successful small business office

How To Set Up Your Office For Success

successful small business office

Whether your business is growing in a commercial space or expanding its production facility, office set up affects your success.

One of the easiest, most economical ways to transform an office is paint. Select the color carefully. The color you choose will impact behavior. Kim Lachance Shandrow, a senior editor for Entrepreneur, writes about the power of color in her article How The Color of Your Office Impacts Productivity. Whites, taupes and grays can appear as blandor too institutional. Shandrow suggests blues and greens to improve efficiency and focus. Go with yellow to boost innovation and creativity.

Ergonomics make a significant difference in productivity as well. British manufacturer CMD creates furniture and lighting/technology solutions for commercial environments. Its blog post Five Facts You Need To Know About Ergonomics explains how correct ergonomics increase worker productivity by 11 percent. A poor set up can cause musculoskeletal injuries, which account for one-third of workday injuries and illnesses.

Choosing office furniture that is adjustable to the individual is a good start. Ideally when sitting at a desk, employees should be eye-level in front of a computer monitor with feet comfortably flat on the floor and arms at a right angle with wrists straight. Another choice: a standing desk, which experts say reduces the risk of diseases such as diabetes and cancer. The simple act of standing can burn an extra 750 calories over five three-hour workdays.

Lighting is another consideration. Andrew Jensen, a business growth and efficiency consultant, writes in his blog post How Office Lighting Affects Productivity that artificial lighting can cause eye strain and headaches. In fact, it is one of the most likely office features to negatively affect motivation.

Jensen explains: “With light being a key component of vision, and vision being responsible for 80 to 85 percent of our perception of the world around us, it’s not difficult to see why ignoring proper lighting strategies in your office could have a significant negative impact on productivity. Harsh lighting and dim lighting are equally detrimental to the productivity of your workers, and, by opting instead for more natural lighting or other lighting systems that have been proven effective, you stand to not only save energy but also increase productivity among your business’s employees.”

Ready to deck out your office? Begin by benchmarking and peek at other companies’ interiors. Inc.com highlighted the World’s Coolest Offices 2015 last fall, picking winners for offices from large to small. The common denominator: open concept, functionality, communal spaces and touches that inspire creativity.

financial growth

The Secret To Financing Growth

financial growth

Turn your business into a growth powerhouse with one simple insight.

You’ve just received a terrific opportunity: The sale that will take your business to the next level. Nothing in small business is as exhilarating as a sudden growth spurt that comes from a big order. But after the thrill of the deal, how do you deliver the goods without overstretching yourself at the bank? When you make a big sale you’re going to need supplies to complete the order. But you could well run into suppliers who don’t want to risk sending you supplies without getting paid up front. Consider their position—they may be wondering if you can really deliver that big sale, and whether your ultimate customer will pay in a timely manner. They might not be willing to risk selling to you without payment up front.

What can you do to satisfy your suppliers while getting the materials you need to complete your sale to the big customer? One solution that many smart small business operators rely on is purchase-order (PO) financing, and it can be a genuine lifeline at times like this. PO financing can cover up to 100% of the costs of producing goods by paying your suppliers either with a letter of credit against production or payment against bona fide shipping documents. You and your financial institution arrange for inspection of completed goods before payment goes out, protecting you and the financier.

Robert Thompson-So, Vice-President and Chief Strategy Officer at Liquid Capital, says PO financing typically covers two types of deals. One is pre-sold finished goods shipped directly to an end buyer, to a third-party warehouse or shipped and monitored to a client’s warehouse. A second type of deal is to fund works in progress.

You need to understand that PO financing is not a loan, Thompson-So says. “It is essentially an advance on funds to cover suppliers’ bills. A financier agrees to pay your supplier for goods pre-sold to your customer. They then collect the invoice from the end customer and retrieve the moneys advanced you, minus a fee.”

Another benefit is that PO financing doesn’t require a perfect credit history on your part. The financial institution will, however, be vigilant about your ultimate customer’s creditworthiness because that is how it will get repaid. So if you have average credit, you can feel confident about using PO financing.

Even if you’re using PO financing, always be sure to watch your cash cushion. PO financing is no substitute for vigilance over payables and receivables. Run a simulation on what would happen if your customers got behind in their payments—would if affect your ability to attract the kind of big orders PO financing would help you with? Would it hamper your credit rating? Consider electronic invoicing so you can track your payments at all times. This will be important as your business grows with those big orders coming in.

hiring strategies

Hiring Strategies For Growing Companies

hiring strategies

You’ve experienced it either on your own or through clients, colleagues, family or friends: starting a company takes courage and hard work. Growing a company is far more difficult. Whether the business is right out of the gate or in a more advanced stage with a few key employees, the time will come when hiring additional staff is necessary for growth.

Entrepreneurs are known for wearing the proverbial “many hats” as they launch and develop their businesses. The same is true of their first-aboard employees. At a certain point, however, they need to delegate those hats to other skilled workers.

How do you know it’s time? Simple – the company is unable to meet demand. Some signs include late orders, poor service and administrative mistakes. Another clue: you must turn down new business to keep up with the client base you already have. Before hiring, though, consider the following:

  • Whether you really want to grow into a bigger company.
  • Will new customers/orders continue on a regular basis? Could a temp or freelancer cover your short-term needs?
  • Can you afford to hire additional employees?

You also must decide what positions you need to fill most. If administrative duties are burdening you or an office manager, expanding your customer service and/or administrative team might be a good choice. If you’re not good with numbers, someone with accounting skills can help. Want to drive more sales? Adding a national sales manager, salesperson or independent sales rep can expand the company’s reach. When it comes to marketing, you can outsource to an agency or social media expert or a combination of creatives to build your brand. The main thing a small business needs, however, is versatility. Finding multitalented, adaptable people who understand and reflect the business owner’s vision is paramount.

What’s the best approach? Entrepreneur recently shared tips for hirers in its article 4 Strategies for Hiring the Right People at Your Startup, written by contributor Brian de Haaff, who has successfully started and sold companies and is currently CEO of Aha!. He stresses the importance of attracting like-minded employees. To do so you’ll need to define your core values as a company and then seek those who have your same work ethic. Look in the right places, such as posting an opening on your own website, LinkedIn and niche career sites. How you interview potential candidates matters too. “Ask behavioral questions,” de Haaff counsels. “Seek to discover how the candidate’s past actions relate to your values.”

Human Resources Expert Susan M. Heathfield’s About.com post Use a Behavioral Interview to Select the Best Employees stresses the importance of writing the job description based on the behavioral characteristics it requires. If the position is for a salesperson who must be an effective networker then request networking skills. During the interview confirm the characteristic with a behavioral prompt. Heathfield suggests, “Tell me about a time when you obtained a new customer through networking activities.”

Prepare to invest in this endeavor. It takes time and money to search for, interview, hire and train a new employee. If outsourcing services is the solution, selecting the best service partner could take weeks, and possibly months for the individual to get fully up to speed. You’ll know when you’ve chosen the right one: you, your employees and your company will flourish.

financial breakup

What To Do When A Financial Institution Breaks Up With You

financial breakup

Few events are more unsettling for a small business owner than losing the financial support of their bank or lending institution. In 2013, a major North American bank ended its relationship with hundreds of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) because of a change in commercial banking focus. It was not an isolated incident. “There can be changes in the overall economic or credit environment,” says Sol Roter, president of Liquid Capital Corp. Financial institutions, he says, “that may dictate whether to enter or leave whole industries, depending on circumstances.” This can be a function of the economy or a change in their lending portfolio profile.

Whatever the reason, the results can be devastating for SMEs that are caught unaware. Suddenly, lines of credit dry up. If too many receivables accumulate, it could push you into a cash-flow crisis. “It could even put you out of business,” Roter says. So what can you do to survive the sudden loss of your financial institution? Fortunately, the answer is plenty—if you’re prepared.

“You need to figure out what financing you need, and then update your forecasts and your business plan as quickly as possible,” Roter says. “Do a credit check on your firm and yourself to see if anything sticks out that you can correct before approaching a new financial institution.” Also, conduct a registration search to see if any registrations need to be dealt with in advance.

Once you’re sure that you’re in a position to put your best foot forward to a new institution, start working your network of contacts. Ask them if they have entrees with banks and other lenders that may want to do business with you. Ask your accountant, lawyer, insurance broker or anyone else you think can refer you. But sometimes conventional banks won’t touch less-than-stellar businesses. Says Roter: “If your business is hurting and out of financial covenant, you’re going to have to reach beyond conventional banks and approach non-traditional funders such as receivables financiers and asset-based lenders.”

Whomever you approach, there are other steps you can take to prepare for visiting a new financial institution. “It’s really important to prepare yourself properly,” Roter says. “On the credit side, if you don’t have an up-to-date financial statement, or you’re just not willing to discuss and deal with difficult matters, it doesn’t look good.”

Professional lenders will check into your background and it’s wishful thinking to believe that they won’t find shortcomings or, worse, skeletons. “Disclose it up front,” Roter says.  And in this era of pervasive social media, examine your online presence, including your personal one, for anything that may cast you in an unflattering light. Any  content that shows you behaving irresponsibly could affect your credit rating and, ultimately, your next banking or lending relationship.”

If your business is shipshape, keep an eye out for changes in the economic climate that may sideswipe you, as the banks tend not to view individual businesses in isolation. “Banks will signal into the marketplace,” Roter says, “but it’s nuanced. They’ll express in the media that, say, they’re concerned about certain sectors. These days it’s oil and gas. It shouldn’t be any surprise to oil and gas companies to find that the bank says it’s reducing exposure in that sector. It may be nothing personal.” The lesson here? Be prepared and always keep your eye out for new financial relationships.

collaboration

Collaborate And Create For Business Growth

collaboration

Entrepreneurship is alive and well with 27 million Americans either starting or running a new business. Research from the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, sponsored by Babson and Baruch Colleges, offers a positive outlook noting that “24% of U.S. entrepreneurs expect to employ 20 or more people within the next five years, up from 16% in 2012.” The same study also places Canadian entrepreneurship rising, second only to the United States.

Collaboration and creativity can significantly contribute to a company’s success

A 2014 Kapost blog by creativity consultant Katrina Pfannkuch lists 10 Stats on Creativity That Will Change the Way You Do Business.

Three highlights:

  • Six in 10 CEOs cite creativity as the most important leadership quality.
  • 75% of people feel they are not living up to their creative potential. (Imagine what businesses can achieve if leaders unleash their team’s talent.)
  • Creative industries boast faster job growth than other sectors of the economy.

Choose your team carefully and keep it to a manageable size

Approach as if you’re creating a recipe. A team leader must be confident and able to delegate. An outgoing creative person can excite team members and open the door to group brainstorming. Someone with detail skills can keep track of what the group decides and what steps must be taken. Each “ingredient” will come together so that the best ideas are fully “baked.”

One way to expand the team’s ability to collaborate is to draw upon professionals who work from home. The infographic “The Evolution of Creative Collaboration” by cloud-software provider WebDAM estimates 20 to 30 million people work remotely at least once a week, accessing files and teams from the Cloud, increasing productivity and fostering innovation. When individuals change their routine, such as from an office to home environment, creativity can flourish.

Trust is vital to collaboration

It takes time to develop; it isn’t automatic. Yoram Soloman, who wrote “The Dynamics of a Creative Team” for Innovation Excellence, an online resource for optimizing creativity, explains that there are ways to speed the process. He notes three important factors:

  1. Partner team members with a personal relationship.
  2. Use bonding and team-building activities to create shared life experiences.
  3. Encourage face-to-face meetings whenever possible.

Above all, fuel your team with confidence. Give them a clear goal and the time and materials required to make it happen. Model how the team should operate. Listen, discuss and welcome all ideas from every team member. Once goals are achieved, recognize the individual efforts of each person.

Collaboration and creativity have been integral to Liquid Capital’s model for helping businesses succeed. Ask about our growth and back-office support that impacts businesses throughout North America day after day.