startup mistakes

10 Avoidable Mistakes That Could Doom Your Startup

startup mistakes

90% of startups fail. It’s a new world of business, and only the strongest new companies will survive. So how do you avoid startup doom?

Sometimes failure comes down to sheer bad luck or influences beyond an entrepreneur’s control, but in many cases, it can come down to the same simple mistakes that companies make time and time again.

Here are 10 common errors to avoid if you want your business to last the distance.

1. Inadequate Market Research

It doesn’t matter how remarkable you think your product is if the market doesn’t agree with you. Very few startups offer an innovation that can truly revolutionize a space, so before you spend significant money on development and marketing, be sure your market research is up to scratch. Don’t waste time and resources on a white elephant with no demand.

2. Insufficient Startup Funding

All startups need to have a realistic plan for how they’ll operate until revenue starts to flow reliably. Almost always, this means having sufficient initial funding in place to see you through the first lean months or years, whether that’s through your own investment or via a third party funding partner.

3. Unsuitable Partner Choice

As vital as funding is, it’s a mistake to go into business with a partner just because of the capital they can inject. For long-term success, you also need to have a matching vision, common aims, and complementary skill sets.

4. Poor Customer Care

If gaining and retaining customers isn’t your number one aim, your company will struggle to develop any momentum. Providing great customer care and an excellent experience is a non-negotiable requirement for success.

5. Ignoring Revenue Needs

Especially in tech sectors, it seems fashionable for startups to focus on building a product range and a user base while leaving revenue worries until later. This rarely works out well. If you don’t have a strong, actionable idea about how you’ll generate revenue as you grow, gaining more customers could actually be a fast route to failure as your costs quickly outstrip your income.

6. Poor Budget Control

Never let costs get out of control in your quest for growth. Losing sight of the importance of healthy cash flow is a big mistake — no matter how many other metrics you use to measure success. Unless you have investors with extremely deep pockets (who aren’t focused on ROI), you need to keep a steady eye on the bottom line.

7. Getting Overly Enthusiastic

Hopefully, your startup will be a rapid success, but it’s all too common for entrepreneurs to become too enthusiastic at the first signs of substantial profit. It’s important to keep a level head, press on with your strategy, and continue making sensible business decisions rather than letting that enthusiasm get the better of you.

8. Poor Hiring or Collaboration

There is a common image of a lone wolf or maverick entrepreneur, but the truth is that any successful business relies on hiring high-quality staff and working with skilled third parties when necessary. Trying to do everything yourself isn’t the best use of your entrepreneurial talents.

On the flip side, if it’s not working out with a staff member or third party relationship, you should have no qualms about rectifying the situation before too much damage is done.

9. Fear of Delegation

Once you have high-caliber staff in place, you need to trust them to do their jobs. Many driven entrepreneurs struggle with delegation, but it’s essential for serious growth. If you constantly micromanage your staff, expansion is limited by the number of hours you can put in personally.

10. Lack of IP Protection

Lastly, in the rush for growth, many businesses fail to properly protect their intellectual property. Patents, trademarks and copyrights are all essential. If others can replicate the core aspects of your business without any legal barriers, you can be sure that someone with deeper pockets or a larger existing customer base will eventually move into your space.

 

If you have the entrepreneurial frame of mind and a winning business idea, it can be tempting to go full throttle towards growth and success. However, it’s vital to learn from the mistakes of others and take a little care along the way. Avoid these common errors and you’ll stand a much better chance of being in business for the long haul.

bitcoin business

Should I Accept Bitcoin in My Business? (Part 2)

Cryptocurrency & Blockchain: Hype or the New Reality? (Part 2)

bitcoin business

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are based on the underlying blockchain technology that comes with safety, anonymity, and a lot of confusion. Read Part 1 of this story to learn what blockchain is all about.

Digital currency prices are even more temperamental than the stock market. They can increase or decrease unpredictably over a short period of time due to their young economy, novel nature and often-illiquid markets.

But if you invest or accept crypto at the right time, you can see huge gains.

Like any other investment, you should do your homework before purchasing any cryptocurrency. The same goes for accepting Bitcoin or other crypto for goods and services.

If you don’t know much about this new currency model, then educate yourself until you are certain that it’s a valuable trade for your business. And make sure your business can stay afloat even if you lost all of that cryptocurrency. 

Be warned that many “experts” who provide crypto advice are more concerned with enriching themselves than helping beginners, so it’s best to stick to unbiased data until you really know what you are doing. To start, CoinMarketCap.com is a great unbiased source for nearly any token’s price, historical value and planned circulation. You can learn a lot by following these trends online.

Should I buy or receive crypto?

bitcoin business checklist

Before jumping into cryptocurrency, keep a few points in mind:

  1. Never keep your business savings in cryptocurrency. View it like you would a high-risk asset.
  2. If you receive payments, you’ll probably want to quickly convert them to your local currency to avoid any unpredictability with the market.
  3. If you keep your currency in crypto, know that there are risks — don’t keep anything in these digital wallets that you aren’t willing to lose.
  4. Transactions cannot be reversed. According to Bitcoin.org, transactions can only be refunded by the person receiving the funds. “This means you should take care to do business with people and organizations you know and trust, or who have an established reputation.”
  5. Cryptocurrency is still not an officially recognized currency. “Most jurisdictions still require you to pay income, sales, payroll, and capital gains taxes on anything that has value, including bitcoins.”

How do I open a digital wallet?

bitcoin business digital wallet

If you’re still interested in owning cryptocurrency or accepting it in your business, you first need a “wallet” — which is your account.

Crypto wallets consist of two random strings of characters. The first identifies your account on the public blockchain, making it a username of sorts. The second is your “private key” — a password that must be inputted before any transaction to ensure that you are the only one who can use your account. Experts generally advise keeping your private key a secret to limit unauthorized use of your account.

Once you have a wallet, you need to choose an “exchange” to facilitate your crypto purchase.

An exchange is like your cryptocurrency trading site — a place where you can buy, sell and trade digital currencies. Many exchanges are online sites, but some can also be brick-and-mortar locations.

CoinBase is a popular online choice for beginners due to its intuitive interface and the ability to fund your purchases with a credit card or bank account. Its selection is limited, so many crypto enthusiasts ultimately graduate to another platform such as Bittrex or Kraken.

The future of blockchain

bitcoin business future

Digital currencies are a complicated subject that can fill many textbooks, blogs, forums and conference agendas for years to come, so don’t rush into any decision just to jump on a bandwagon. You may miss a bit of the ride, but at least you’ll know what route you’ll be taking.

Only time will tell if crypto will change the financial landscape as we know it…

Missed part one of the story? Read it here.

Cryptocurrency blockchain

Cryptocurrency & Blockchain: Hype or the New Reality? (Part 1)

Cryptocurrency blockchain

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum have been on a wild ride in the past couple years, famously reaching sky-high growth and then plummeting without much warning. No doubt, there are skeptics of this novel currency — but there are also countless stories of rich crypto lovers and modern businesses that have taken a chance on the digital trend. Is this just a fad, or should all companies start adopting a crypto strategy?

A confusing currency for business

Cryptocurrency blockchain confusion

It’s a non-stop rollercoaster in the digital currency world, and the only sure thing seems to be how confused it’s made the would-be investors and businesses that are considering getting on board.

It’s understandable. Many people don’t understand how any commodity can vary so dramatically in price, especially something with no intrinsic value.

Yet experts predict that cryptocurrency is here to stay for the long haul. If that is the case, most business professionals will need to learn the basics of digital currency and this emerging technology.

The sooner, the better — and potentially, the more profitable.

What is blockchain?

Cryptocurrency blockchain safety

Any discussion about crypto has to start with its underlying technology: blockchain.

Simply put, a blockchain is a public ledger that automatically records every transaction that happens on the network.

For instance, if you collect 10 Bitcoin from a customer, then a “block” on the Bitcoin blockchain will record that transaction.

If you’re thinking that it sounds easy to tamper with, think again.

Is blockchain safe?

Cryptocurrency blockchain mining

The blockchain has checks and balances for added protection. To start, every transaction on the blockchain is verified by “miners” who are individuals using powerful computers to crunch the numbers. These miners make sure that every single block is compatible with all the others that came before it. Any effort to tamper with the blockchain would need to edit multiple blocks simultaneously to ensure constant agreement — a task that’s almost impossible to do.

In addition, whoever owns the computers that successfully verify a transaction will be rewarded with brand new cryptocurrency (Bitcoin, in the example above). This provides an impressive incentive structure to keep the miners ahead of the hackers.

Blockchains also have an added security. Every single token is traceable through every account it has ever been in.

How are various crypto tokens different?

Cryptocurrency blockchain tokens

Each individual crypto token has its own blockchain, some of which operate differently.

For example, Ethereum’s blockchain is programmable, allowing for the development of “smart contracts” that automatically fulfill themselves once set conditions are met. Bitcoin’s blockchain lacks this functionality.

Likewise, various blockchains have different processing speeds, with Ethereum generally moving more quickly than Bitcoin. Of course, actual processing speeds are always variable depending on the number and quality of miners verifying the transactions at any given moment.

Supply and demand

Cryptocurrency blockchain supply and demand

There are many different types of cryptocurrency coins, and each has a differently planned circulation — or how much of it is available to the marketplace. Coins with lower planned circulations, such as Bitcoin’s 21,000,000 BTC, tend to be favored by investors since the limited supply translates into a higher price if demand is also high.

By contrast, Ripple’s planned circulation of 100,000,000,000 XRP means that any single XRP can’t be worth that much — no matter how high demand climbs.

However, a very large supply is a prerequisite for any coin hoping to compete with traditional currencies for everyday transactions, such as the U.S. Dollar. The most ardent blockchain supporters tend to favor large circulating supplies as a result.

So should you accept Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies in your business? And if so, how do you get started. Read Part 2 to learn the answers.

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 access cash against your existing and ongoing customer invoices. 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.

Ready for help? Turn your open invoices into working capital with Liquid Capital’s Accounts Receivable Factoring Solution.

Group working at on computers with laptops

6 Simple Ways to Improve Your Company’s Culture

company culture

A great company culture can make a world of difference when it comes to hiring and retaining quality team members. If you’re wondering how to improve your company culture, try the following simple, easy-to-implement tips.

Focus on team building

Employees who work well together do wonders for a company. Employees who haven’t had the chance to bond? Not so much.

Consider hosting regular events during which employees can socialize and get to know each other. This doesn’t have to mean long nights out — try bowling or paintball instead, or other activities that align with your company’s values. Your employees will appreciate having something fun to do, and they’ll be able to spend quality time with their co-workers in a less restrictive environment than the office. Once they feel they can trust each other, employees will be much more likely to share creative ideas — ultimately benefiting the company.

Reward employees

company culture reward

If an employee does a good job, they should be rewarded for it. It’s easy to single employees out when they’ve made a mistake, but this will cause resentment and low morale. Rewarding employees for their hard work or initiative will encourage them to keep working hard. That can also encourage their co-workers, who will see these rewards and strive for excellence.

As a bonus, your turnover rates will likely decrease, as employees who feel like they’re appreciated tend to stay with the company for longer.

Offer activities during lunch breaks

company culture dance

Don’t encourage your employees to just eat sandwiches at their desks during their lunch hour. Instead, you can offer a little extra to help boost morale, energy and afternoon productivity.

For example, by hosting a fitness class during lunch hour, employees can get their daily exercise during office hours instead of having to squeeze in an hour at the gym after work? You could also encourage a company book club to arrange a weekly get together. Or schedule regular lunch and learn sessions that can feature guest speakers and fun sessions that your employees will find particularly interesting.

Use quality furniture to create unique office zones and meeting spaces

If you’re serious about improving your company’s culture, you might like to – at least partly – move away from the traditional cubicles that are ever-present in offices. Instead, create interesting and comfortable meeting spaces by using furniture that might already be at hand. Perhaps your employees would appreciate collaboration spaces with comfy chairs. Or maybe they’d prefer having a chill-out zone to rest during a break. You know your employees, so work with their personalities and give them access to an environment they’ll enjoy.

Allow employees to work remotely

company culture remote work

Even if it’s not possible every day of the week, giving employees the occasional opportunity to work remotely will likely feel like a serious perk to many. Having time away from the office, even if it’s just one day a week or month, will help to refresh and motivate them. Employees may also be able to focus on a special project without distractions from the workplace. If you can manage it, give remote working a test run.

Encourage taking breaks

Employees will be much more productive if they’re allowed to take regular breaks, and they’ll feel much more positive about their place of employment, too. To this end, be generous about breaks. You don’t have to let your employees run wild – but encourage them not to feel uncomfortable about stepping away from their desks for a short while. This will help both your employees and the company in the long run.

Improving the culture of your company is one of the most important things to consider when thinking about employee productivity and retention. Boost your company culture and not only will you have happier and more productive employees, but you’ll also keep them around longer.

A cellphone and a headphone

How to listen to podcasts

how to listen to podcasts

Podcasts are an undeniable trend seeing rapid growth in the business world. Over 42 million people listen to these online shows every week in the United States, and with a 10 to 20 per cent increase in listeners every year, that number is set to skyrocket. Couple that with the over 550,000 podcast options available and you’ve got an incredibly massive ecosystem.

So what exactly is a podcast and how can you start listening?

Think of a podcast as an online radio show that has episodes, hosts, guests and even seasons. Many of these podcasts are highly produced and researched, focusing on virtually any topic you could possibly imagine. From professional development, finance, entrepreneur stories and startup strategies all the way to cars, cooking, comedy and murder mysteries — you name it, there’s a podcast.

There are plenty of ways for you to easily listen to podcasts — all available on any smartphone, tablet or computer (and even some smartwatches) with Internet access. All you need is to open up your podcast app, search for the program name and press play. What’s more, the shows are free — and with a little preparation, you can download your favorite episodes to listen offline when data service isn’t available, such as in airplanes, subways and remote locations.

Here are some easy podcast apps to get started.

Apple Podcasts

For iPhone and iPad users, this is one of the easiest ways to get listening to podcasts. Simply use the pre-installed “Podcasts” app on your device to search for any program. Subscribe to your favorite shows and automatically download episodes as they’re released so you’ve always got the latest program at hand.

Price: Free

Google Play Music

For Android users, this streaming music app also doubles for listening to podcasts. This straightforward app has no fancy bells and whistles like some of the paid options on the market, but you can also use the desktop version to easily listen from your computer.

Price: Free on Android

Spotify

This famous music streaming app has added podcasts to the mix, referring to them simply as “Shows” in the navigation menu. Unlike other podcast services, Spotify curates their list — so you won’t find everything under the sun, but you will get a great list of hand-selected programs. You can also quickly flip between podcasts and your music selections, which is handy if you’re prone to channel-changing. Taking it a step further, Spotify has also added short video shows to the mix, which shows another potential level up in the podcast world.

Price: Free version available or subscribe to Premium for $10/month.

Pocket Casts

If you’re serious about podcast listening, the investment in Pocket Casts could be well worth the minimal price tag. Pocket Casts kicks your listening up a big notch, allowing you to set custom skip and rewind intervals to avoid advertising or easily relisten to parts of the show. You can also make use of their voice boosting and silence trimming feature which will help when you’re listening in a noisy environment (aka coffee shops, public transit or a busy office). And by syncing across all your devices, the listening experience on Pocket Casts is hard to beat.

Price: Free 14 day trial. If you choose to subscribe, it’s a $9 one-time fee.

Overcast (for Apple iOS)

Available on the Apple iOS platform only, Overcast provides some similar features as Pocket Casts — but it’s free! With recent improvements in its latest version release, there’s not much holding it back as a top contender to be Apple users’ number one choice.

Price: Free

Podcast Addict (for Android)

Another option for Android users, Podcast Addict proclaims that it is “the #1 Podcast App on Android with 8+M downloads, 400K reviews, 1 Billion episodes downloaded and an average rating of 4.6/5.” Pretty impressive in such a competitive market, this app offers multiple features while also managing podcasts, radio and audiobooks, plus other formats like Live stream, YouTube, Twitch, SoundCloud channels and RSS News feeds.

Price: Free, and you can purchase the “Donate” version for $4.29 to support the developer.

 

Ready to start listening? Check out our list of fantastic business-related podcasts featuring shows like Outside In, Business Wars, BizChix and Start With Why. There’s a little something for every business owner and entrepreneur looking for inspiring shows to help grow their business strategy.

podcast business hit list

 

Up Next: 11 online tools for creative entrepreneurs.

Laptop, a sheet of diagrams and notebook on a desk

How to check your business credit report

Your credit rating is a useful tool to help lenders evaluate your financial health. Your score is a reflection of your company’s ability to make payments on time — an important point on any lender’s checklist.

Get these quick answers to common credit report questions:

Where can I obtain my credit report?

There are many options to obtain your credit report including common providers like Equifax, Experian and Dun & Bradstreet. For personal credit reports, you can also look to sites like Credit Karma. Check around and find the right option for you.

Pull a credit report for both your business and yourself, and do this on a regular basis. Sometimes these reports also have incorrect information, and it’s important to be aware of mistakes so you can fix them.

What’s on the credit report?

Your credit score is largely based on public data and information that vendors and other lenders have reported. Each credit bureau has its own rating system, with some common examples below:

  • Dun & Bradstreet: PAYDEX Score: 0 – 100 (Good Score is 80+)
  • Experian: Credit Ranking Intelliscore: 0 – 100 (Good Score is 76+)
  • Equifax: Business Payment Index: 0 – 100 (Good Score is 90+)

You might also discover a multitude of items within your credit report that show signs of identity theft, which has become a modern reality. If someone is using your identity, there are going to be breadcrumbs and trails. Don’t be overly worried, but be aware that it is a possibility.

How often should I pull my credit report?

As for frequency, pull your reports yearly. It doesn’t cost a lot to obtain your own credit report (some may even be free), and the time it takes will be well worth it to make sure the information is accurate.

How to become lender friendly

Go beyond your credit rating and learn five more ways to become “lender friendly” and improve cash flow.

Access the complete eBook.


Will this impact my credit rating?

It’s a common misconception that requesting your own credit report could damage your credit rating. If you’re just obtaining the report and just looking at results, this will not have a negative impact. However, if too many banks or lenders request your report at the same time, that may have a negative impact, since it could signal that you’re shopping less strategically for financing. (See section 3 for more details.)

What’s a D-U-N-S Number and why should I request one?

Of note, it is worthwhile to request a D-U-N-S Number with Dun & Bradstreet. The D-U-N-S Number allows you to proactively add your most current information to Dun & Bradstreet’s records. It is used by lenders to predict if you are a reliable and financially stable company, and is an easier method for them to find your credit information.

Checking your credit rating will help you prepare for future funding and get a head start on the lending process.

For five more expert tips to improve your access to timely business funding, view the helpful eBook resource, “How to Become Lender Friendly.”

A businessman checking cellphone

Why you should perform a UCC or PPSA search ASAP

One of the most fatal financing problems is out-of-date or inaccurate “security registrations” filed against your business. Security registrations are filed by lenders or creditors when you buy or borrow to help guarantee you make your payments, often using personal property as collateral. These are common in the world of lending, and once your debt is paid off the record is discharged. But that isn’t always the case…

When these security registration records are incorrect, they can stop you from being able to secure future financing. Other lenders will shy away from providing you further financing since they won’t be able to claim the proper security interest against your assets.

Example security registration

Let’s say you purchased a printer from an office supply company a few years ago, making regular payments until the full price is paid off. The vendor (aka the lender) filed a security registration against your company to act as security — a loan for the printer until it’s fully paid.

After agreeing to your side of the bargain, you paid the printer off last year, which should mean the security registration is discharged. But after doing a search, you see that it’s still on your record and the vendor didn’t make the proper updates.

Now you’ll need to go back to your supplier and ask that they discharge the registration. Their admin is backlogged, and they say it could take days or weeks to fulfill the request.

How do you search for security registrations?

In the USA, a basic UCC search should be performed, while in Canada, companies should perform a PPSA search (or RDPRM in Quebec).

These searches, if done in the proper jurisdiction, will tell you if a third party is claiming a security interest in any property of your company (other than real estate).

 

How to become lender friendly

Follow all six steps to becoming “lender friendly” and get prepared to access funding from any lender.

Access the complete eBook.


What if I uncover incorrect security registrations?

Sometimes the security registration records aren’t clean. Even if you think there are no security registrations filed against your company, it’s worth double-checking the official records. Some common problems include:

  • Incorrect filings
  • Your debt was paid off, but the filing was not discharged
  • It shows a wider scope of security than you agreed upon was registered
  • A registration was filed against your company without your knowledge

It’s up to you to correct your security registration files by contacting prior lenders who can discharge the registrations. Do this well in advance of requesting new financing, as the process could take longer than expected. You may not be able to get new financing until the records are corrected.

How often should I do a search (& how much does it cost)?

Very few companies will conduct UCC or PPSA searches on a regular basis. Don’t be in the dark — even if you’re not looking for financing, it’s good practice to do this at least once a year, and it costs you nothing to perform the search.

Should every company do a UCC or PPSA search?

For new companies or start-ups, there might not yet be anything registered and outstanding. But if you’re an established business and have previously leased equipment or borrowed money or even rented premises in the past, there’s a higher chance that a security registration has been filed.

Do my personal records count?

Make sure you perform these searches for both your company AND yourself personally, as lenders may also look at your personal records. Luckily, in most jurisdictions these searches are easy to perform online through a service provider.

By checking on your records and following these steps, you’ll be able to mitigate delays in future funding and maintain your financial health.

For five more expert tips to improve your access to timely business funding, view the helpful eBook resource, “How to Become Lender Friendly.”

Email marketing illustration

4 Steps to Launch Your Company’s New Email Marketing Program

Part 1 of the “Do-it-Right Email Marketing” series.

email marketing program

Do you have customers who might benefit from hearing from you more often? Inactive customers you’d love to try to re-engage? Prospects who ignore your phone calls? If so, it’s probably time to launch a new email marketing program.

According to the Email Statistics Report from The Radicati Group, there were 269 billion emails sent per day in 2017. By 2021, this figure is expected to rise to almost 320 billion. As much as we love shiny new communication channels like What’s App and Twitter, clearly, email is still an integral part of our lives and isn’t going away. This is even more true in the business world.

A well-developed email program can do wonders for a business. It can enable you to:

  • Increase awareness of your products, services and solutions
  • Share ideas, stories and information your audience can’t get elsewhere
  • Promote upcoming events
  • Keep in touch with buyers and potential buyers
  • Entice prospects to set up a meeting
  • Generate new business

To ensure your email marketing program gets off to a solid start, follow these four guidelines.

1. Get your lists together

It doesn’t matter how compelling your content is or if your template design is jaw-dropping: if you aren’t reaching the right people, all of your behind-the-scenes efforts will be for naught.

Your primary audience should be your customers, inactive customers and prospects. If you can break up these groups further, that’s ideal. Can you split your customer list into regular purchasers vs. those who haven’t purchased in 12 months? By dollar amount? Region? Segmenting your list will allow you to tailor your email campaigns.

Chances are you have access to association and networking group lists. Don’t automatically add those contacts to your database or you will be in violation of spam legislation (CASL in Canada or the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States). First seek the permission of your colleagues, explaining that your emails will be educational and informational. If you don’t, you may end up with a ton of spam reports, opt-outs and potentially even fines.

It is a good idea to have vendors and employees subscribe to your lists, too. The former may gain insights about your organization that ultimately benefit you, while the latter will likely demonstrate more interest in your email marketing efforts if you include them in the process. Here are other ideas for growing your email database.

2. Choose your “email service provider” carefully

The next step is choosing the platform you will use to send your email campaigns – your email service provider.

There are many affordable providers that cater to do-it-yourselfers (such as Constant Contact, MailChimp and Emma) by offering pre-designed, customizable templates or the option of uploading HTML code for a custom design. Be sure to compare platforms and carefully consider factors like features, support and deliverability.

3. Plan helpful content for your audience

One of the biggest challenges for many small businesses is what to say to their audience. It’s natural to want to focus on what your organization offers, and heavily promote your products or services. Unless you’re a behemoth and much-loved brand, however, that’s the last thing your audience wants to read.

To capture – and keep – the interest of your customers and prospects, dedicate your messaging to their interests and needs. Your content should include anecdotes, how-to documentation, case studies, resources, industry news, trends, new product information, and only if appropriate, special offers.

No more than 20 per cent of your material should be promotional or you’ll turn off buyers.

4. Design for email, not for print

Email is a different animal than print. If you’ve ever received an email with fuzzy images or text that was difficult to read, it means the designer didn’t understand the difference.

A typical email template is 600 pixels wide, while an 8.5 x 11” piece of paper is 2,550 pixels wide. That means you can’t take a layout created for print, then drop a picture of it into an email template and expect it to look stellar. Either recreate it at 600 pixels wide or create a complimentary design comprised of smaller images, body text, headings, subheads and multiple links.

Equally important, your email campaigns need to look good on both desktop and mobile devices. Even if you sell strictly to businesses, it’s likely that 25 to 35 per cent of your audience will view your emails on a smartphone or tablet. If your campaigns aren’t easy to view, you will unintentionally encourage your contacts to delete your emails or unsubscribe.

 

Cathy Cain-Blank is President of CC Marketing and Communications, specializing in developing and deploying effective email marketing campaigns for businesses across North America.

 

Get more accomplished

21 Effective Ways to Get More Accomplished Every Day

Get more accomplished

What secrets do the world’s top businesspeople use to be hyper-productive? How do they seem to fit so much into each day, week and year to get more accomplished than the average worker? The answer is in the small tasks they do to stay focused on their goals, priorities and the outcomes that will consistently progress them to the next level.

Here are 21 of the greatest tips that elite entrepreneurs and business pros do that have put them on top.

1. Get more accomplished with an ultimate to-do list

Create a master to-do list, not a variety of different lists in multiple formats and locations. Stick to one, preferably online that syncs across all devices and that is available when you’re offline — so even when you don’t have Wi-Fi you can keep adjusting your task list.

2. Prep every night

Start the night before by answering three questions for the next day: 1) What will you work on first thing tomorrow? 2) What do you hope to accomplish during the day? 3) What must get completed tomorrow, in priority? The answers should feed into your to-do list.

3. Your routine is key

Establish a daily ritual. For example, you may start your day by pouring a coffee, putting on instrumental music and reading your favorite newspaper online. Then move straight into your most critical task of the day. By mid-day, you may decide to always take lunch and a 15-minute walk, and on the way home you catch the latest podcast on your list.

4. Learn on the go

Speaking of podcasts, listening to them on your commute to or from work is a great way to research and learn. Don’t waste that time on Google or Candy Crush though, when you can be getting in some professional development time or improving an important skill. Listening to podcasts like HBR Ideacast and Outside In will get you thinking a step ahead of your competition.

5. Power hour

Schedule a “power hour” for the first 60 minutes of every morning — where you work diligently and uninterrupted on the most important task on your list. Avoid checking email and doing the little tasks that can veer you off course all day long.

6. Satisfy the stomach

Never ignore a rumbling stomach. This doesn’t mean you should satisfy every snack craving, but make sure you’re staying fuelled up during meal times throughout the day. Working straight through your day without a meal can be the ultimate crush to productivity. So scheduling those meals into your calendar can also be a nice reminder.

7. Get away to recharge

Get in a couple mini-breaks throughout the day, whether that’s just to step away from the computer for 10 minutes, or a walk around the block. Establish a “break habit” by scheduling them into your calendar or using an app to keep track of your time — and potentially to signal when a break is needed.

8. Emails can be your worst enemy

Enforce a personal email strategy, where you set certain times on your calendar to check email — and don’t spend any more time than allocated. Process the emails according to priority and pick up the phone for emergencies, rather than resorting to typed messages.

9. Time to tidy

Organize your workspace. It doesn’t have to look as clean as an office showroom, but your space should be tidy and uncluttered, which helps you focus on the tasks at hand. Nothing is more stressful than searching tirelessly for your office supplies, working files or phone when you need to get things done in a hurry.

10. Zero distractions

When you’re in true work mode, close down any distracting Internet browsers, email programs or other software. At the very least, minimize them from your computer screen so you won’t get the urge to click elsewhere.

11. A “social” reward

Treat social media like a reward. It’s easy to get distracted by eye-catching headlines and notifications on your phone, so shut those off and save the fun stuff for when you accomplish a task. Then, when you complete each major task, you can reward yourself with your favorite distraction — like a quick one-minute video of a cat being cute. Just make sure you shut it down after the reward to stay productive.

12. One task at a time

Stop trying to multitask. Studies show it actually can make you pay less attention and have troubles recalling information. You may feel like you’re getting more done, but in reality it could slow your performance down.

13. Just say ‘no’

Contrary to what you may have been taught, it’s not impolite to say ‘no’ to tasks that derail your productivity. You may want to help others out with their requests, but sometimes you need to decline their request in order to get your work done. By saying ‘no’ you can free up future time for something you really want to say ‘yes’ to — and that will be more fulfilling in the long run.

14. Like Costco for your calendar

Schedule time slots to work on things in bulk. Like many people, you may have had days where you jump so quickly from task to task that you never have a chance to sink into any of it. Instead, schedule multiple working time slots in one to two-hour segments throughout the day where you can have uninterrupted work.

15. Cut your low-value tasks

High productivity people follow the Pareto principle — 80% of your results can be driven by 20% of your effort. The key is figuring out what the other 80% of your effort is spent on, and then systematically delegating, deleting or diminishing those from your schedule so your day becomes more valuable.

16. High-impact times of day

Discover your productivity rhythm — that is, the time of day that you are most impactful. People can be classified into three categories: the morning crush-it, the high noon heavy hitter, or the night owl ninja. Find out which one you are and schedule your tasks accordingly.

17. Always be goal oriented

Never lose track of your long-term goals. Too often, we move from one thing to the next just trying to get through the day. But by integrating your yearly objectives into all your meetings and activities, you’ll be more prepared to cut unnecessary activities and keep your teams (and yourself) focused on the right priorities.

18. Positively priority proficient

As new tasks arrive, reprioritize with speed and ease. The trick is giving every task an A, B or C rating (or 1, 2, 3 if you prefer). The As will get ultimate priority as your most important tasks — so if a new B task comes in and you’re working on an A, that new B task can wait. But conversely, if an A task arrives, you better hop on it.

19. Make meetings count

Make sure your meetings are efficient and worth every minute — otherwise, they won’t be worth your time and you should cut them from your schedule. Every meeting must include an agenda with clear objectives, and schedule less important meetings into the second half of your day so you have more time in the morning to complete key responsibilities.

20. High gear afternoons

An hour and a half before the end of your workday, you have a perfect window of opportunity to kick your productivity into high gear. Get your affairs in order by checking your email and drafts folder, finishing those last messages and then completely closing your Inbox. Then, your last hour of work can be spent entirely undistracted.

21. Final 10 before freedom

The last 10 minutes of your day can set you up for a more productive tomorrow. Make sure your to-do list is finalized, clean-up your workspace, sign out of every app and program (including on your phone), and then do a brain dump — where you jot down anything left on your mind so you can go home with lighter shoulders and enjoy your night.