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 most top people in business use to be hyper-productive? How do they seem to fit so much into every day, week and year to get more accomplished than the average business pro? The answer is in the small tasks they do to stay focused on their goals, priorities and the outcomes that will progress them to the next level each day.

Here are 21 of the greatest tips that elite entrepreneurs and business people 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.

Stairs

7 Important Steps That Will Improve My Business Credit

improve business credit steps

Capital is essential for any business, but sometimes our commercial credit becomes unhealthy. Unfortunately, when a commercial credit rating isn’t perfectly clean, sourcing a small business working capital loan or another form of finance isn’t always straightforward. You might be asking yourself, “So what exactly can I do to improve my business credit rating?”

Every savvy entrepreneur must smooth the peaks and troughs of revenue to keep up with payroll and inventory, while also financing growth toward future success. For most enterprises, this means accessing business funding from time to time rather than relying on reserves, whether this credit is taken through mainstream banks or alternative finance.

     Did you know? Factoring funding is NOT based on your credit rating. Learn now.    

To increase your chances of getting credit at an affordable rate, it pays to take steps to improve your business credit — and it’s simpler than you might think. Here’s what to do.

1. Get Your Books in Order

If you’re looking to obtain a new line of credit in the near future, it’s important to first assess your situation and then proceed with a little caution. Each credit application you make will be recorded on your file, and multiple rejections will count against your score.

Before applying for any funding, spend some time getting your finances into good order, researching your options, and finding a credit source that’s likely to approve your application.

2. Separate Your Business Identity

When building your business credit rating, it’s essential to establish a business credit identity distinct from your personal rating.

If you’ve not already incorporated your business, then consider doing so, and also obtain a federal tax ID number (EIN in the U.S. or a BN in Canada) or equivalent registration. Make sure all your bank accounts and credit cards are in your business’s legal name, and that you don’t use any personal accounts for business purposes.

3. Build Your Profile

The three major business credit reference agencies keep their own files, and it’s important to ensure your profile with each is complete and accurate. Check that ExperianEquifax and Dun & Bradstreet all hold the correct details about your business, and that all your active trade lines are recorded on your file.

If you have any longstanding credit accounts with suppliers, add them as references on your profile. Even if they don’t actively report to the agencies, your good records with them will be taken into account. Going forward, regularly check your file for any errors, omissions or signs of unknown activity.

4. Arrange Credit With Suppliers

Each bill you pay on time will give a small boost to your business’s credit score, and you can increase this effect by paying bills early whenever possible. Even better, if you establish credit lines with your suppliers and stick to the terms, each transaction will add a positive to your credit profile.

5. Avoid Signals of Financial Distress

As well as being conscientious about paying bills promptly, you should avoid showing any signs of financial distress that could lessen your creditworthiness. Filing accounts and paying taxes on time will give your rating a boost, while paying down debts and avoiding using credit for routine expenses will send signals of stability.

Related: How to get start-up financing without a bank loan.

6. Cut Back on Credit Usage

Whenever you’re looking to obtain a major new line of finance, you should aim to present a picture of clean credit activity within your current circumstances. Ideally, your ongoing level of credit utilization should be no more than 30% on each account your business holds. Try and avoid unnecessary spending on credit or building up balances. You should also pay down what you can — and clear your borrowing each month when you do spend on an account.

7. Consolidate Accounts

If you have credit card accounts with zero balances, it may seem a logical choice to close them down and simplify your business’s financial situation. However, if you want to boost your credit rating, the smarter choice is to keep these accounts active so long as they’re in good standing.

Closing an established, zero-balance account will remove positive history from your file, worsening your rating. Instead, take the opportunity to balance any debts across multiple accounts, so that each has no more than the all-important 30% utilization of its credit limit.

Few businesses can be totally self-sufficient. However, accessing business funding doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. Taking a little time to improve your business credit rating will make obtaining commercial credit easier and more cost-effective, leaving you free to concentrate on driving your business forward.

Smiling businessman

6 Body Language Mistakes You Might be Making & How to Fix Them

Posture Perfect: Are you unconsciously sending prospects the wrong message? Here’s how fixing your body language mistakes can help you win more opportunities.

Body Language Mistakes

As salespeople, we often focus on our pitch and the carefully selected words we use when speaking with prospects, but what about our body language? Are we making major body language mistakes that are holding us back from closing more deals?

55% of effective communication comes down to body language mistakes

A famous study by UCLA Professor Albert H. Mehrabian found that only 7 per cent of effective communication actually comes down to the words we say. 38 per cent comes from the tone of our voices, and another 55 per cent depends on our body language.

How we stand, where our eyes look, our hand gestures and even subtle movements can all make a difference in the interpretation of our sales pitches. But the most effective communicators will combine all three parts: the words spoken, the tone of voice and the body language.

Related: Do you have this powerful leadership skill?

The professional sales training team at Sales Grail explains that a sales person’s body language can immediately spark customer engagement. “What we mean by posture is not a cocky guy with his feet up on his desk — this is just rude and it suggests a lack of humility in one’s leadership and sales approach. Rather, by posture, we mean one of openness and confidence.”

When genuine, that confidence can help you develop a stronger connection with the prospect, as they describe. “When we’re really behind something, we become an amazing combination of characteristics. We’re relaxed, yet passionate. We’re calm, yet excited. We’re understanding, yet persistent.”

Here are six body language mistakes you might be making, and how you can turn your visual communication and body language into a sales secret weapon.

Mistake 1: Slouching — especially while on the phone

You’ve likely heard that sitting is the new smoking, but has that made you get out of your chair more? At the very least, have you sat up a little straighter when seated? This is one of those body language mistakes that we’re likely all guilty of doing.

“Research has shown that sitting in a slouched position can send “sad signals” to your brain. You are more likely to produce cortisol, a stress hormone, and experience negative thoughts when you slouch. Slouching also can make you feel disempowered and weak compared to the people you’re interacting with – whether in person, on the phone, or even over email.” – Tech.co

Mistake 2: Too little (or too much) eye contact

“It’s good to maintain eye contact 70% to 80% of the time. Any more and you might appear threatening, any less and you may appear uncomfortable or disinterested.

Good eye contact exudes confidence, engagement and concern. Plus, it’ll help you read your customers’ emotions and body language.” – Customer Experience Insight

Mistake 3: Never “power posing” before meetings

“Breakthrough research from Professor Amy Cuddy at Harvard Business School…proves that body language and body positioning directly impact self-confidence and feelings of power. … Professor Cuddy’s research indicates that a salesperson (or anyone about to go into a stressful situation) should assume a high power pose for at least two minutes. Rather than hunch over an iPhone, a salesperson should find a private place to spread their arms and pull their shoulders back.” – Fast Company

Mistake 4: Dressing to blend in, not to fit in

“First impressions get set in stone very quickly. And, like it or not, the way you look is the most important factor in shaping those first and lasting impressions.

“The key is to always dress well enough to fit in with the top people you’re calling on, yet never to blend in with the wallpaper. Think of your clothes as the way you package yourself. Always dress in a way that creates the maximum positive impact on the people you want most to impress – your customers.” – Selling Power

Mistake 5: Talking too much with your hands

This isn’t to say that you should completely stop hand gestures. They are an important part of getting your message across and creating dynamism and charisma in your communication. But overdoing your hand movements can be a distracting body language mistake that can have an undesired effect.

“Avoid chopping gestures … Whole arm karate chop gestures can psychologically cut up the space between you and your interview in an aggressive way … Pointing is often perceived as an aggressive motion and in some cultures is considered incredibly rude. … Any fast, repeated or aggressive hand gestures should be kept to a minimum. … [Instead] you should appear open and approachable, which means your hands should be in front of you and ready to gesture naturally.” – Forbes

Mistake 6: Work the room

Whether it’s a presentation, speech or in-person sales call, making strategic physical moves could draw attention to the right discussion points.

“To bring movement to your speech, use the physical space you have available and walk it. For example, if you’re presenting three points, talk about point A when you’re at your first position; then move out 2 or 3 steps and talk about point B; this way, a movement that includes space will accompany your speech.” – HubSpot

 

Next: Get these 7 new school digital marketing tips to help grow your business.

Illustration - target

Can business failure make you successful?

Business failure leads to success

No one enjoys failing. When you’ve poured your heart and soul into an effort that crashes and burns, the pain can be excruciating. Yet business failure is a part of running a company at one point or another. So, should you find yourself down and out, focus on the upside. It will help you get back on track quickly, and with newfound strength.

Here are five reasons to dust yourself off and considering any failure a blessing in disguise.

1. It’s an education

Thomas Edison made 1,000 attempts at the light bulb before succeeding. You could say he had 1,000 failures, but with each attempt he learned something more. Following a “failure,” you’re better educated, better experienced and, hopefully, a bit wiser.

The same mindset can be seen in modern business, with much success. For example, at NerdWallet, a company offering tools and advice for managing personal financial decisions, failure is celebrated publicly on the “Fail Wall,” a space covered with Post-it notes memorializing the lessons learned.

Related: Even out the ups and downs of running your business.

2. It can improve investment opportunities

In Entrepreneur.com’s Celebrating Failure article, Jake Gibson notes one big reason to rejoice: “Many founders of failed companies find it easier to raise money for their second company because investors know they are buying experience and the lessons learned from those failed endeavors.”

Conducting a thorough post-mortem is on many a business guru’s short list of things to do following a setback. Collect all the insights and data you can. Learn where the missteps occurred — and how they can be avoided the next time.

3. It’s a bonding experience

When we fail, we often do it in the company of partners, colleagues and employees. They are all affected, and may suffer as much as we do. Let these people know that you value them and care about them. Don’t engage in blaming or any other form of divisiveness.

Focus on moving forward as a team. The shared experience can be transformative, providing for you to emerge from the setback as a stronger, more committed organization. 

4. It provides a determined focus

Jodi Goldstein, managing director of the Harvard Innovation Labs, is one of many experts advising that you not dwell on the past as you pick up the pieces following a failure.

“Don’t waste energy by constantly thinking about how you could have avoided the situation that you’re currently in. If you decide to continue with the venture, this means working to maintain high levels of morale amongst your team, celebrating each win that you achieve as you battle your way back into business.

“If you ultimately decide that you cannot, or don’t want to continue with your startup, it means taking the lessons that you learned to whatever you might do next, while not dwelling on what could have been.”

5. It’s never the end

Finally, remember that whenever you fail, you’re in good company. The most successful people on the planet have all been failures at one time or another. Consider your low point as merely the prologue to your next chapter.

 

Up next: Do you have the ultimate entrepreneur mindset?

Business agreement handshake

How to Find the Right Asset-Based Loan Partner

Business agreement handshake

For many businesses, asset-based loans can be the perfect solution when they’re short on working capital but don’t currently qualify for a traditional loan. The key is finding the right funding partner that is willing to learn about your business, understand your challenges, and then work with you to find the optimal solution that will offer the most benefits to your growing business.

Finding that right partner is a vital part of the funding process, especially when you rely on their expertise, products, services and connections. Nothing can roadblock a company’s operations like lack of working capital. With asset-based loans, in particular, you’ll be accessing larger amounts of capital while agreeing on terms that maximize the value of your available assets. Obviously, working with a trusted partner is crucial.

 

Background: Who should consider an asset-based loan?

Asset-based loans (ABL) allow companies to leverage their accounts receivable, inventory, and in some cases, equipment and real estate to access working capital. Qualifying companies generally have a strong credit rating and maintain comprehensive financial reporting with strong internal controls — tending to be established businesses with a solid track record.

     Related: Get the 101 on Asset-Based Lending here.

 

With many funding options in the market, how can you tell which one is right for your business? Below are three main factors to consider.

1. Find a like-minded partner

Your ABL funding expert should feel like a genuine partner in your business. They’ll need to understand your business model, industry challenges, opportunities, and any unique processes you have in place. A partner with an entrepreneurial mindset and personal experience as a business owner/operator could also add to their understanding of where you’re coming from and where you are going.

Also, look for funding partners who have cut their own red tape and complicated approval processes. These can slow down your ability to access cash flow when it’s needed — but be careful to ensure they are still credible and still have a strong reputation in the market.

Ultimately, a like-minded partner will work with you in the long-term and should go the extra mile to create more availability against eligible collateral. That means your assets will provide the biggest return for working capital.

2. Look for value beyond the “money”

Your ABL partner should be more than just a person that writes you a check.

Factor in various aspects of value beyond the capital they provide. With ABL, rates are generally competitive but on par with different vendors, so it’s important to assess other criteria that can show who you’re dealing with.

Look for service partners who will provide access to their referral networks that can extend your business relationships. This longer-term value is often overlooked but can be a strategic benefit. A trusted partner will also provide access to advice related to the struggles of a growing business, and they’ll be able to offer strategic business advice and beneficial tools as you grow the company. Their network along with access to like-minded entrepreneurs are invaluable to a business facing the challenges of growth and emergence.

3. Work with a person, not just a piece of software

Technology is an important aspect of modern business, but when it comes to a funding relationship, you should be working with a real person.

In particular, find local representation and experts who will be responsive when you have questions or challenges. Look for an organization with strong underwriting, risk assessment and good relationships within the industry. Your partner should also be able to work with you to offer creative solutions to your business funding needs.

With ABL, your company is going to be relying on the funding partner for large amounts of working capital, and this shouldn’t be trusted to a piece of software or website touting fast-funding without strategic consultation.

Regular day business work table with laptops and gifts

3 incredible business gift guides

Business Gift Guide

If your holiday shopping list is making you nervous, especially when it comes to clients and colleagues, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with gift ideas for even the most hard-to-impress business pros in your life.

Part of being an entrepreneur or SMB owner is an understanding that balancing work and life can be demanding. Even if your office closes for a few days, business doesn’t completely stop for the holidays. For many of us, it gets a lot busier. Here’s hoping that this handy gift guide makes your festive season flow a little smoother.

Here are our top picks from three of the best gift guides around. Click through further to see the full lists and peruse their expertly curated suggestions. Best of all, most of these items are available on Amazon with just a few clicks — perfect for those of us on a tight schedule.

1. Thirty Boring Gifts Everyone Secretly Wants by Mashable

The tech bloggers at Mashable really nail it with this list of essential items that will get used all year (as opposed to ending up in the garage after January). Take for example Smartwool Socks, an All Purpose Kitchen KnifeRainbow Sharpies, a Fold Up Rain Jacket, and Noise Canceling Headphones. These make outstanding gifts for the kid in all of us.

2. Gizmodo’s Gadget Gift Guide

Comprised of “things we’re hoping to receive this season,” the tech experts from popular gadget blog Gizmodo assembled an incomparable guide for all the electronically inclined folks on your list.

Highlights include Outdoor Research Stormtracker Heated Gloves for cold weather outdoor enthusiasts, the quintessential Audio-Technica LP120 Professional Turntable for those looking to get serious about collecting vinyl, and the face-rejuvenating Clarisonic Mia 2 Facial Sonic Cleansing System.

3. Gifts for Entrepreneurs by celebrity Entrepreneur Tim Ferriss

Legendary angel investor, author, social media guru and podcaster Tim Ferriss shares his list of fantastic gift ideas for fast-paced individuals like himself.

Tim’s recommendations are broken down into helpful categories of under $25, under $50, and under $100. Highlights for us include the RAD Roller, which is amazing for rolling out tight muscles in the back, arms, and legs. The Sleep Master Sleep Mask is great for anyone who sleeps on planes or on irregular schedules. And finally the multipurpose casual/athletic shorts Ferriss swears by Myles Everyday Shorts.

Bonus: Other notable gift guides

These include one from The Atlantic for the impossible-to-buy-for, which they crowd-sourced from real readers. Refinery 29 has another very fun interactive gift guide for Moms, Dads, significant others and even your ‘work spouse.’ Generate a custom selection of gifts based on traits like chill, type A, early adopter and fancy.

Struggling businessman

How to Get Start-up Financing Without a Bank Loan

Startup financing

Start-ups grow fast, and they need to piece together an elaborate puzzle to see the fruits of their labour. That includes brilliant people, endless hard-worked hours and sufficient cashflow. No wonder start-up financing is such an important piece of the puzzle.

It’s incredible to see a young start-up reach new levels in their business, but if the proper financing is missing, they’ll never realize the picture they envisioned. For many, the biggest challenge is getting the working capital to operate at the right scale.

A widely quoted U.S. bank study explained that 79 percent of young businesses failed due to “starting out with too little money.” Bank loans can be extremely challenging to secure at an early stage, and other financing like angel investments can bring its own set of challenges.

Co-founders and young CFOs then spend countless meetings drumming up new rounds of funding, and for good reason. Securing these series of VC funding can mean an incredibly rapid enhancement in growth, but at a cost. With pressure to grow exponentially (sometimes 10x each round) eventually, deals can be made with the wrong partners. Unfortunately, many founders never secure their funding and are forced to abandon their current business goals.

Growing like a weed, but stuck without options

Start-ups aren’t handcuffed to the traditional entrepreneur financing resources. Alternative solutions exist that can be an immediate source of consistent working capital.

For Ted Hope, President of PM Retail Solutions in Scarborough, Canada, that’s exactly what he did when faced with a financing dilemma.

“As a start-up company, you don’t have the credit or history of a more established organization. At the same time, you’re subjected to a lot of COD and cashflow issues,” Hope explained.

Hope was four months into his new business venture, a custom manufacturer of retail store display fixtures, and the outlook for the business itself was looking very promising. In fact, the company brought in almost half a million in revenue in the first six months, but that was exactly the problem.

“We were self-financing, but as we got more sales, I had about $150,000 in A/R that I wasn’t going to see for at least 60 days,” Hope explained. Since they had to wait for customers to pay their invoices, cashflow was tight.

Different kind of start-up financing

For start-ups and growing small businesses, this situation is likely familiar. It’s unfortunate, but 82 percent of businesses that fail, do so because of cashflow problems.

For companies with regular invoices like PM Retail Solutions, they found an alternative solution with accounts receivable financing (also known as factoring). By leveraging those unpaid customer invoices, they could get almost immediate cash flow from their Liquid Capital partner. Hope worked with Liquid Capital to get paid upfront for a significant value of the customer invoices.

The fix was almost instantaneous. PM Retail attained a pre-approval and received $60,000 in their account within only one day of initializing the transaction. Liquid Capital was then responsible for collecting on the customer invoices, and distributing the additional revenue to PM Retail at that time. This also freed up a lot of time for Hope and his team.

Hope had found his solution. “Factoring allowed us to free up our cash flow during a precarious time as a start-up, making us almost instantly capital self-sufficient. We can pay COD for almost everything we do, and have better terms because we have money in the bank.”

Finding the best solution for your start-up

Of course, this solution is one of many, but it’s worth investigating to see if it’s the right one for your business.

Alternative financing specialists can offer you sound advice, and should be able to work as a supplement to your traditional banking options as necessary. In many cases, Liquid Capital will work with clients on both short and long-term timeframes as needed, and can help a client graduate to access traditional bank loans as well.

Until that point, alternative solutions like accounts receivable financing can not only bridge the start-up funding gap, but can be the flexible solution that a founder and CFO have been searching to find.

Read the full story on PM Retail Solutions here.

A successful businessman

This Leadership Skill Can Unlock Growth and Profit

Can you be a super leader?

Leadership skills

“The top 10 companies on the Empathy Index increased in value more than twice as much as the bottom 10, and they generated 50% more earnings.”

How often do we attempt to understand things from someone else’s perspective? As an entrepreneur or small business leader, this skill is critical in human resources, but it also impacts your bottom line.

Empathy includes everything from how employees perceive you to whether customers are satisfied with your products or services. And while it’s often dismissed as overly “touchy-feely” or “wimpy and emotional,” practicing empathy is linked directly to financial gains, so ignore it at your own risk.

Why Empathy Drives Business Growth as Much as Solid Working Capital

According to the Harvard Business Review, empathy means understanding our emotional impact on others and making a change as a result. “It’s more important to a successful business than ever, correlating to growth, productivity, and earnings per employee,” HBR explained.

Need proof, check out the global Empathy Index, which analyzes the ethics, leadership, company culture, brand perception and public social media messaging of 170 companies listed on major financial indexes. Staggeringly, companies that performed well in “empathy” also had equally high overall business performance.

“The top 10 companies on the Empathy Index increased in value more than twice as much as the bottom 10, and they generated 50% more earnings (defined by market capitalization).”

 

5 easy steps for entrepreneurs to practice better empathy

empathy

Great business relationships, especially those involving growth capital and funding, start with a face-to-face understanding of the client’s needs, fears and goals.

As business partners, we’re always listening for ways to make our services more responsive. Renowned leadership advisors and empathy experts SYPartners recently published a list of 5 Ways to Cultivate Empathy, and it struck a chord. (This cutting-edge management consultancy also created an app called Unstuck that helps people understand what’s holding them back and how to move forward — it’s worth checking out.)

According to SYPartners, empathy enables leaders to “build stronger teams, design more ingenious solutions, and deepen their emotional intelligence, an increasingly covetable skill in the next era of business.”

Try their five proven ways of practicing empathy: 

1. Put down your guard.

“Your ability to feel emotions is what triggers them in others. If you want to connect with someone, you have to let yourself be vulnerable, too.”

ACTION ITEM: It’s easy to dismiss chitchat around the office, but sometimes these genuine interactions can take your business relationships to the next level. When someone asks how you’re doing, be real with them. Share a story from your weekend or a challenge you’re facing right now. SYPartners recommends starting your meetings with a “pulse-check” to invite your team to share what they’re excited or anxious about. By getting real with your colleagues, even for a moment before jumping into business, you’ll be practicing empathy.

2. Help others know they matter

“As Oprah often says: “Every human being is looking for one thing, and that is to be validated, to be seen and to be heard.” Your job as a leader is to help others know they matter.”

ACTION ITEM: In modern business, devices control our lives. Computers, tablets, smartphones and even smart watches. But they can also destroy our attention spans and ability to focus on the people around us. Can you go through an entire meeting without your gaze drifting to your screen? Often, that text or email can wait. When it matters most, give your full attention to the people around you — in face-to-face meetings, client conversations and critical moments with your staff.

3. Pay attention to body language

“Thousands of invitations for empathy cross your path every day. Do you notice them and shift your behavior, or do you let them glide past?”

ACTION ITEM: Your actions speak volumes, especially when you can pick up on subtle cues from your team’s body language — and then respond empathetically. In presentations, for example, notice how the room reacts to your comments. Pause to let key points sink in, allow curious minds to ask questions or shift your tone and topic if the message isn’t resonating. When you sense changes in your coworkers’ body language, these are visual reminders for you to acknowledge the mood and react accordingly.

4. Stand in someone else’s shoes

“It’s not always possible to get all the necessary voices at the table. But that doesn’t mean you can’t summon your imagination and best acting skills to pressure-test your team’s thinking.”

ACTION ITEM: True empathy comes from experiencing a situation from another perspective. SYPartners recommends that you take on personas in your next team meeting or workshop, assigning roles to each team member. By acting as skeptical customers, investors, competitors or a long-term client, they’ll be forced to take on those people’s characteristics — facing the challenges from a different point of view. You can also have the team interview these real people in advance to get a first-person perspective and immediate feedback.

5. Take a field trip

“It’s hard to get perspective when you sit at a desk every day. To better understand whom you’re designing for or collaborating with, go to them where they are and observe their routines.”

ACTION ITEM: Whether it’s a different team, department, office location or your client base, you’ll never get more first-hand experience than visiting where they work. Take your team on a “seeing exploration” to observe their environment, as SYPartners explains. Ask questions about how they operate on a daily basis, the major challenges they face, what they are proud of and even potentially how you can help out.

Business illusration

Learn This Quick Way to Take Advantage of Supplier Discounts

cash cycle

Sometimes you’ll come across a business deal that’s too good to pass up, but the payment terms are too short, or worse yet…there are no terms.

That’s the time when working capital is crucial, and there’s a quick solution to get you the necessary capital.

For instance, if your supplier network offers a limited-time bulk sale, you can take advantage of that deal with the Purchase Financing Program (PFP). This doesn’t tie up any working capital to finance the cost of the payment, so you can keep your day-to-day operations intact.

Who is the Purchase Financing Program made for?

PFP is a very attractive solution for companies that already have a strong credit rating but may have maxed out their bank loan options, or need a faster solution.

No matter where your supplier is located, your in-transit inventory can be financed. That inventory can be goods for resale, inventory or consumption. You receive the goods, then pay the PFP invoices as agreed. It’s that simple.

The Purchase Financing Program can effectively reduce your CCC by extending your purchase terms. If you have the ability to pay in regular terms, but not the short or no terms set out by the supplier, this program can help you.

Example: How PFP can lock in a great supplier deal

Jacksons Preserves, run by Meg Jackson, is a 30-year family-run business with excellent sales, suppliers, a dedicated customer base and a strong credit rating. It is currently quarter-end when Jacksons pays out many expense and payroll bonuses, and their main supplier has just offered a deep discount on an overstock of canning supplies. The catch? Payment is required on delivery (COD), and it’s first come, first served.

Jacksons holds inventory for an average of 14 days before shipment, has a standard net-30 day payable terms, and gets paid on average after 60 days. If they take the discount, they’ll be left tight on capital after also paying the bills.

Cash Cycle Reminder:

With this bit of information, we can calculate the “cash cycle” for Jacksons Preserves, which tells you how many days it takes them to turn their inventory purchases into cash. That number (known as the CCC) is one key indicator that lenders and other financial providers use to assess your potential risk level. Want to learn more? Get all the details and figures in part one of our cash cycle series.

How PFP works in this case

Jacksons calls up their Liquid Capital partner to use the Purchase Financing Program and snag this supplier deal while it lasts. Liquid Capital pays the supplier directly, deferring Jacksons’ payables outstanding for this transaction to 30 extra days, giving them time to gain working capital from other sales.

Here’s how the cash cycle calculations would look when comparing PFP to an ordinary situation. It’s quite a dramatic improvement.

ORIGINAL CCC USING THE PURCHASE FINANCING PROGRAM
CCC = DIO – DPO + DSO CCC = DIO – DPO + DSO
CCC = 14 – 0 + 60 CCC = 14 – 30 + 60
CCC = 74 days CCC = 44 days

Improved CCC by 30 days

 

In this instance, Jacksons Preserve will have an extra 30 days of breathing room to pay the expense on their supply deal. By taking advantage of the discount, their production expenses will decrease and profits will likely increase. This more than pays for their short-term financing solution.

 

More in the Cash Cycle Series:

Part 1: How to Determine Your Company’s “Cash Conversion Cycle” 

Part 2: 7 proven cash flow tactics every CFO needs to know          

Part 3: Leverage your assets to grow your working capital

Part 4: Keep suppliers happy and the cash in your pocket