according to IBM, small and mid-sized businesses are the target of 62 per cent of all cyberattacks – which equals about 4,000 attacks per day. The reason? They are an easy target.

Can your company or clients be under attack?

We hear a new story about cyberattacks almost every day. A business gets hacked — allowing sensitive proprietary and customer data to be accessed and compromised. The list of the world’s biggest data breaches is littered with recognizable names, including Anthem, JP Morgan Chase, and Target.

But don’t think for a second that hackers only target large organizations. In fact, small businesses are often just what hackers are looking for. Why? The main reason is that small businesses often have inadequate online security, and with sensitive data housed in the cloud they become an easier victim.

A quick night’s work for a hacker can mean disaster for your business. According to a report by the U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance, 60 percent of small businesses that suffer a cyberattack are out of business within six months.

Nobody will protect your business except you

Banks and the government haven’t done much to assist small businesses with hackers and data breaches. The recently introduced MAIN STREET Cybersecurity Act in the United States will help small businesses protect their digital assets from cyber threats, but it’s far from a silver bullet. Businesses of all shapes and sizes need to start taking data security seriously — proactively and with full accountability.

Now is the time to put together a solid security plan.

Don’t just go with the first solution you find. Instead, take the time to find the approach that fits your business, customers and industry. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. More importantly, don’t leave data security to just the IT staff. Get everyone involved — including your managers and all levels of employees. Train each of them on protection measures and show them how to stay compliant. For example, teaching employees to avoid opening suspicious email attachments can be a safeguard against malware that could easily creep into your network.

If your workforce is highly mobile, you may want to consider the rules around any bring your own device (BYOD) program you may have in place. Security Magazine explains how a BYOD program, whether formally in place or not, could create unintentional risk within the organization — simply based on the lack of awareness of such programs. The publication states that, “17.7 percent of survey respondents who bring their own devices to work claim that their employer’s IT department has no idea about this behavior, and 28.4 percent of IT departments actively ignore BYOD behavior.”

Once you start protecting your company, you must take the next steps to stay safe.

Obtain cybersecurity insurance, create a strong password strategy for your users, and utilize virtual data rooms (VDR). For in-house IT departments and office managers, it’s important to upgrade your tech as well. Start with this list of five tools and services your small businesses can use to protect against cyberattacks.

Taking cybersecurity to the next level

web security and hackers

Want to dig deeper? Consider employing an ethical hacker — a cybersecurity expert who works within your company to locate weaknesses and vulnerabilities by duplicating the intent and actions of hackers.

Also talk to a company that specializes in cybersecurity protection. Many of these businesses will offer free vulnerability assessments to give you an idea of where your weaknesses may lie. They’ll also explain how they can help you manage those threats. If you don’t currently have an in-house IT team, outsourcing the work could be an efficient option.

As if all that wasn’t enough, here’s one more thing to consider. When crafting a data security policy, make sure you’re actually protecting data privacy by including the following nine elements in your policy, as detailed once again by Security Magazine. It’s crucial to consider your policy from all angles – after all, your data can make or break your business.

1 Ensure Data Security Accountability All IT staff, workforce and management must be aware of their responsibilities.
2 Create Policies that Govern Network Services How to handle remote access, IP addresses, routers and network intrusion detection.
3 Scan for Vulnerabilities Have a routine in place for checking your own networks regularly for hacking vulnerabilities.
4  Manage Patches Implement code to eliminate vulnerabilities that can help to protect against threats.
5  Create System Data Security Policies Rules around company servers, firewalls, databases and antivirus software.
6  Have a Response Plan for Incidents If a security breach occurs, have measures for handling the issue along with evaluation and reporting.
7  Educate Staff on Acceptable Use Employees should understand and sign an acceptable use policy, which includes disciplinary action.
8  Monitoring Compliance Regular audits to ensure staff and management are complying with the data security policy.
9  Account Monitoring and Control Designate someone to monitor and control users, and keep track of active and inactive user accounts.

It seems like a lot, but it can be done. More importantly, it must be done. When it comes to today’s advanced hackers, organizations must be prepared for when — not if — they will have a data breach. Taking small steps now will ensure you’re not facing bigger problems down the road.

CFO cash flow

7 proven cash flow tactics every CFO needs to know

CFO cash flow

The CCC is your “cash conversion cycle” (or simply referred to as the “cash cycle”) and it tells you how many days it takes for your company to turn your inventory purchases into cash. The shorter the CCC, the more flexible your working capital, and that is every business owner and CFO’s dream.

With a shorter CCC, you’ll be able to pay bills, make payroll, take advantage of supplier discounts, order new product or inventory, and execute on your growth strategy with much more ease.

But to shorten the cash cycle, you need to first find a way of adjusting these three key variables:

  1. DIO: Days Inventory Outstanding.
    • The average # days you turn inventory into sales.
  2. DPO: Days Payable Outstanding
    • The # of days it takes to pay your accounts payable.
  3. DSO: Days Sales Outstanding
    • The # of days it will take to collect on sales after they’ve been made.

Want more details on CCC including DIO, DPO and DSO? Read part 1 now.

To positively impact the three variables and shorten your CCC, you have multiple options:

1. Improve sales times

If your sales team can speed up the time to make deals, you’ll be shortening your DIO – the time it takes to turn your inventory into sales. Sell faster – it’s every company’s goal, but often easier said than done.

2. Enhance supplier relationships

Likewise, improving your supply chain can create efficiencies in your DIO. By developing good relationships with suppliers you can take advantage of just-in-time inventory practices, where your goods arrive only as needed. This may already be a common option for some industries, like manufacturing and perishables, but it is also becoming more popular in retail with the rise in drop shipping, where companies never handle their own inventory – instead, when your customer orders arrive you’ll purchase the inventory from a third party who ships directly to the end customer on your behalf.

3. Better credit and collection process

There’s no doubt that an effective collections department will improve your ability to collect customer invoices on time. Effective collections can help create a more stable and reliable DSO. However, this requires staff training, likely more personnel hours (translating into payroll costs) and leadership’s time to make sure this process is effectively managed.

4. Ask for extended payment terms

Extending your accounts payable will increase your DPO, and help offset the other two factors of your CCC. But this could negatively impact your relationships with suppliers if you extend too much, and breaching the terms could put you at risk of becoming the delinquent account you’re trying to avoid in your own A/R.

5. Reduce your 30/60/90 day payment terms

Fortunately, you’re in control of your accounts receivable terms and can shorten them to receive payment earlier. By reducing your terms, you lower your DSO and speed up your cash cycle.

Unfortunately, many customers request and expect longer terms. Some industries abide by certain time frames to pay, which may not match up with your cash flow needs. And other customers will be delinquent on payment no matter what terms you agree upon. You may risk losing sales to competitors offering better terms.

6. Early pay discounts

These are generally not very effective at reducing your DSO and some customers take the discount even when they pay on normal schedules. Overall, this can lead to lower revenue than expected, which doesn’t amount to a cheap option.

7. Smart & strategic financing

Being strategic with your billing and collections is one of the most accessible ways to improve your cash cycle, and you can use commercial finance solutions to dramatically shorten your DSO. In fact, instead of having a DSO of 30/60/90 or more days, you can have a DSO of one day.

Up Next: Learn how to calculate your cash cycle with this key formula.

cash cycle

soical selling

What are the world’s best sales reps doing right?

soical selling

The world’s top sales pros are uncovering hotter leads, winning bigger deals and earning more revenue than their peers – all because of awesome new sales tactics. So what is their secret? The key is adjusting your playbook the right way — and adding three key sales techniques.

According to Jonathan Lister, Vice President of Sales with LinkedIn Sales Solutions and Country Manger of the Canadian division, social selling has become the new norm – at least, for those top sales pros. And they’re using these techniques to beat their competition.

Lister also revealed the old-school sales tactics you need to swipe left from your playbook immediately while presenting at a “State of Sales” workshop at the LinkedIn Toronto headquarters. His information is based on hard facts, as discovered through LinkedIn’s “Global State of Sales Survey” that researched exactly why top sales reps were performing so well. So there’s no doubt that following this advice could produce major rewards.

Curious what isn’t working? Take a look at part one of our story, then keep reading to learn the three tactics you need to add to your playbook today.

1. Target the full buying committee

Remember those six to eight decision-makers from part one? Those are the exact people you need to target. Thanks to online networking, you now have immediate access to social websites filled with valuable data on all of these people – most notably across the three main networks; LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Lister explained how your prospects are checking in every day on these networks, learning new skills, and connecting with colleagues. In many cases, they are also raising their hands to ask for help when they have a business issue. “The top sales pros are learning exactly what their prospects are doing online.”

The key is to target the full buying committee on social media by connecting with each of those people individually – first on LinkedIn and Twitter, as these are the more common networks for business relationships. Connect with them on LinkedIn, join the same groups as them, follow them on Twitter, and even add them to one of your Twitter lists, which will show you’re taking a more active interest and value their profile. Get to know what they’re posting and what they value. When you eventually reach out with your ‘ask,’ the information you’ve gathered will better prepare you to customize your pitch.

2. Understand before you ask

It’s critical to learn how certain activities and social news can signal a potential sales opportunity. Understanding this timing is a modern top sales skill.

Lister highlighted five social selling signals, but pointed to one that is the most powerful for top sales pros. “Job changes are one of the most powerful signals of intent,” noting that most job changes are publicly highlighted on networks like LinkedIn. Being aware of these updates and acting on them can get you a step ahead of your competition. “When someone changes jobs, maybe they want to take products they used at their old jobs or find new ones,” he explained. That’s a perfect opportunity to connect and highlight what you can offer.

Similarly, when people make new connections or connect with new groups on LinkedIn, that may signal they’re working on a project or building a team. Content shares and social comments also tell more personal commentary on what someone is interested in. Social comments, in particular, are very powerful indicators of buyer’s intent.

Lister went on to explain how new social selling tools like sales filters and lead bots can be a major benefit when making those connections and learning about sales prospects. “A lead bot will go out and find leads at scale, like the LinkedIn Sales Navigator. It can deliver leads along with a contact’s profile.” And that information can be invaluable since it’s often accurate and up-to-date. Goodbye dirty lead lists.

3. Engage from first contact to final contract

How do you engage with people across multiple accounts and conversations? With so much digital noise, it’s important to cut through that clutter.

First, find prospects from mutually trusted connections. In LinkedIn, that means connecting with people from shared groups and connections. Finding those connections via the Sales Navigator TeamLink feature can also show you how to break the ice with mutually shared connections on your sales team.

Connecting can then include something as simple as a follow request or an introductory message on the platform – called an InMail. Lister explained how every top sales pro cited ‘trust’ as incredibly important in their sales process. “If you can find that at scale, then the open rates can be incredibly high,” speaking about InMail. “But for most sales pros, that’s where it will stop. They’ll make the connection, send a message and get them to open. Then stop. But it’s not good enough. You need them to give you more information and connect meaningfully to create an ongoing relationship and dialogue.”

Top modern sales pros will make those connection paths and then create a “feedback loop.” In Sales Navigator, that can also include using their new PointDrive tool that lets you send a sales package URL that tells you if the prospect opened and consumed any follow-up info. Using the tool allows Lister and his sales teams more insight into their customer’s actions. “Now I have a way to communicate with my prospect, what they’re reading, what’s important to them and how to communication follow up further.”

Whether you have these tools or not, the important part is continuing the conversation with the prospect, answering their questions, solving problems and building a trusting relationship. If you can do that online even before talking in person, you’re well on your way to winning more opportunities and becoming a top sales pro.

social selling

3 sales tactics that no longer work (Plus 3 new ones that do!)

social selling

The state of sales has completely evolved. Old sales strategies no longer work, and any salesperson using traditional tactics likely can’t compete with the modern sales leaders who’ve adopted new methods. Exactly what sales tactics aren’t working anymore, and what should we replace them with?

Jonathan Lister knows a thing or two about social selling. As Vice President of Sales with LinkedIn Sales Solutions and Country Manger of the Canadian division, he recently addressed a workshop audience to explain this shifting trend in sales. Technology has obviously brought forward new ways of engaging with brands, while customers are also interacting differently with their company contacts – resulting in conventional sales teams losing deals.

What can sales teams do to catch up?

As expected, Lister points to the pivotal role of social media for part of the answer. But there is more to the story, as LinkedIn analyzed the results of their “Global State of Sales Survey” and found out exactly why top sales reps were performing so well.

What isn’t working:

These three traditional sales tactics are no longer working. Here’s why you should stop doing them right now to improve your sales playbook.

1. Call high up the ladder

You’ve likely learned that it’s important to talk to a C-suite contact and build a relationship with the top person in a company. Not anymore.

Lister explained that most sales people have to make contact with six to eight decision-makers per deal. Further, 58% decisions are made outside the C-suite.

“If you’re just talking to the C-suite, you’re eliminating at least five people from that sales cycle,” Lister explained. Nowadays, the C-suite isn’t as influential in the sales process. They’re letting their teams take a more active role in the decision-making, and if you’re only focusing on the top dogs, you’re putting too much attention into the wrong relationship building.

2. Lead with great questions

The discovery process, including probing with thoughtful questions, has always been an important sales tactic. Many sales pros have been taught to reach out to a prospect and make a compelling statement to capture their interest.

The problem is that buyers and decision-makers have also been sharpening their skills, including how to recognize sales tactics and then avoid them altogether. So if you’re calling to ask someone to move services or buy a new product, chances are that this savvy prospect will have a rebuttal ready.

“Most buyers think that sales reps aren’t credible anyway,” Lister explains. And simply asking probing questions may only reinforce the idea that sales reps aren’t in touch with the way to connect with prospects.

3. Touch 7 times

Sales pros know that one touch point isn’t enough. That’s where the seven touch point rule stepped in – the theory being that you’ll need at least seven points of contact to close a deal. But that could waste time, resources and shift focus to the wrong part of the sale.

If sales pros are reaching out to their prospects just to get the touch points in, they’re wasting their time. “Reaching out without something meaningful to say is detrimental to the sales cycle,” cautions Lister, who added that a genuine point of contact has been a key component of relationship building with top sales pros.

Unfortunately, the focus for many sales teams has been about hitting the seven touch points — no matter how beneficial those activities were in pushing the sales opportunity to the next level.

What is working:

The good news – the traditional strategy can now be replaced by a set of more modern set of sales tactics.

Read part two to learn the three tactics all top sales pros should be using to connect with new customers.

cash cycle

How to Determine Your Company’s “Cash Conversion Cycle”

cash cycle

Every company needs healthy cash flow. And if you buy and sell inventory on account, then you’ll need to know how long it takes to turn that inventory into cash.

That’s the cash conversion cycle, and it’s key to making sure you’re on top of your company’s working capital.

What is the Cash Conversion Cycle?

The cash conversion cycle (CCC) tells you how many days it takes for your company to turn your inventory purchases into cash. You acquire inventory from a supplier, store that inventory, sell it to a customer on account, pay your suppliers and collect on your invoices — getting paid and putting cash back into the company.

The CCC is an important financial indicator of your company’s cash flow. It shows your ability to maintain highly liquid assets and is a metric that lenders and other finance providers will use to assess your potential risk level.

The formula follows your cash through these various stages:

  1. Inventory Purchase, Transport and Storage
  2. Accounts Payable and Payments to Suppliers
  3. Sales, Accounts Receivable and Collections

How to calculate the Cash Conversion Cycle

There are three numbers you’ll need to complete the basic CCC formula, all of which you can derive from your financial statements.

CCC = DIO – DPO + DSO

Let’s look at each component a little more closely.

  • DIO: Days Inventory Outstanding.
    • This is the number of days on average that your company turns your inventory into sales. The smaller this number, the better.
  • DPO: Days Payable Outstanding.
    • This is the number of days it takes you to pay your accounts payable. The higher this number, the longer you can hold onto cash, so a longer DPO is better.
  • DSO: Days Sales Outstanding.
    • This is the number of days you’ll need to collect on the sales of that inventory after the sale has been made. Again, the lower the number, the better.

So the CCC is equal to the number of days it takes to sell your inventory, plus the number of days you need to collect on your sales, minus the days it takes you to pay your vendors.

Example:

Keisha runs an industrial supply company. Keisha always pays her supplier within 30 days. She keeps enough inventory on hand to satisfy 60 days of sales and is good at managing this. It will take 52 days on average for her customers to pay their invoices. This would be her CCC formula:

CCC = 60 days – 30 days + 52 days

CCC = 82 days

Keisha’s CCC is 82 days, meaning that she will need on average 82 days of working capital to convert purchased inventory into cash.

The above is a simplified example, and to get accurate results you must calculate and track your DIO, DPO and DSO on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, along with the dollar values for inventory and sales.

What CCC teaches you & how to make adjustments

The CCC will give you an indication of your cash liquidity position — and it can point your attention to what is helping or hindering your cash flow. Depending on the results, you may determine immediate areas that can be improved.

The longer the CCC, the more working capital you’ll need to manage your operations. And that can be an overwhelming challenge for many businesses. Generally speaking, companies want to shorten their CCC.

To shorten the CCC, you may be able to manage inventory levels better, get longer supplier payment terms, improve your collection process or adjust the payment terms you give your customers. However, this may not always be practical or something you’re wanting to change for a number of reasons.

Instead, you can use financing such as Accounts Receivable Financing — also known as factoring — to lower the CCC by turning accounts receivable into cash faster. This is where our company has been able to help businesses increase their cash flow. Using factoring you can effectively lower your DSO, which means you will get paid on your sales faster and have quicker access to working capital. That cash can be reinvested into your company faster than if you had to wait on all invoices to be paid out according to the usual payment terms.

Or you could get extended payment terms from suppliers to reduce the DPO portion of the formula or use financing tools such as Purchase Order Financing to help you make up the gap where suppliers are not providing adequate or any terms. By extending the number of days you have to pay your accounts payable, you can keep cash in the company and effectively increase your working capital.

However, the CCC alone cannot be a complete indication of liquidity. You’ll need to look at calculating other liquidity metrics like the current ratio and quick ratio to paint a complete picture. You may already have these calculations in place, but if you haven’t yet calculated your cash conversion cycle, it’s time to start crunching the numbers and tracking changes over time to manage your business better.

This is the first part of our cash conversion cycle series. We’ll be writing about practical ways to reduce your DSO and DIO, stretch your DPO and how service providers can use the CCC when ‘inventory’ doesn’t apply to their business.

Up Next: Learn about the 7 proven cash flow tactics every CFO and finance pro needs to know.

Originally published September 26, 2016.

How High-Growth Companies Can Get Unlimited Cash Flow

If you are leading a high-growth company, do not overlook this fundamental financial strategy that could offer you unlimited cash flow. ‘Factoring’ could be the ultimate growth tool you’ve been searching for in your business.

Often, companies can use factoring when bank loans or equity investments don’t pan out as planned. But savvy business pros look at this opportunity far more strategically. During periods of development and successful operations, high-growth companies need to access large amounts of capital – quickly and with assurance. Factoring does exactly that – it frees up huge amounts of working capital, puts cash in hand, allows you take on new business and catapult your growth.

Here’s the 411 on what factoring is all about, (but if you’re already in the know just skip ahead).

Factoring is the process of selling your accounts receivables (customer invoices) to a specialized company (‘factor’) who will give you the majority of that cash up front. You’ll be able to use that capital for whatever purpose you deem the most important in your business instead of waiting the 30, 60 or 90 days you’d usually be stuck with. Once the factoring company collects payment for the invoice, they’ll release the additional funds to your company minus an agreed upon reserve fee. That’s it – you can continue to factor new accounts receivables to keep your working capital topped up and your high-growth strategy on target.

These are the six key reasons growing companies should take advantage of factoring.

1. Quick application

Factoring applications are relatively quick to complete since they focus largely on the accounts receivable in your business. The biggest requirement of factoring is that you must be generating regular and consistent sales from credit-worthy clients. Once your application is approved, you can have working capital delivered within 24 hours.

2. Cost efficient

It’s a common misconception that factoring costs can be prohibitive – while in actuality it can be a smart business decision. For businesses with healthy gross profit margins, the benefit from new sales opportunities will outweigh any costs associated with accessing working capital. Factoring can help you say ‘yes’ to new deals and dramatically increase revenue, which can also set you up for additional growth with expanded client relationships. But if you have to say ‘no’ to deals because the cash flow isn’t there, your bottom line will suffer.

3. Tailor made for high-growth companies

High-growth companies can hit a point where their financial needs can’t be met. Banks often cap their financing, especially when past results and financial history checks don’t match their criteria – and by their very nature, growing companies likely don’t have that history. However, since factoring companies are focused on the quality of your accounts receivable, a growing company with legitimate invoices can continue to expand even without that prior history. Factoring companies look forward and up, so there are no limits to your financing potential. That means unlimited cash flow.

Related: Does my business qualify for factoring?

4. Don’t give up control

When growing your company, you likely don’t want to give up your ownership. Where venture capital deals often require that you sacrifice some of that equity, factoring does not. Your growing company stays in your control and ownership – so the more successful you are, the more you’ll fully reap those monetary rewards.

5. Work with banks

Choosing between bank loans and factoring isn’t necessary, as companies can work with multiple financing partners at the same time. In fact, many businesses will have a traditional bank loan for their base financing and then use a factoring partner as the business grows. Other companies will work with their factoring partner first to grow their business at a faster rate, and eventually, graduate on to add traditional bank financing.

6. Gain a finance partner

Factoring experts have great connections to other finance and business pros. They are business professionals who know that their success is also tied to your company success. This mutually beneficial partnership means you’ve gained a valuable colleague as part of the deal. It doesn’t stop there – as a well-established factoring partner can provide growing businesses with additional advice on improving payment terms, collections, areas for expansion and new sales opportunities.

If you’re a high-growth company ready for more working capital and unlimited cash flow, talk to us today and we’re happy to walk you through the application process or answer any questions.

factoring vs bank loans

Need a Bank Loan? 16 Ways Factoring is Better

factoring vs bank loans

If you own or operate a company, you probably know the challenges of finding business funding. Relationships with banks are important, but sometimes bank loans don’t work out. That’s where alternative financing options like factoring, also known as accounts receivable financing, come in handy.

Factoring allows you to leverage your existing and ongoing customer invoices into financing. You’ll work with a factoring partner who will provide you working capital and take over the collections of those accounts receivable in return for a professional services fee.

When a company needs cash flow, factoring can be the quick and reliable solution to keep your business heading in the right direction. Here are the additional bonuses to using factoring that you may have never considered:

1. Get faster funding

If you need to urgently buy supplies, order product, make payroll or repair key equipment, factoring can be easier and quicker to secure than traditional loans – sometimes as quickly as 24 hours after submitting your invoices. Unlike a traditional loan, you don’t need to submit tax returns, detailed financial statements, business plans or your financial projections – saving you a lot of time and hassle. Banks can also take longer to approve your requests, potentially making you wait for fiscal year end or the results of an audit. Instead, your factoring partner will perform an initial underwriting process to approve your application – then you’re all set.

2. Flexibility – Borrow more when needed

The amount your company can borrow will actually grow the more you sell. As your business grows, you’ll need even more cash flow to pay for supplies as you wait for customers to pay their invoices. So factoring gives you the immediate ability to borrow more, and keep the growth going. Compared to traditional banks, you will never outgrow your line of credit, as a big enough factoring company can accommodate all your growth needs.

3. No other assets required

Factoring only requires that you have customer accounts receivable to secure your funding. You don’t need other assets like real estate, equipment or inventory to apply. That means your personal home or property doesn’t have to be offered up as collateral, which may sometimes be the case with traditional bank loans. (If you do have those other assets, you can also qualify for additional funding options like Asset-Based Loans).

4. Cash flow boost when you need it – now or ongoing

Whether you need a longer-term solution or a temporary boost in cash flow, factoring can help you out of a tricky working capital dilemma. Every business will eventually run into the need for more cash on hand – so with factoring, as soon as new orders are invoiced you can have cash released into your business account. This gives you the chance to take advantage of growth opportunities that require more consistent cash flow.

5. Get larger funding than banks

Unlimited funding sounds amazing. With factoring, lending power is dependent upon the size of your accounts receivable – so an abundance of working capital is possible. Banks qualify you based on your business credit strength, whereas your factoring partner looks to your accounts receivable and your customer credit strength. If you’re selling goods or services to financially strong customers and have ongoing invoices, you can get substantially more financing than you’d qualify for with a traditional bank lender.

6. Grow your business the way you want

Instant cash means you can accelerate your growth strategy. Some companies need to hire more sales people to secure new accounts. Others will need additional equipment to manufacture their product. Still others may need working capital for marketing and advertising, office upgrades or new project development. Whatever the need, you’ll have the working capital to execute and grow the business.

Related: How high-growth companies can get unlimited cash flow

7. Take advantage of supplier discounts

Volume discounts, early payment discounts or special supplier offers are attractive options – but only if you have the capital available at that moment in time. Traditional bank loans are often not fast enough to allow you to take advantage of these discounts. But now, you can factor invoices quickly and free up cash flow to jump at the opportunities when they present themselves.

8. Shorten your cash cycle

Waiting for customers to make payment is a burden. With factoring, you can significantly shorten your cash cycle. Instead of waiting 30, 60, 90 or more days for traditional payment terms, you can receive that payment from your factoring partner in as little as 24 hours. By the time your original terms would have come due, you could have now been able to purchase more goods, make more sales and earn higher profits.

9. Free up your time

Searching for funding and traditional bank loans is a time-consuming process. Meetings, business plans and applications take up a lot of your valuable schedule that could be spent on other areas of the business. With factoring, you’ll have to complete the application process, but once approved you can regularly factor your credit eligible invoices and save time while improving cash flow.

10. Lower your overhead costs

Since your factoring partner takes over the management of your invoices, including handling customer payment and collections, your costs in these departments will likely lower. This can help offset any fees and makes factoring an even more attractive solution. You won’t get that service at a traditional bank.

11. Focus on new revenue

You and your team likely already spend a lot of time processing customer invoices and collecting payment – maybe too much time. With those duties removed from your to-do list, you can now work on other tasks that will improve your revenue like sales, marketing and building new client relationships.

12. Faster collections

Prompt and professional collections can be a big bonus when you work with the right factoring partner. With a reputable company handling customer collections, the result can be more timely payments (customers don’t want to risk a poor credit report). Once the customer makes their final payments, you’ll also receive your reserve funds from the factoring partner – so on-time collections are important to everyone.

13. Improved credit checks

Your factoring partner will also be responsible for credit-checking your customers. That gives you the advantage of having valuable intelligence about the credit worthiness of your clients, including new customers you may close. That can help improve the quality of accounts you take on, improve your credit decisions and advance your business’ debt security.

14. Less costs than equity investments – and you keep control

Equity investments and venture capital can be alternatives to traditional bank loans, but they can also demand much higher returns than the costs associated with factoring. In addition, you may be required to give up shares in your company, and that dilutes your ownership stake. It may even shift control of your business to the investors. But with factoring, there is no requirement to give up a stake in your business.

15. Protect against bad debt

In certain circumstances, some factoring companies offer non-recourse factoring, which means the factoring partner will take on the risk if any invoices are left unpaid. This type of factoring offers you additional protection against bad debt – a level of protection can be very important to some companies.

16. Improve your balance sheet

Factoring is not the same as receiving a loan. On your books, a loan would get recorded as a “debit,” which is considered a liability. Instead, with factoring there is no debt incurred. Your factoring partner is purchasing your accounts receivable with cash, and that reduces your balance sheet debt. The result will be a lower debt to equity ration, and that can actually improve your financial position on the books.

 

Factoring can be a highly attractive option for companies at any stage in business. If you’re interested in learning exactly how it can work for your business, get in touch to learn more. We’re always happy to chat.

A Presentation That Pays Off with Future Sales

The success of a presentation begins with its very first sentence. Ask yourself what will be most interesting to your attendees. Is there new research or data within their industry that can help their businesses run more efficiently? Maybe there’s a recent success story that may impact their mindset about a new technology in the marketplace?

Not every presentation needs to be exactly like Steve Jobs would have done it, or in the style of a famous TED Talk, but there are some key points that will captivate your audience and keep their attention — helping you close deals. Follow the tips below to prep for your next presentation and stand out in front of the crowd.

What makes an amazing presentation?

Experts at CustomShow, a sales presentation platform, stress that capturing your audience’s attention with a strong opening will engage their minds, enabling the presenter to effectively convey his entire message. Their advice: “In general it is not a good idea to memorize your entire speech. It is, however, a good idea to memorize the beginning four to 10 sentences. This is critical because it allows you to feel confident and ride the wave of confidence as you continue your presentation.” For additional ideas, view How To Start A Presentation Tips And Tricks – 22 Powerful Strategies on their website.

The mechanics of speaking will in itself make a difference in the effectiveness of your presentation, too. Your voice speaks volumes about your confidence and will reflect, rightly or wrongly, on how you feel about the topic. Therefore, speaking clearly and confidently is important.

4 ways your speaking voice matters

You’ll find many useful tips for prepping your voice at SkillsYouNeed.com. Its primer on Aspects of Effective Speaking provides useful exercises on increasing your comfort in developing a speaking voice, using breath to improve your voice and the four important aspects of voice when making a presentation:

  1. Accents
  2. Finding your voice
  3. The effect of breath on voice and speech
  4. Vocal production

One example of how your voice matters is inflection. For example, when a person asks a question, the last word of the sentence typically goes up in tone at the end. Sometimes when speakers are uncomfortable with a subject or nervous about their situation they fall into a rhythm that ends every sentence on a high note, whether it’s a question or a statement. This leaves an impression of uncertainty. Practice your presentation, record it and listen for proper inflection. Strong statements should finish with a steady or lower tone. Make sure your voice varies appropriately.

Make the content memorable

Equally important, of course, is the content. You have earned a precious opportunity to stand in front of an audience that includes prospective clients. Show them how much you value their time and how you intend to make it pay off. Talk with knowledge about the audience’s industry or needs. Share important trends or information relevant to their needs.

While your talk may include a scripted explanation about your company’s services, make certain the bulk of your presentation offers in-depth information that makes for useful takeaways. When you do so you’ll build trust and that is the first step toward opening the door to business after the presentation.

new school marketing tricks

7 New-School Digital Marketing Tricks For Your SMB

new school marketing tricks

We’ve shown you how you can leverage seven old-school marketing tricks for your small and medium-sized business. Of course, old-school isn’t the only way, and you can always teach a dog new tricks.

Our business is all about helping other businesses get access to funding and grow. But aside from finances, part of business growth is understanding how to take advantage of trends—in this case, digital marketing tactics that help you connect with your customers.

Here are seven new-school and actionable ways to take advantage of digital marketing tactics for your SMB.

1. Help people take action on your website

Your website should be the center of your online strategy to build trust and describe your products, services and business values. So make sure your customers keep reading. How do you do that?

Put calls-to-action, known as CTAs, on every page. Make them clear, concise and obvious. What action do you want your readers to take? If you want them to subscribe to your newsletter, then include a sign-up form directly on that page. If you want them to call a rep, then make that number front and center (and clickable on mobile devices). And if you want them to read more content, then include widgets with catchy headlines to the next pages and blog articles.

Review your site and list the pages that are missing a CTA and ones that can be improved. Then make a plan to fix that.

2. Blog once a week

There are so many advantages to building a thought-leadership section to your website. And it doesn’t have to be hard.

Use this list of blog headline starters from Co-Schedule to come up with some initial ideas. Then create a quick and easy publishing calendar on Excel that shows the topics you’ll publish each week. Voila! You’re blogging. Start with articles around 500 words long, and always answer the question, “How will my customer benefit from this?”

Blogs keep your website up to date with new content, which will improve your Google ranking. By updating your blog at least once a week, Google will have new material to scan and your customers will have a reason to return. Not sure where to start? For starters, check out How to Start a Blog from First Site Guide, which details exactly what it takes to turn your blog from concept to reality.

how to start a blog

The team at First Site Guide walks you through their “five easy steps to starting a blog” including:

  1. Choose a blogging platform
  2. Pick a domain name
  3. Get a web hosting account
  4. Install blogging software and set up a blog
  5. Select a blog design and layout

Once you’ve got a blog up and running, it’s important to share every article—not once or twice, but multiple times on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and more. If you have evergreen content (it doesn’t go out of date), then you can continue to share it over the next quarter and year.

3. Find the right keywords to improve your SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is extremely important for the growth of your digital marketing. By adding the right keywords on your website, customers will be able to find you when they search for certain topics on Google. For example, if you make incredible birthday cakes you should be found when someone searches “best cake for kid’s birthday party” and similar terms.

It’s all about making sure that people can find your business website. Make this a priority – whether you learn more out about it yourself or hire an SEO expert to help out. Start with these steps:

  • Use your blog to add even more of the right keywords, which allows you to stay up-to-date with current trends in your market.
  • Check what your competition is talking about on their website, blog and social media sites, then include those topics in your blog so you can be found by prospects.
  • If there’s a new innovation in your industry, blog about it and make use of those strategic keywords so people will find you when they’re searching for info about that hot topic.

How do you find the right search keywords? One of the most trusted resources is the Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool, but it can get complicated. If you’re just starting out, try Wordtracker to get a sense of the type of keywords searched around specific topics.

For a crash course in SEO, check out this page from Moz.

4. Find the right followers on Twitter

We all know the potential value in Twitter as a business-friendly social media platform. But how do you grow your following and find the right demographics that meet your target market. Enter a host of free tools (yes, free!) that can help you do that in a somewhat automated way.

  • ManageFlitter: A great tool to find active Twitter users who are in your target geography and industry. Make use of the “refine search” function to find the right Twitter users. Then follow people using the automated feature (some paid options) to set it and forget it. Come back a couple days later and see who followed you, then unfollow the ones that didn’t. You’ll maintain a symbiotic Twitter relationship that way.
  • Tweepi: Another similar tool, but check out their “Follow List” feature that allows you to easily follow Twitter users from someone’s list – an often overlooked tactic.
  • Followcheck: Although the search options aren’t as robust as ManageFlitter, this tool gives you two great features. One is their “Sleepers” list that shows your inactive followers (ditch them!) and the other is their F/F ratio in the Search function. Follow users with 70 – 100% F/F ration for a better chance of them following you back.

5. Update your website with a “responsive design”

Over 50% of web traffic is now reported to come from smartphones and tablets these days. So your website better look great and perform even better on mobile devices.

Many sites have what is called a “responsive design,” meaning the layout of the site will adjust to fit any screen or device. Companies like Womp Mobile can help turn your existing site into a responsive design.

If you’re not sure how your site looks on mobile devices, it’s time you find out. Go to MobileTest.me, select a mobile test, enter your website URL and presto – you’ll see what it looks like. Take a test drive and see if it’s a positive experience. If you’re having problems with your own site, you know your customers won’t be too happy either.

6. Narrow in on your target marketing with Facebook Advertising

Your online advertising should also target mobile users. Facebook claims that two-thirds of its customers access their sites via mobile devices, so advertising there can be a potential boon for your business.

Facebook allows you to easily set up your own ads and adjust your campaigns at the click of a mouse. Select demographics like the age, gender, region and even relationship status of the people you want to reach. Its analytics let you measure and evaluate your investment, so you’ve got a lot of control.

The best advice here is to test, test, test. Because you have so much control of your ads, you can A/B test your ad copy and images, but you can go further and test your actual market. Find out if millennials like your brand more than Gen X. Discover if Texas outperforms California. Or see if people who make $50K a year click more than those who make $100K.

When using Facebook, remember that it’s more consumer focused than Twitter and LinkedIn, so make sure your posts are friendly and provide a real benefit to the market to keep your fans hooked.

7. Show off your work on LinkedIn

If you’re in a visual business like web design, graphic design or photography, there’s obvious reason to show off your work. But it’s also important for industries like manufacturing, transportation, oil and gas, or even for staffing companies.

How do you do this? On your personal LinkedIn profile, click on the “Add Media” icons within your work experience sections. You’ll have the ability to add documents you’re proud of, presentations you have created or given at conferences and events, websites you may have launched or blog articles you’ve penned. This is very important for your current work experience, as your customers and prospects will find you online. You need a well-rounded profile that shows off your talents and expertise in your current position. That builds trust.

If you run your Company Page on LinkedIn, start to do the same thing. But use your updates as a way of showing off your company assets like websites, blog posts, whitepapers, eBooks, events and other social media profiles. Pepper all of these amazing assets into your social publishing calendar to show your followers a better view of your business.

One last tip—make sure you include your contact info so you can be easily reached. You may not want to publicly display a direct phone number or email address, but including your general company phone number, a general inbox address for inquiries or even your Twitter handle is a great way to stay connected.

Do you have a new-school digital marketing tip that your business has used effectively? Tell us in the comments section.

mobile app growth

Amplify Your Business With Mobile Apps

mobile app growth

Are you up-to-date on the best apps for business?

Important hallmarks of successful entrepreneurs include the ability to maximize personal productivity and to find streamlined ways to manage both your tasks and employees. Fortunately, technology aptly zeros in on these qualities, offering an ever-changing array of mobile app solutions.

Top rated marketing apps

Aaron Strout, president of global integrated marketing and communication agency WCG, blogs monthly for Marketing Land, a daily online publication that covers all aspects of the digital marketing industry. His focus is to highlight the best apps for marketers.

Strout’s Top 20 Most Useful Business Apps feature both newer and tried-and-true recommendations covering everything from self-management to travel, social media, enterprise productivity and collaboration apps. Three examples:

  1. Expensify – scan and categorize receipts to manage expenses on the go
  2. Confluence – create documents, organize plans and collaborate with others digitally
  3. LinkedIn – still a leader in business network apps, recently upgraded to be faster and more useful

Cloudwards 30 apps for business efficiency

Cloudwards has prepared their own list of trend setting apps for business, which focuses on ways to take your office efficiency to whole new level. “Small businesses usually have limited budgets as well as only a handful of staff. The idea behind using the apps below is that of maximizing productivity and so save you time and money.”

Cloudwords 30 app ideas for business

The list includes favorites for accounting, scheduling, cloud storage, data backup and productivity, but our three highlights include:

  1. Quickbooks Online – a cloud-based accounting app that helps you keep on top of your accounting and invoicing
  2. Doodle – a brilliant solution for scheduling meetings based on team member availability. Do yourself a favor and check it out asap.
  3. Google Drive – part of the Google family of products, Drive is touted as the “holy grail of cloud storage” and a must-have app for any business

Security and mobility top the list of app concerns

The website tech.co, featuring startup news, events and mobile resources, shares even further app advice in their article, Prepare For These Mobile App Predictions. The list counsels businesses to use apps to create “more personal engagement with consumers.”

It also hails enterprise mobility (basically handling business infrastructure and connection to staff, consumers, etc. via apps) as a key trend for this year. As you might guess, app security is also a hot topic.

Develop your own app like a pro

There are apps for building apps as well. One handy tool is BuildFire, a leading global mobile application development platform choice for businesses, organizations, professionals, and resellers. The intuitive system and US-based customer support helps thousands of users build mobile apps every week. In fact, more than 50,000 businesses have already used the “click and edit” platform to create custom mobile apps for smartphones, tablets and mobile websites – no technical skills are necessary. It’s free to build your app, followed by reasonable monthly fees once published. 

Getting on board with mobile technology is definitely worthwhile. Recently Gartner Inc., a world leader in IT research and advisory, announced by 2018, 50 percent of consumers in mature markets will use smartphones or wearables for mobile payments. “Innovation in apps, mobile devices and mobile services are impacting traditional business models, particularly in the way people use personal technology for productivity and pleasure,” said Amanda Sabia, principal research analyst at Gartner. “Product managers must understand who their customers are for these new devices and services, and how the products are being used. Knowing your customer is imperative in order to capture a fair share of spending opportunities in this dynamic marketplace.”

This article originally appeared on Liquid Capital on February 5, 2016, with new updates added in April, 2017.