4 Core Business Principles You Might be Overlooking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Strategy: Stick with what you know

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

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

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

3. Execution: Keeping your leadership team on track

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

financial forecast

Looking To Forecast Better In 2017? Handle The Process Differently

financial forecast

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

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

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

1.    The budgeting process is taking too long.

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

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

4.    Your forecasting performance is struggling.

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

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

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

 

Developing Your Perfect Elevator Pitch

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

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

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

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

Craft your elevator pitch

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

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

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

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

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

Be interested before being interesting

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

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

Act like you’re a journalist

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

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

     Related: 7 amazing networking tips for every entrepreneur      

Find common ground

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

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

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

Connect on LinkedIn right then and there

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

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

End on an ‘ask’

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

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

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

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

 

make money

3 Cash Flow Nightmares & The Dream Solution

make money

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

The 3 Cash Problems Keeping You Awake

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

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

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

Can’t My Bank Help? Not Always…

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

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

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

How Does Factoring Work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

how does factoring work

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

A Long-Term Cash Flow Solution 

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

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

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

 

social selling

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

social selling

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

What is social selling?

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

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

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

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

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

1. Update your profiles to meet your client expectations

A great profile demonstrates:

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

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

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


Michael de Groot
Social Selling Expert

     Related: How do I improve my LinkedIn posts?      

 2. Join 50 LinkedIn Groups

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Kissell
Social Selling Coach

3. Don’t go in cold.

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

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

On LinkedIn:

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

On Twitter:

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

On Facebook:

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

 

hidden costs

12 Hidden Costs Of Running Your Small Business

hidden costs

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

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

1. Employee Perks

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

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

2. Turnover

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

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

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

3. Administrative Costs

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

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

4. Phone and Internet Bills

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

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

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

     Read Related: 3 biggest financial challenges facing small businesses

5. Legal Fees

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

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

6. Professional Services

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

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

7. Industry & Association Fees

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

8. Equipment Repairs & Replacements

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

9. Utilities

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

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

10. Online Payment Processors

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

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

11. Growth Opportunities

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

12. Time

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

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

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

 

What Is Fintech And Why Does It Matter?

what-is-fintech

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

What is fintech?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will fintech companies change the market?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should my business partner with a fintech firm? 

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

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

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

 

7 Amazing Networking Tips For Every Entrepreneur

7-networking-tips-1

Where do you turn to when you need business advice?

Every entrepreneur knows the value of speaking to their peers, especially when they operate a home-based business or small enterprise and rely on a close network of trusted advisors.

We recently held our annual conference in beautiful Montreal, Canada, where our franchisees came together to discuss trends in the market and business best practices. These are some of the most successful franchisees in all of North America, and the conference gave everyone a chance to learn what works, what doesn’t, how to offer a better customer experience and most importantly, how to grow a profitable business the right way.

We gathered some of the best advice from franchisees throughout the conference to share with you as fellow business pros.

Tip 1: Build your referral network

Everyone has their traditional network of contacts, but not everyone has built a true referral network out of those contacts.

To start, create a list of all your contacts, personal and professional. Gather these from every possible source – and we mean every source – family, friends, business cards, old Rolodex files, every person you’ve ever emailed and all your LinkedIn contacts. Create a spreadsheet of all these contacts and this will be your master list.

Rank those contacts from 1 – 4 based on their potential to generate referrals. This is your starting point for finding the right contacts at the right time and building an incredible referral program.

In future posts, we’ll discuss how to use this referral list to connect with the right people via social networks, email campaigns, in-person meetings and special events.

Tip 2: Build an email list using social media

A regular e-newsletter to your contacts is a fantastic way to turbo-charge your business relationships and reach out for referrals.

As a starting point, use LinkedIn to build out your email list. If you have an existing email list, you can match it to your LinkedIn contacts and add to your list with online connections. One business owner increased his list from 300 to 1100 using primarily this tactic.

Once your list is ready, send out a monthly newsletter that provides valuable content to your readers, and ensure that you include a call-to-action asking for referrals. You can use software like MailChimp to easily manage your list and emails.

Even with a straightforward monthly e-newsletter you can get 500 views relatively quickly and make use of those valuable connections.

Tip 3: Join local business associations

Local Chambers of Commerce are a fantastic way to reach out to your business community. Every business owner should visit their local Chamber as a starting point, and then ask about related associations relevant to your industry.

Many Chambers run workshops, special events and networking groups and sessions that can include one-on-ones between business owners. This is a great way to meet peers in your community and get to know each other face-to-face, making it easier to give and receive referrals from one another.

Tip 4: Hold events in the local community

Speaking of Chambers of Commerce, you can often take advantage of their space for minimal or no charge. If you are setting up a special client event, see if you can hold it at the Chamber, which is generally a centrally located and well-maintained space.

And make those local events memorable. Use food, drink and entertainment to make your guests happy they attended. Most importantly, they’ll associate positive sentiment with you and your business brand.

Tip 5: Convenience is key when it comes to client meetings

Consider the location and timing of any events, meetings and mixers you hold for your clients. Make it convenient, as they are doing you a favour by being there.

If you’re meeting for a quick coffee, find a unique space close to their office. Or if time is tight, bring them coffee and snacks to their office and your meeting will be much more welcome. If you’re holding a special event, make sure you define specific start and end times, and stick to them. Your clients’ schedules are just as important as the event itself.

Tip 6: Show some love in return

If your clients attended your events, return the favour and support them at any functions they run. It could be a monthly mixer or a fundraising event, but they’ll notice and appreciate the support.

Get bonus points by following them on social media and then retweeting or posting something about their events to help spread the word.

Tip 7: Consider your “Return on Time”

We all focus on ROI, but do you look at your ROT – return on time?

What networking activities are you doing on a regular basis and how much time does it take to complete those tasks? You can do a quick analysis of your daily, weekly and monthly networking activities and determine what’s really paying off. If there’s something that gives you a high ROT, then continue and potentially expand that activity. Conversely, if sometimes is a massive time drain and “bad ROT,” then consider putting a hold on that activity.

Bonus: Chat to your business partners

All the vendors and partners you work with have likely gone through similar business issues and growing pains. And they are likely always looking for good advice and improving their contacts as well. If you’re looking for advice from peers, why not chat with one of your trusted partners? At Liquid Capital, we are always happy to chat with our clients and help businesses grow.

successful entrepreneur

Think Like a Successful Entrepreneur

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We have all heard and read stories of businesses that fail and businesses that take off. Learning from the experiences of other entrepreneurs increases your likelihood of success. Here are four key takeaways to fuel business growth.

Stay Confident.

Richard Feloni, a senior reporter for www.BusinessInsider.com, interviewed 20 successful entrepreneurs about the most important lesson they learned in their 20s. One-quarter of the lessons had something to do with having confidence. For example:

“Any limitations on personal growth are self-imposed.”

“Don’t take business personally.”

“Don’t sell yourself short.”

“The first step to becoming an entrepreneur is gaining self-confidence.”

“The importance of being decisive.”

Strip away layers of bureaucracy.

Canadianbusiness.com highlights the concept in an article by Alexandra Bosanac, How Flat Hierarchies Help Companies Stay Nimble And Grow Faster. Referencing the success of Corporate Travel Management Solutions (CTMS), which has eliminated middlemanagement altogether, Bosanac explains that the result is a fluid business “with senior executives taking a hands-on approach in day-to-day operations” and better customer relations. Her advice: “For firms not ready to make such a radical leap, simply organizing staff into strategic self-contained pods that each use a flat hierarchy is an easy first step.”

Bounce back from failure.

Jodi Goldstein, Managing Director at Harvard Innovation Labs, writes for entrepreneur.com in “How Startups Can Bounce Back After A Failed First Launch.” The article highlights four steps:

1. Collect Customer Feedback

2. Consider Bringing in New Advisors

3. Look at How Your Competition Is Faring

4. Don’t Let Your Pride Prevent You from Pivoting

She encourages business owners: “Great entrepreneurs balance the conviction in their ideas with the humility to take action when their original ideas aren’t translating into the desired business results. If your customers, advisors and competitors are telling you that it’s time to change directions, I’d strongly encourage you to take this advice to heart.”

Be ready for success.

You’ve likely heard of the Pokémon GO game, which has attracted millions of users. The maker, Niantic, hasn’t been able to keep up with demand, however, resulting in server problems and insufficient tech support. (Though people still love it!) It’s an apt example of not being prepared to handle an influx of more customers than expected. Whether a software company, transportation provider, manufacturer or service provider, planning matters. Think ahead to the investments required to manage demand. You want to make a positive impression on every first-time customer.

Successful entrepreneurs pour their heart and cash into their vision; they also envision what it will take if their idea exceeds expectation.

 

3 Biggest Financial Challenges Facing Small Business Owners

3-financial-challenges-smb

When the going gets tough, it’s usually finance-related. Here are the three challenges you may be facing with your small business, and tips to overcome them.

1. Positive Cash Flow

Every small business knows that cash flow is a top priority. You need liquidity in order to channel funds into your other top strategic priorities.

According to Simon Dell at Business.com, this is a domino effect that not only impacts your business, but all the other businesses you work with.

“Personally I think the biggest challenge affecting any small business is cash flow. Every business, including mine, has suffered from, or suffers from issues with getting money in that is owed with them. The problem stems from a domino effect of one business having poor profitability earlier on in the chain that then starts to directly affect all the others, as many small businesses trade with other small business. Thus the situation compounds itself.”

The cash flow solution:

 Dell points out that this situation shouldn’t make you feel stuck in a cash flow rut.

“However there are a number of good solutions that can be implemented. The best two I have seen is invoice factoring – where another business loans you the value of the invoice that you’ve issued and pay you immediately. The second is to move your business, where possible, to a subscription business. If you can implement a direct bank transfer for services or goods at the start of the month, then that goes a long way to eliminating many cash flow issues.”

2. Money Management

It’s hard to find a small business owner who hasn’t felt the pressure of operating their business effectively while also managing all the day-to-day financial management. From dealing with expenses, receipts and invoices all the way to tax-time issues and end-of-year reporting, these are the administrative duties that most SMBs dread.

The money management solution:

Investopedia offers a straightforward solution: get professional help.

“Money management becomes even more important when cash is flowing into the business and to the owner. Although handling business accounting and taxes may be within the capabilities of most business owners, professional help is usually a good idea. The complexity of a business’ books go up with each client and employee, so getting an assist on the book keeping can prevent it from becoming a reason not to expand.”

3. No Access to Funding for Growth

“Year after year, owners listed access to funding as one of their most formidable concerns facing the future of their businesses,” states Ryan Weaver in The Globe and Mail’s business growth column.

Finding the right funding solution is important, as your business should consider loan repayment schedules and rates when weighing the options. Weaver goes on to suggest that, “Hundreds of small business grants and loans programs exist to help businesses expand, subsidize hiring, and allow firms to take part in projects and activities proven to increase global competitiveness.”

However, many SMBs face further challenges when traditional grant programs, government funding and bank loans aren’t an option. Often, small businesses can be denied loans when the company has a limited operating history, low gross margins or when their industry doesn’t fall within the bank’s criteria.

The funding solution:

Finding a trusted alternative lender can be the perfect solution in these circumstances. And many SMBs find trusted lending partners that they can build ongoing relationships with in order to access funding with much more ease. This can be a big advantage when business demands become timely, such as when you must fulfill an unexpectedly large order or hire more staff for a new project.

Business News Daily explains that alternative lending has some major positives. “Your business doesn’t need to have a perfect financial status, there are few restrictions on what the money can be used for, and the loans can be approved almost instantly.”

Asset-based lending may also be an option for businesses in a large growth phase that have significant business assets such as inventory, machinery or real estate to leverage. Consider looking at all the alternative funding options that can bridge you to the next step in your business growth. Your business is not restricted to traditional lenders and a trusted alternative source can give your business growth the kick-start it needs.