Why Airbnb recommends you should fail often

And how to use failure as a guidepost.

Airbnb business lessons

At a recent business conference, a young professional walked on stage to deliver the final keynote. With confidence, he stated:

“Failure is the tool I use to figure out if we are really being ambitious enough.”

Jason Silver was speaking about his experience working with Airbnb as the Growth Lead for their newly expanding Canadian market. To launch his Airbnb career three years prior, he was flown out to the San Francisco headquarters to present his strategy in front of senior leadership (all of whom were also young professionals).

Jason Silver AirbnbSilver was sure he had blown them away with his incredible plan to increase revenue by 10% in the next year. But those brash young execs turned him back and said he needed to think bigger, bolder and reimagine his strategy. His presentation had failed, but Silver was just getting started.

“If you fail and it’s not crippling to your business, then you’ll be improving and getting better at what your do. You’re trying something new and progressing.”

Airbnb wanted Silver to fail. They wanted him to feel the sting of defeat so that he could completely change his approach.

On his flight back home that same day, Silver scrapped everything he had been working on. He reinvented a completely new strategy from the ground up, and in that first year as Growth Lead their team proudly accomplished 9 times the growth they originally forecast. It was an unbelievable accomplishment. Silver had quickly learned that failing at Airbnb wasn’t the end – it was a tool to get to a better strategy.

Now, Silver advocates three steps to change the framework for failure – and it all revolves around being innovative.

1. Ask new questions.

“The right questions will lead you down a path that can change your business, industry or even the world.”

So what are the right questions?

These are not the conventional ones that everyone else is asking. Ask a question that reframes the problem, so you attack it from a completely different angle.

Twitter lit up with Jason’s quotes and advice, including user @ColleenMCole who tweeted the above.

When creating smartphones, Silver suggests that the questions may have taken a successful company like Apple down roads less traveled. A conventional question would ask, “How can we make a better mobile phone?” This would constrain the company to the status quo and make an incremental improvement. They would likely end up with a version 2.0 of the same phone.

But with innovative questioning, another company could ask, “How can I carry around the power of a computer in my pocket?” This forces the company into new territory, raising new and innovative questions, and ending up with a brand new product like the iPhone when no other devices on the market compare.

2. Imagine a vision, realize it with data. 

Imagine the world or your business as you want it to be, and then use data to realize that vision.

This can be seen as a form of goal setting – forcing you to dream and think beyond your standard goals. Be bold and envision what you’ve always wanted to achieve with your business. Don’t let real or imaginary roadblocks get in your way. Remember that your strategic creativity is capable of getting around any roadblock as long as you truly want to realize your vision.

Silver recommends using supporting data that can help you answer the innovative questions and realize the vision. Starting with a clear path that you believe in and using real world data points to find a solution will create a more successful reality. The reverse – starting with data points at hand and then developing your vision around those – will restrict your growth and put limits on what you can achieve.

3. Fail often.

“Business grows by learning from what doesn’t work,” Silver stated. “Embracing failure is incredibly difficult. The key is making mistakes and then always learning from that.”

Airbnb operates in over 34,000 cities and 19 countries, constantly adding more locations and dealing with incredibly challenging rental environments. With 100 million total travelers in Airbnb’s system, Silver explained that the company needed to fail to grow to that level. If the company was afraid to fail, they would absolutely fail.

“Don’t turn a blind eye to negative results,” Silver cautioned, going on to explain that the entire team from top to bottom needs to be on board with the culture to learn from failure. “Shareholders don’t like failure because they want to see ROI. Everyone has to be bought into this because the worst thing you can do is start down the path and then want to go back.

If you fail, and you should, go back to step one.

Ask more new questions. Use data and analytics to prove and disprove your theories, and to support your strong vision. Then never forget to fail again.

Outsource your admin for success

Helpful ways to save time and outsource admin

Outsource your admin for success

Many business owners feel handcuffed to their desks when it comes to dealing with back office admin duties.

Companies thrive by growing – not by scaling back or downsizing. But few businesses demonstrate a capacity to grow – often tied up in constant admin and back office work.

In fact, only 4% of U.S. companies have annual sales that exceed $1 million.

The struggle is even greater for small and medium-sized businesses who don’t have dedicated back office support. Of the 27 million businesses operating in the United States, 21 million of those are sole proprietorships without any employees. And less than 700,000 have 20 or more employees.

Without staff on hand to help you with the back office admin, how will you dedicate enough time to the strategies and tactics that matter? The personnel, money and time you invest in administrative operations can be redistributed toward scaling up your business.

Outsourcing follows the core principles from Scaling Up, which recommends hiring superstars to lead your teams. Choosing experts to do back office tasks, such as accounts receivable and payroll, ensures that you have the best people for the task, which will reduce your costs and free up cash.

Outsource your accounts receivable by finding the right partner

Billing and collections are incredibly important, but the paperwork, filing, call management and follow-ups are a heavy stress on a company’s schedule. Outsourcing your accounts receivable to a reliable company can ensure you collect your payments on time (or early) and eliminate the costly time your staff is putting into processing and collections.

Ron Finlayson, Chief Executive Officer & Chairman of E-Systems, an electronic contract manufacturer in Massachusetts, knows a thing or two about getting the right support for his company’s back office.

“You work really hard to get customers,” he explains. “If you collect a payable from them in a mean or insensitive way, you can lose in five minutes what might have taken you five months to win.”

Finlayson explains how it’s crucial to understand who will be talking to your customers and how they’ll handle those conversations. The tone and manner must match your business. “If you don’t want a hard push, check out what their message is and ask how they handle it if someone can’t pay on time. This was really important to us, and I’m pleased to say that the people handling Liquid Capital’s collections are genuinely nice.”

Read more about E-Systems business operations

Outsource your admin work in combination with other services

A Minnesota company, Ridgeline Manufacturing, sells custom aluminum recreational products such as boat lifts, docks, custom trailers and stairways – perfect for the State of “10,000 lakes.” The company has also been outsourcing their back office receivables through Liquid Capital as part of their accounts receivable financing.

Owners Nick and Julie Newman have been in business since 2008, and use accounts receivable financing, otherwise known as “factoring,” to pay for associated operating costs. Ridgeline uses around 50 vendors to complete one product line — and not all of those vendors offer payment terms, so factoring is used to fill in the gaps.

Because Liquid Capital purchases the receivables outright on behalf of Ridgeline, it also takes care of collections, and that is a huge benefit to their business.

“When manufacturers advance funds to their customers, there is often push-back on us charging interest,” says Nick Newman. “But with Liquid Capital doing that, it’s different. As a third party, it’s more palatable to our dealers and helps the collections process too.”

The company now has increased flexibility, which has helped them land three new dealers.

Read the entire Ridgeline story

Outsource your payroll with a dedicated team

Payroll is a big expense in every business, but consider what payroll operations are costing you each week. The time you and your staff spend on processing that payroll could be put to better use in developing, implementing and financing the expansion of your business. Instead of managing every aspect of payroll, you can find a qualified company to work with you to complete all the paperwork and government filings needed.

The decision about which company should handle your payroll should focus on the following:

  • Be specific about your needs. Let the company know if you will only require payroll services, or if you will also want them to handle retirement and other employee compensation services.
  • Get a dedicated team. Go with a company that will dedicate a team of experts to your business, so you will know who to contact with questions or concerns.
  • Go with a company with transparent pricing. You want to understand how much outsourcing your company’s payroll services will cost, so go with a company that does complicate its pricing structure.

Before making a decision about outsourcing any services to a provider, check their references and ask other business owners about their experience. By doing your due diligence you’ll find a partner that works with you and your team, and that will save you time and money in the long run.

 

increase profit

Get Creative For More Profit

increase profit

At some stage the product or service that launched a company will need to be enhanced or supplemented with other solutions to keep customers engaged. This is where creativity can help entrepreneurs go above and beyond their initial vision.

“Creative thinking is a huge part of good business acumen, without which your business could just go into the stagnation mode,” say experts from eonetwork.org in their blog post, “Reasons Why it is Important for Entrepreneurs to be Creative.”

Fresh Eyes

Look at your business and products or services with fresh eyes. For example, creativity may be about doing more with less. Can you streamline processes? What additional markets would welcome your product or service?

How can the product evolve? Do your employees have additional talents that haven’t yet been tapped? Get staff involved in new activities. Perhaps cross-train them to handle other responsibilities. Give employees time to brainstorm together, free of any structured meeting time.

In its September 2015 post, “Why Creativity is so Crucial for Entrepreneurs,”  cleverest.com says there’s always room for improvement in the deliverables of an enterprise, and creativity is how you can access it. The author urges you to find similar patterns in different areas:

“Creativity enables people to connect dissimilar and unrelated subjects and make successful entrepreneurial ideas. Merging different fields creates interesting intersections that creates new niches. Most people are afraid of bringing different disciplines together, but most interesting ideas come from colliding different fields.”

Cheryl Conner, a contributor to Forbes, outlines in her post, “4 Ways to Increase Creativity As An Entrepreneur,” a method for breakthrough thinking:

1. Ditch your comfort zone.

2. Discover your thinking profile.

3. Remember that great minds don’t actually think alike.

4. Play to your creative strength.

What are those strengths?

Conner describes a clarifier digging into facts for insights; an ideatorthinking big to open up possibilities; a developer crafting complex solutions; or an implementor who loves to get things done and willingly takes risks. The commonality is that these creative types are each doers and they each lead to new pathways.

Try This Creative Exercise

Business leaders need to schedule time in their daily or weekly agenda for creative thinking.

Start by writing the name of your most successful product or service in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. Then freestyle every word that comes to mind, either written or drawn around the center of the paper. It can be numbers, letters, sketches – whatever.

After you fill the paper put it away. Look at it fresh tomorrow. Have a colleague look at it, too. You might just find the next successful evolution of your company.

 

4 Core Business Principles You Might be Overlooking

Growing your business is possible for every industry, but if your company has hit a plateau you could benefit from a refresh in your corporate strategy.

In Scaling Up, Verne Harnish gives guidance on the four simple principles that can help you become part of the four percent of top earners in the business world. These are patterned after the habits that the famous John D. Rockefeller, widely considered the richest man in modern history, used to successfully execute his growth strategies.

  1. People
  2. Strategy
  3. Execution
  4. Cash

1. People: Creating the right team to execute your growth strategy

The people you hire to lead your company must be capable of doing so. Scaling up your business begins with putting the best leaders in positions so they can do what is needed to move your growth strategy forward while staying true to the core principles of your company.

When you add people to your leadership team, the complexity of your company can increase dramatically, according to Harnish. That is why picking great leaders to fill key positions and providing them with team members with similar abilities will save time and energy. Your leadership will be set up to work with teams who are up to performing the tasks assigned to them.

Harnish also emphasizes paying people what they are worth instead of adhering to an industry pay scale or some other artificial method of compensation. Putting the best people in leadership roles and delegating responsibilities to them means paying them what they deserve – based on the value they provide to the business.

2. Strategy: Stick with what you know

Understand your company’s core values and stay true to them when creating a strategy to scale up your business.

For example, if you’ve had success with one location or franchise unit, you can grow that business by opening additional locations or territories. Since you’ve already invested in learning what it takes to be successful, you can apply those same principles in new growth. And once you open additional locations, it doesn’t require that you personally take on the management responsibilities. If you’ve set up the business efficiently, your management team from the first location can be given more responsibility for the second location.

By staying true to your company’s core values that made it a success in the first place, and by training your leadership team to implement and adhere to those values, multiple locations can be established with the same opportunities for success. Reward managers with generous bonuses and other incentives for meeting performance goals at the new locations, which will help ensure your growth strategies are implemented according to plan.

3. Execution: Keeping your leadership team on track

Every member of your leadership team who is involved in executing the strategy to scale up your company must have a quantitatively defined goal.

Quantifying your company’s objectives provides you with a means of measuring performance, and it makes your entire team accountable for performance. Harnish stresses that it’s impossible to determine if you’re on the right track unless there is some way to measure your results.

Next, these measurable goals must be clearly communicated to the teams responsible to meeting them. Scale Up emphasizes the importance of giving your team members a standard they must achieve, and a sense of accountability that can be instilled and maintained by your managers.

4. Cash: Success may depend upon how quickly your money returns to you

The final core principle in Scale Up deals with something Harnish refers to as the “cash acceleration strategies.” Making improvements in your operations to shorten the time between when you dispense money until the cash returns to you after delivery of the product and payment by the customer is critical.

The “cash conversion cycle” or CCC is an invaluable metric to calculate as part of this process. Since you don’t make money waiting to get paid, streamlining the process by which goods or services are created and delivered to the customer will help improve your cash flow more quickly.

Learn more about the cash cycle and how you can calculate this powerful business metric – your CCC.

 

financial forecast

Looking To Forecast Better In 2017? Handle The Process Differently

financial forecast

Leaders of growing companies know that planning is key for continued success. Now that we’re in the fourth quarter, it’s time to evaluate where your business is and where you want to take it in the year ahead.

Forecasting and budgeting tools simplify the process of planning for growth. Capterra is a free service that helps businesses find the right software solution for a variety of services – from barcoding to performance appraisal. Its list of Top 10 Budgeting and Forecasting Software will reduce the time searching for the best tool for your needs.

Also consider a different approach to how you’ve handled forecasting and budgeting in the past. On the hostanalytics.comblog, a recent post “A Call for Change: 6 Indicators You Need A New Approach to Budgeting” explains, “The first step in any budgeting process overhaul is to identify the need for a change.” Here are the red flags:

1.    The budgeting process is taking too long.

2.    You aren’t satisfied with your planning capabilities.

3.    You’re spending too much money on budgeting.

4.    Your forecasting performance is struggling.

5.    Your budgets and plans lack long-term visibility.

6.    Your budget isn’t providing the flexibility you need.

If you’re looking to develop a more aggressive budget you may need to forecast sales and expenses over a multi-year span. Along with reviewing sales and revenues from previous years, pay close attention to the comparison of sales to expenses such as rent, materials, and salaries. Are economic conditions in your industry and/or locale (if applicable) such that you can expect to achieve the same profit in the next year or more? Will there be a burgeoning demand for your product? Should you invest in equipment that enables your staff to work more efficiently? Is it time to add new products/services? Be realistic and weigh the negatives (e.g., new competition or unexpected loss/damage). Also consider whether an alternative financing solution could play an important role in your growth plans.

 

Developing Your Perfect Elevator Pitch

Selling your business in 60 seconds can be a daunting task, but it’s possible.

You have a short window to capture attention, generate interest and find new clients. Armed with exactly what to say and how to say it, you can go from a quick chat on the ground floor to a meeting in the executive suites.

At a recent conference in Toronto, networking coach Mark Greenspan ran an interactive session called The Perfect Pitch: Win New Business Everywhere You Go. Having worked with major brands like Salesforce, Deloitte and Google News Lab, his training programs help business pro get ahead in a competitive landscape.

We highlight what it takes to perfect your elevator pitch and turn a new contact into a lead.

Craft your elevator pitch

“A good elevator pitch should be no more than 60 seconds,” Mark states boldly. Even shorter, around 45 seconds, can make sure you pack a punch.

Come up with your one-liner elevator pitch before you go to a meeting, conference or just stepping out into the world. A top-notch elevator pitch should include your benefit statement – not just what you do, but what service you provide that differentiates you and makes you stand out. Within your pitch you can independently verify your expertise by saying who you’ve worked with and attached someone else’s credibility.

For example, a medical sales pro may have a pitch that goes something like,

“I provide North American enterprise companies cutting edge medical devices that have literally just come out onto the market. My focus is on medical imaging and skin grafting, and recently I’ve been helping the VPs of GE and Siemens access new product lines targeting their key verticals.”

Describe what you do and how you can help them in a succinct way. Then ask questions…

Be interested before being interesting

This was a common theme Mark highlighted, as “you have to be interested in what the person is saying and who they are before talking about yourself.”

Genuinely listen to what the other person says without thinking about what you’re going to say next. This active listening will help you connect with them, which will also make you memorable. Don’t worry about what to say next, as they’ll prompt you for information.

Act like you’re a journalist

Ask plenty of questions. It’s a little bit like being a reporter and finding the story.

In fact, Mark goes a step further to recommend not talking about yourself at all until you are asked a direct question. You’ll notice how challenging it is at first to hold back providing any information about yourself. Instead, you’re forced to ask additional questions and spur on conversation from the other person.

     Related: 7 amazing networking tips for every entrepreneur      

Find common ground

“Remember, networking is about making connections to see if there’s potential for a business opportunity there,” Mark advised the audience as they were practicing their elevator pitches with each other.

Start with conversation around something relatable like golf, football, the last place you vacationed, your alma mater or your family. Then move on to common ground like business pain points and what you’re trying to achieve over the next year.

This brings the pitch back to the benefit statement, making sure that what you say truly can offer assistance to your contacts. Commonalities can be the foundation for a trusted business partnership.

Connect on LinkedIn right then and there

Now this doesn’t work in every instance, but in the session, many people grabbed their smartphones and were connecting with each other on LinkedIn. When you have the time, this is a brilliant way to stay connected.

Offer to exchange business cards, but say, “Hey why don’t I add you on LinkedIn?” Make sure you have the right profile displayed and by connecting with each other in person, they’ll have a better chance of remembering who you are and what your elevator pitch promises.

End on an ‘ask’

Without an ‘ask,’ you’ve networked without any promise for future follow-up, Mark cautions. But the ask doesn’t have to be direct, and that’s the beauty of this tip.

In one example, Mark worked on the elevator pitch with an entrepreneur who owned a wedding videography company. The man’s original ask was, “Are you getting married anytime soon?” The audience chuckled, but many couldn’t offer a better question.

Instead, Mark suggested taking a different approach that’s more relatable. “What’s the worst wedding you’ve been to? It’s not a direct ask, but it gets you thinking. As a wedding videographer, this is the lead generation portion of your pitch.”

Asking a thought-provoking question that is related to your business offerings can be the perfect ask. It opens up the conversation and shows how you can help and be different.

 

make money

3 Cash Flow Nightmares & The Dream Solution

make money

New customer orders are a business owner’s dream. But the sleepless nights come when you’re waiting on payments. Getting paid on time, and earlier than ever before, is possible.

The 3 Cash Problems Keeping You Awake

In B2B, you likely invoice clients for large orders and collect on 30, 60 or 90-day terms. The quicker you turn these invoices into cash, the faster you can grow your business operations.

If your business is in high growth, you may have a lot of your money tied up waiting for those payments to come through. Or there could be times when customers don’t pay up on time, leading to poor cash flow and working capital that is stretched to the max. Your receivables have just caused a chain reaction of problems.

  • Problem One: Fulfilling orders. You get a big order but your money is tied up. Do you say no to that new customer?
  • Problem Two: Paying suppliers & taking advantage of discounts. You have your own accounts payable, but can’t pay on time. And suppliers will often provide timely discounts, but you don’t have the working capital to take advantage.
  • Problem Three: Paying your staff. Low cash can lead to payroll problems and your valuable staff walking out the door. The resulting turnover costs and headaches can be greater than ever expected. 

Can’t My Bank Help? Not Always…

Most business owners will first approach their bank for short-term financing, but banks could easily reject your request if it doesn’t comply with their criteria.

Without great credit, enough collateral, positive cash flow and a proven track record, getting working capital from a traditional lending institution is extremely tough, whether you’re a large enterprise or a newer SMB. Even if you are approved, by the time you receive your funds, your working capital might be exhausted long ago.

B2Bs have faced this dilemma for years, but there’s a financing option some business owners haven’t discovered called “Accounts Receivable Factoring” that can help solve these cash flow problems.

How Does Factoring Work?

If you’ve never heard of Accounts Receivable Factoring before, you’re not alone. But it’s been a standard financing practice in Europe and other developed nations for years. Liquid Capital specializes in it and has developed a world-class business to help you get cash in hand. Here’s how it works.

1.     You make a sale to your customer. (e.g. With a 30/60/90 term)

2.     You submit that invoice to your Liquid Capital Principal.

3.     Liquid Capital buys your invoice from you, putting cash in your business within as quickly as seven days.

a.     You’ll get 75% or more of the invoice value at this point. A reserve fund is held until step #5.

b.    At this point, the money is in your pocket and you can use it to wipeout your cash flow problems.

4.     Liquid Capital will collect from your customer on your behalf, which also alleviates strain on your internal A/R department.

5.     When the customer finally pays, Liquid Capital will refund you any additional reserve funds minus the discount fees.

how does factoring work

This process can fast track your cash cycle by anywhere from three weeks to three months or more! With faster access to working capital, you’ll be able to fulfill orders, take advantage of supplier discounts and pay your employees faster and more efficiently. 

A Long-Term Cash Flow Solution 

Liquid Capital is a market leader and works with you as a trusted partner, not as a one-time lender. We have over 80 trained Principals across North America who are business owners themselves, and they each work directly with clients to develop business relationships, face-to-face whenever possible.

A Liquid Capital factoring solution can give you cash up front for your sales, helps you spend less time and employee expenses on collections, and ultimately helps you graduate to a traditional bank loan option. The factoring process is so beneficial that many clients will choose to work with us alongside their banks for various financing options, depending on their needs.

We know that growth-oriented B2B owners don’t wake up in the morning thinking fondly about collecting on their accounts receivable. So as a business partner, we lighten your worries through financing solutions that put cash in your pocket. And better yet, it will help you get a good night’s sleep.

 

social selling

90% of Top Salespeople are Social Selling. Are You?

social selling

It’s a fact: 90% of top salespeople are using social selling tools to close deals.

What is social selling?

Social selling is a trendy way to describe using social media as a sales channel. Rather than connecting at events, seminars are in person meetings, you are now able to find customers and prospects on social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

The whole goal is to build and expand your relationships with clients, and to be accessible on their preferred channels. You can’t have a conversation if you’re not in the room.

And at the end of the day, the final victory is to win opportunities and grow your revenue.

Koka Sexton
Senior Social Marketing Manager, LinkedIn
World’s foremost expert on social selling

We know social selling is important, but where do you start? Here are three actionable ways for you to step up your sales game using social networking.

1. Update your profiles to meet your client expectations

A great profile demonstrates:

  1. Who you are
  2. What you have done
  3. What you can do

Read your own profile objectively and ask, “Why should I care?”Demonstrate the value you offer so every customer will care.

  • Speak your customer’s language. Review your existing customer and prospect profiles to find challenges they face and vocabulary they use.
  • Customize your LinkedIn URL. Embed that link in your email signature and put it on your business card.
  • Update your headshot. Smile, wear professional attire, have a non-distracting background and make sure it’s just you. No cropped out images from group shots.


Michael de Groot
Social Selling Expert

     Related: How do I improve my LinkedIn posts?      

 2. Join 50 LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn Groups are not just a place to follow who YOU like, but they are a resource for you to connect with prospects and distant connections.

Here’s the secret most people don’t know. When you are in the same group as someone, you can message them for FREE! No premium account required.

And you can join up to 50 groups on LinkedIn, so take advantage and connect with groups where your clients are members. Aim for:

  • 5 within the industry
  • 10 within your territory
  • 35 with the right buyer persona

Make sure the groups you join have lots of members (over 5000) and are wide enough in interest so you can broaden your potential reach and connect with more people.

Gary Kissell
Social Selling Coach

3. Don’t go in cold.

With a stat like that, you’ll need to stand out to get anyone’s attention. The best way is to show you care about your client’s interests, concerns and the success of their business.

Top sales people always go into client meetings having done their research, and now you can make use of a bounty of online information as part of your pre-call routine.

On LinkedIn:

Learn about work history, experience, skills, causes and passions. See which connections you have in common and then follow any links to external sites and learn more about their business online.

On Twitter:

Investigate their profile, past tweets, photos shared, likes and dislikes, connections and the lists they’ve created. That will show what they deem valuable.

On Facebook:

You don’t have to be too invasive with your search. Skim through their public profile to learn about their hobbies and general interests that will give you a good feel for their personality. Check to see which events or locations they’ve checked into recently as well as the friends you have in common. Any connections could be helpful insights or common ground to start your conversation.

 

hidden costs

12 Hidden Costs Of Running Your Small Business

hidden costs

You’ve made a business plan, hired staff, bought inventory and made sales. Everything’s going great…until the unexpected costs show up.

Avoid the surprises by planning for the eventuality of these 12 hidden costs.

1. Employee Perks

“Whether you have 5 or 500 people on your staff, there are several employee expenses that must be taken into account when running a small business. You’ve probably already factored in the big things such as salaries, payroll taxes, benefits, and retirement plans. What you may not realize is that there are many more smaller expenses that quickly add up, such as:

  • Paid vacation time, sick leave and maternity leave
  • Certifications, classes, conferences and training
  • Office perks like ergonomic seating or Friday afternoon pizza parties
  • Employee turnover costs including hiring and training new employees” – Hiveage

2. Turnover

“Failing to invest properly in your employees, providing a living wage, a clean environment, office perks and other benefits can lead to high employee turnover. Furthermore, it costs about one-fifth of a worker’s salary to replace that person when they leave.  In some industries that cost is even higher. 

Provide perks. It’s more cost-effective to retain good employees than recruit new ones. These perks don’t have to be pricey; benefits such as flexible schedules, telecommuting and casual dress codes can do a lot to boost retention.

It’s also a good idea to negotiate annually with your health insurance provider so you can better budget for premium costs and other fees.” – Wasp Buzz

3. Administrative Costs

“Unless you are running your business out of your home, you need to consider where it will be located. Most people anticipate a rent or mortgage when they choose to buy or rent office space, but once you have that space you still have utilities (gas, a/c, electric, water, internet, phone services, etc.) to plan for.

“If you plan on having any humans work in your office, that also means you need to buy toilet tissue, soap, paper towels, plates, cup, refrigerator, desk, chairs, file cabinets, etc. Another expense to keep in mind is the cost of technology your business will need. That means computers, phones, printers, papers, scanners, fax machines, software for your computers, hardware to store the information, website development and maintenance, and IT consulting (whether in house or out sourced).” – Branding Beat

4. Phone and Internet Bills

These may be within a predictable range if you’re a one-person business, but once you add employees the costs can skyrocket. Make sure you negotiate group plans and data sharing, or unlimited data where available.

“But having to pay hundreds per month for a full-service cell phone, with the e-mail, text, and web browsing services you need to keep in touch with your clients out of the office can really add up. In the private employer market, many companies pick up the tab for things like cell phones. But entrepreneurs are on their own.

“Tip: look into your cell phone provider’s service plans. It’s worth an hour to go over every line item with your carrier, and knock that cost down as much as possible. Even so, a good smart phone can cost up to $200, along with $100 or so in monthly charges for all the bells and whistles.” – Main Street

     Read Related: 3 biggest financial challenges facing small businesses

5. Legal Fees

“You never know what’s going to happen. Small businesses are the biggest victims of frivolous lawsuits, according to the NFIB. Bogus and legitimate lawsuits cost small business owners in many ways:

  • Settlement costs. While the NFIB reports that settlements are often less than $5,000, they total $35.6 billion annually for small businesses in the U.S.
  • Higher insurance costs. After being victimized by bogus lawsuits, liability coverage premiums likely increase.
  • Lost opportunity. The time and attention that owners devote to lawsuits means time and attention not spent on running their businesses.” – Small Business Trends

6. Professional Services

“Legal and accounting fees can run into thousands of dollars annually, but these specialists can save you money and time. Legal professionals can untangle red tape. Accounting specialists can translate tax codes, help maintain accurate payment and inventory records, and find grants to help fund your endeavors. 

Negotiate with these professionals to keep fees manageable. You need the CPA or lawyer to do the heavy lifting that merits higher fees, but other tasks can easily be done (and billed to) their less-expensive support staff.  Some professionals and university programs may also offer pro-bono or discounted rates for advice or other services; it never hurts to ask.” – Wasp Buzz

7. Industry & Association Fees

“When starting up as a small business, it really helps to be connected. A great way to do this is by linking up with a trade association specific to your chosen industry. Keep in mind, however, that membership to these associations can be costly (upwards of hundreds of dollars for annual fees for membership), so try to be as selective as possible. Hopefully you will join one with loads of potential clients and try to keep the cost down by asking other members other good groups to join.” – Branding Beat

8. Equipment Repairs & Replacements

“Things break, and if you still need the equipment, you’ll have to repair or replace them. The cost of repairs can be pricey, with sole proprietors (Schedule C filers) paying more than $16.7 billion in 2012. Annual maintenance costs to keep equipment in good running condition should be an ongoing expense to avoid the higher costs of repairs or buying new equipment to replace the old.” – Small Business Trends

9. Utilities

Heating and electricity costs seem straightforward to some businesses, but they can also be unpredictable. If you’re in manufacturing, for example, or have electricity-heavy requirements in-office, like computer equipment, you’re utility bill could jump up.

“Paying for utilities could cost a significant amount of money for business owners, especially those who are looking to open a large scale operation with multiple employees. Large facilities not only require more lighting, but also more heat and air conditioning costs, which could really be especially costly for operations in extreme weather zones.” – B Plans

10. Online Payment Processors

“Did you know that some payment processors are in the habit of hiding certain fees? If your customers use premium/reward cards or your company doesn’t meet minimum monthly transactions, you could be shelling out more in payment fees than you bargained for.…

  • Some processors charge higher rates, up to 3.9%, for the premium cards that your customers prefer. Say your customer wants to use their frequent flyer or corporate card; you may get hit with a different rate vs. the originally advertised 1.9%.
  • Some processors don’t disclose what their monthly minimum process requirement or fees are. These fees can typically run $20-$35 per month if you don’t meet the minimum transaction volume. That means you’ll be penalized if you don’t meet a volume target.
  • Some processors charge a monthly statement fee, whether or not you are mailed a paper statement.
  • Finally, if you opt to cancel once you recover from the sticker shock of that first bill, you can be hit with a huge cancellation fee because you signed a multi-year agreement to get that “great deal.”” – PayPal

11. Growth Opportunities

“Most, if not all, business owners dream of growing their business empire. Often, this takes strategic expansion plans, but sometimes a growth opportunity may present itself unannounced. In order to capitalize on these opportunities, it is not uncommon for your business to require a sudden influx of capital. While I don’t advise you to account for this in your budget, it is important to be aware of ways in which you could secure business financing in case an opportunity presents itself.” – Under 30 CEO

12. Time

Time may not be a direct cost, but it’s an opportunity cost and the adage is true…time is money!

“Eric Allen [co-founder of consulting company Admit Advantage] agrees that time is a casualty of starting a business, and it can do more than eat up the hours you’d rather be doing cool work stuff. It can also spill into your personal life.

“”Opportunity cost is the cost that you’re giving up while choosing to do something else. I learned the concept in business school, but I didn’t realize it would include disappointed children, angry wives and annoyed business partners,” Allen says. “There is a significant physical and emotional cost of starting a business. It’s hard. That’s why most people fail.”” – Business Insider

 

What Is Fintech And Why Does It Matter?

what-is-fintech

The term “fintech” seems to be everywhere lately. Is this just a buzzword or is it buzzworthy? Let’s look at the details.

What is fintech?

Fintech is the shortened term for “financial technology.” It refers to companies that find ways to make financial services more efficient, intelligent and user-friendly by adopting and incorporating innovative technology and applications.

These can include different types of payment services, financial services, peer-to-peer transactions, alternative lending platforms and new crypto-currencies. And while some of these companies and new systems, like Bitcoin for example, have been seemingly quite volatile and downright confusing, there are an increasing number that have a much broader appeal to consumers and businesses alike.

Startups are the most common fintech company, as they can reinvent the wheel and start from the ground up for financial applications and processes – which are often complex and extremely resource heavy to change in legacy companies. These new fintech companies can also challenge the traditional system and create disruption in the market by offering new software and service that customers will expect from all competitors.

One example becoming more common is mobile payments. In some markets in fact, using your smartphone to pay for items is an everyday occurrence. And mobile banking has become more secure, safe and reliable – with apps providing instant access to the majority of your everyday banking needs. As consumers become more familiar and comfortable with such services, services such as Apple Pay are starting to gain real momentum and will force retailers, consumers and the financial industry to adapt.

Some high profile fintech companies getting a lot of buzz include:

  • Sofi: This fintech firm started by offering student loan assistance, then building upon that relationship to enter personal finance including mortgages and personal loans. By taking employment history and other factors into account, they’ve been able to offer solutions that weren’t typically available, especially to the younger consumer demographic.
  • OurCrowd: This Jerusalem-based company is considered a leader in equity crowdfunding for accredited investors. Managed by a team of investment pros who fund startups, they have put up $170 million from 1,500 investors.
  • Square: A simple device that turns your smartphone or tablet into a cash register. Swipe a customer card, accept payment, email receipts and get reports right to your laptop.

How will fintech companies change the market?

Although fintech companies are a hot trend, they are not forecast to wipe out traditional banking. Rather, they’ll be seen as a complement to the system, providing an ‘assist’ to bankers’ normal activities and practices while providing more options for customers in terms of available day-to-day technology.

The Economist reports that Silicon Valley fintech firms received $4 billion in funding in 2013, then an increase to $12 billion in 2014.  With such an influx in venture capital (VC) and other dollars, there’s no question this industry is set for success, and not just a flash in the pan trend.

That same report shows three key ways that fintech will change the market:

1. Cutting costs and improving quality of financial services: Without the same regulators, legacy IT systems that are complex and outdated, and brick-and-mortar branches as the old-school banking institutions, there are immediate cost savings possible in this industry. Fintech firms, in conjunction with alternative lenders, can often offer better deals to both borrowers and lenders.

2. Risk assessment: These new companies are clever – by capturing information from social media sites and online reviews to assess a small business’ performance. They also use machine learning to improve underwriting, and sites like Kickstarter are using crowdsourcing to help fund the fintech companies. By relying on algorithms and an innovative new generation of consumers, the industry can offer a fresh suite of services and limit their own risk.

3. Diversifying and stabilizing the credit landscape: By being geographically widespread and avoiding the heavy overhead of bricks-and-mortar locations like many traditional institutions, fintech firms can potentially limit their liability. They match borrowers with lenders and act as the platform or middleman to get the deal done. The lender assumes the risk so the fintech firm can grow their business and offerings. Other more established lenders can take advantage of fintech in order to access the best people, the best practices and make better decisions by not being limited to geography.

Should my business partner with a fintech firm? 

If you value the face-to-face relationships in business, you may not get that with a fintech firm for your financing needs. They are fast growing, looking for new business and may not offer traditional in-person service. That’s not to say this is the case with every fintech firm, but keep this in mind when investigating options for your business dealings.

And if you’re looking to develop a business partnership with a firm that has a rich history and experience in the market, and not just one with a rich VC funding, this may not be the place for you. There is nothing wrong with startups, VC funded companies and growth. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Entrepreneurs, business owners and innovators in fintech firms are forward thinking and help advance the entire industry, and should be well respected.

But businesses will no doubt come and go, be swallowed up by competition and perform the classic startup “pivot.” As with any business decision, due diligence is the best practice when deciding on which partners are best for your company.