Can redesigning my client base create a healthier business?

It’s not you, it’s me: 3 times to say goodbye to a business relationship in order to build the business you want.

Create a healthier business

If you’re one of the lucky ones, business is easy. Your customers know what they want, you know how to deliver it, and the transactions leave nothing on the table.

However, for most owners and entrepreneurs, business is tough. You put a lot of energy into each of your customers and accounts, you’re constantly worried about the end result, and in the few times when you have a moment’s rest, you sometimes wonder if it’s all worth it. (We’ve all been there.)

Of course, your revenue and sales are important, but so is your time, energy and enjoyment. After all, you likely started working for yourself so that you had more freedom and could love what you do. If you now feel like you’ve started to sacrifice too much at the risk of your original goals, it could be time to update your strategy, move in another direction, focus on key customers and streamline your accounts.

Here are a few signs that could help you make the difficult choice of when to say goodbye:

 

1. The account takes up too much of your time

We often think about “product” as the main commodity in a business relationship, but sometimes it’s more important to think about the less tangible costs: the effort it takes to sell that product. If you have a long-term client that regularly makes use of your business, or places large orders, you might be tempted to keep them at all costs — especially if the account is profitable on paper.

But it might be worth thinking about how much time you spend with them on each purchase. Does that time add up to extra expenses, and is the account as profitable as you think? Factor in your team’s time as well, and consider what you could be doing with that time otherwise. Could it make more sense to work with a few smaller customers instead?

 

2. Late invoice payments

Similarly, if you expect future business from a customer, you’re more likely to forgive lapses in timely payment. That works for some businesses, but for others with thinner margins, a late payment can mean not having the equity to pay your invoices.

If you have a customer who is habitually late in paying their invoices, it might be worth rethinking how reliable their orders actually are. Another option, of course, is to think about a factoring service. (Learn more about what that means here.)

 

3. Unrealistic expectations

It’s not necessarily a bad thing for a customer to be demanding. It can actually push you to learn new skills, add more products and services, or even bring on team members that can help your business expand further.

When it crosses the line, however, is when those demands aren’t possible to fulfill. Short timelines, changing goals, impossible standards and other problem requests don’t just take up your time (see #1), they strain your employees. And over the long-term, these unrealistic expectations may decrease your quality of life and the quality of your service for other customers.

 

This doesn’t mean that adjusting your accounts and client base is always the answer, but you should consider it one of the possible areas to address. Naturally, entrepreneurs and business owners are resilient, but when your energy starts to fade, your quality of work often goes with it.

At the end of the day, don’t sacrifice your quality of delivery and potential for continued success for something you could have fixed. It’s important to assess your current situation and spot the warning signs — then get ahead of it quickly.

Man Typing On Laptop

4 extra ways to get ROI from your web-based projects

web-based projects

When you invest in your small business, making sure you get a solid ROI is always crucial. With web-based projects, you can take additional steps to ensure the benefits of those projects will be maximized.

Here are four ways (beyond the regular website tools) that can help enhance your web-based projects and ensure long-term success for your digital strategy.

1. Make your digital content more accessible

Consider using an automated transcription service to translate your audio or visual content into readable text for hearing-impaired consumers. This can help you reach a broader customer base by giving more people access to your content, products and services. ADA requirements in the US and accessibility rules in Canada can also apply to your site, so read through the regulations for your business, which could help protect you from lawsuits and costly legal issues.

When using an automated transcription service, you’ll want to limit background noise and utilize the highest quality audio to get the most accurate transcription. Using a service such as this will also allow your team to focus on other tasks, rather than filling up your schedule on this time-consuming process.

2. Hire creatively to help launch projects

web-based projects hiring employees

When your business is growing, you may quickly need more staff. For web-based projects, you may be tempted to turn to part-time employees as a way to get help without having to shell out for benefits or bigger salaries. But when a part-time employee starts to work more often, especially when business picks up and project hours go well into overtime, it can be a tricky line to tread.

This is why many companies are hiring project-based help from gig apps instead. These part-time gig workers operate more like contract employees, but you can also find candidates on these apps who can fill permanent part-time positions, or even eventually full-time. This offers you a lot more flexibility, especially when project scope isn’t yet fully defined.

3. Turn to marketing pros to brand your business

Your web-based projects should also match your small business brand. Not sure what those standards are for your company? Then you might benefit from the services of a marketing professional who understand branding and how to tie that into your online presence.

Marketing consultant, Shane Barker, suggests that small businesses create a brand that sticks with customers and evokes strong emotions, and then ensure that brand flows through any online or social media presence. If that sounds too complicated to achieve alone, consider starting the search to hire a consultant instead.

4. Don’t overlook cybersecurity

web-based projects cybersecurity

Although you want people to know your business, it shouldn’t be because of a catastrophic data breach. Up to 60% of small businesses impacted by data breaches close up shop in less than a year after experiencing a major breach, and those that survive are left with thousands of dollars in recovery costs. So it is absolutely imperative that you protect any information that could be exposed to cyberattacks during your web-based improvements.

If you don’t have in-house IT expertise, one of the best ways to get help and assess your overall risk is to invest in cybersecurity consultant services. These experts can easily identify vulnerabilities that could leave your business open to an attack, help you create a strategic plan for preventing a breach, and save you valuable time in the process.

 

Any small business project that requires time and money, including web-based projects, needs to provide a healthy return to be worthwhile. By leaving some room in your budget to invest in the right help and resources, you can boost that ROI and take your business to the next level.

 

Up Next: 5 ways technology can help your small business grow

 

Featured image by Tyler Franta on Unsplash

Businesswomen In Boardroom Meeting

Streamline your HR to put your people first

Every business is a people business. Here are common HR mistakes that can cost you time and money, but that you can fix quickly.

Streamline your HR to put your people first

It’s impossible to do business without people.

Even if you don’t have an autonomous HR department, organizing, managing, hiring and monitoring those people are essential parts of any company’s process. That means, of course, that the more people you employ, the more work you’ll have to sink into those functions.

Something many businesses struggle with, however, is balancing effective HR practices with their bottom line. With so much involved, it’s easy to let HR become a major time sink, but it can be avoided with some careful planning.

Here’s how you can begin to streamline your HR function and make sure your efforts are working for you and not against you.

Step One: Digitize 

It might go without saying, but these days there’s no excuse for not having a digital records system. It’s not just important to store HR records digitally — such as pay details, employee histories and contracts. It’s also important to be able to see them at-a-glance.

Step Two: Develop a filing system

Make sure all of your records are stored in the same way. You can waste hours over the course of a year if all of your folders are organized differently, and if you’re tracking employee information in different ways.

Step Three: Keep track

HR admin and tracking

No matter who is in charge of the HR function, that person has to be constantly aware of information including benefits, vacation time and pay schedules. Most importantly, though, that person has to communicate with the accounting department to ensure that everything meshes.

If you need to pay your employees (or contractors) on a certain day, you’ll need to know that you have the funds available to do it. That also includes managing your cash flow cycle, which you can learn more about in this handy resource.

Step Four: Get Help

There are numerous new software solutions on the market today for businesses looking for a top-of-the-line HR management portal. Look for one that suits your size of business and your income, and you’ll be able to supervise all of your HR tasks in one easy platform.

 

Up Next: Making sure you safely store your business contracts

Working on tablet

5 ways technology can help your small business grow

Many people assume that only big, international companies can gain something from new technologies. But in reality, even a small business can find the right solution to grow and expand into new markets. It could even be easier than you might think.

After all, most of us use the internet all the time in our daily lives, and a little extra online promotion in the right areas can go a long way to increasing your revenue. With a good marketing strategy, you might even be surprised how much you can achieve.

1. Tell your clients who you are

In your daily life, when you’re looking for a great place to visit on your next vacation or for a reliable mechanic to fix your car, your first step is most likely trying to find them online. It’s no different in business and for your clients, so it’s important to use online tools to attract new customers. The first step is creating a professional website for your business. Make sure to include all your contact information, but also a detailed description of your products and services. Another good idea is to start a blog where you’ll be able to share interesting news about your industry and new solutions that you offer.

2. Use social media to get your message across

Think about how many people use social media and how many of them could be new clients. There’s a lot of potential on different social networks, but first you’ll first need to connect with people and gain a following. To do that, start by posting relevant and interesting content to engage with your audience in a natural way. Find ways to stand out by offering a unique perspective on topics that showcase your expertise, and offer solutions to problems that your customers may face.

You don’t necessarily have to create accounts on all available platforms, as it can be difficult to manage all of that content and potential responses. At the end of the day, it may be more beneficial to have just one profile but with regular updates.

3. Find the best solutions for your company

There are many apps and programs you can use to improve the way your business operates. From calendars to invoicing systems, you’ll find a solution to every problem you may encounter. And even if you won’t be able to find something that will meet your specific requirements, you can look for bespoke options. But remember that even a software company located internationally can have better solutions for your business than a similar one in your area. To find the best one for your company, you should focus more on their portfolio than on their location.

4. Improve communication

With new technology, you’ll be able to communicate without any trouble. And you could even save on your communication bills at the same time, as contacting your international clients won’t be a problem. Plus, by enabling your employees to talk to one another online, you’ll see their productivity rising. That’s because they’ll be able to access all the necessary information in the fastest possible way, without having to walk across the office to find an answer. In modern business, everything is about being efficient, and using the internet can help you achieve this goal.

5. Keep your data secure

You need to make sure your business network and your website are secured with strong passwords. It’s also a good idea to keep backup storage for all your data. The most convenient way is probably storing your files in the cloud, which will also allow you to access all the necessary information easily no matter where you are. Plus, giving access to specific documents to people who need them will be a matter of seconds.

 

Technology is constantly changing our lives, and it’s affecting how we run our companies as well. There’s no reason to ignore the opportunities offered by the internet. You have a lot to gain, so look for solutions that will work best for you and be ready to take your business to the next level.

Office desk calculator

Spend money wisely & cut costs with these 5 business tips

Get this small business budgeting advice to make sure you don’t break your budget as you plan for future growth. Spend money wisely, cut costs and tap into more business success.

Spend money wisely

One of the greatest challenges of running a business is managing money. If you aren’t smart about your spending, it will be impossible for your small business to grow. Follow these budgeting tips to save your business from future financial trouble.

1. Set a realistic budget

A realistic, detailed budget will help you stay on track of your business spending. When creating your plan, don’t inflate your projected sales, as that could cause an array of avoidable financial problems for your business. It’s also important to be tally any and all business expenses, while also trying to forecast or leave room for unexpected costs that may arise.

Remember, your business will continue to evolve over time and both expenses and revenues will fluctuate. Because of these ups and downs, your budget will need constant updating and re-evaluating. Make it a priority to monitor your plan regularly, keep a very close eye on what you are spending, and adjust your budget where necessary.

2. Enlist a professional

Every business owner knows how stressful it is to run a business, and if you get certain things wrong, you run the risk of losing money and wasting valuable time. No matter how big or small your business is, you can’t possibly do the job all on your own.

For example, there may be areas that you are unfamiliar with, such as tax management, where you’ll need extra help. In particular, taxes can be complicated and require a lot of attention to detail — making it easy to misunderstand, especially as a new business owner.

To save you time and stress, enlist a professional to help you with your business finances. This will give you more time to focus on other important tasks. An expert will help you avoid crucial mistakes, and give you peace of mind that everything will go smoothly.

3. Cut out the unnecessary items

earnings and expenses

There are many creative ways to minimize your business costs, and if you’re a small business owner, you don’t need a lot of full-time staff. Outsourcing to contractors is a great way to reduce costs and save office space.

You can also save a ton of money by introducing sustainable business practices. Energy-efficient businesses have lower electricity bills, leaving more money for things that matter. If you want to find out where you’re using the most electricity in your office, conduct an energy audit. This will allow you to introduce “green” alternatives and make big savings on your energy bill.

4. Save for emergencies

Put any extra money you save into an emergency fund. Use this emergency fund to pay for unanticipated business expenses in the future. Having an extra set of funds for emergencies will save you a tonne of money and stress.

5. Get insurance

There are different types of insurance you can get, and having the right insurance will help you manage all the financial risks of your business. Without a good plan, you’ll be forced to pay for various businesses losses yourself.

When researching insurance plans, consider which areas of your business need the most protection. This may depend on what industry you’re in, your business size and the type of work you do. Consult with an insurance broker to find a plan that’s right for your business.

Managing money in any business venture requires a lot of discipline and meticulous planning. A good budget, some professional assistance and a great financial support system will be key to your success.

Cloe Matheson is a creative writer based in Dunedin, New Zealand. Check out her written work on her personal blog.

Up Next: 12 Hidden Costs Of Running Your Small Business 

Merchant Cash Advance Risks

Risk vs. reward: “Merchant cash advances” and “Invoice factoring”

Are merchant cash advances worth the risk? Here’s why you might want to think again…

Merchant Cash Advance Risks

Even with the best of contingency plans, every business will one day run into trouble with their cash cycle.

Maybe your supplier’s payment is due, but your biggest customer unexpectedly had to delay their payment to your business. Maybe you had a catastrophic breakdown in some of your equipment and don’t have the funds to cover replacement. Regardless of the reason, the end result is the same: your business needs funds quickly.

A traditional bank loan would take far too long to get approved, so you might be considering two other options: invoice factoring and a merchant cash advance (MCA).

But both options are not created equal. Here’s a quick rundown of how the two will affect your business.

Invoice Factoring

This is essentially where a funding company “purchases” your unpaid invoices at a slightly reduced rate.

If, for example, you’re awaiting a payment of $10,000 on a 60-day schedule but you need money now, invoice factoring will ensure you have access to that $10,000, minus a one-time upfront fee. Your customers can then make their payment directly to the funding company.

Learn more about invoice factoring here.

Merchant Cash Advance

Instead of purchasing your invoices, this option provides you an advance based on projected sales. If you need that $10,000, the lender will offer you the funds, but you will have to repay it (like a loan) on a payment schedule, and with a percentage on top.

Therein lie the two problems with an MCA. First, until you pay back the advance in full, you’re beholden to the lending company. If you run up against more trouble with your business, you’re still stuck with a hefty payment.

Secondly, the percentage on top is typically very high. Taken together, that leaves you with all the risk, and apart from the speed of getting the money, very little reward.

With that in mind, it’s rare that an MCA would be recommended. Instead of playing the projections lottery, focus on the money that you already have committed to you and look to invoice factoring.

 

Up Next: What’s the cost of NOT factoring?

YouTube on laptop and cellphone

YouTube for business: Must-watch channels for busy professionals

Move over Netflix: Use YouTube for business to access educational content, inspiring personalities and financial news that can move your organization forward.

YouTube for business: Must-watch channels for busy professionals

Are your favorite television shows on hiatus for the summer? Are you looking to stay up-to-date on all the latest business news and trends? Want to continue your professional development or grow personally and professionally? Though it might seem strange, it may be time that you head over to YouTube.

You may be familiar with the video-sharing platform as your go-to for cute animal videos or DIY projects, but there’s also a wealth of knowledge being shared by entrepreneurs, business experts, growth strategists and others, waiting to be discovered. 

Here are some of our favorite selections and best picks of business-related YouTube channels, which every busy professional can get value from:

Best Overall Business Advice

Brian Tracy’s Success Channel

An internationally best-selling author with 70 books on business, personal growth, leadership and strategic thinking, Brian Tracy is one of the most recognizable names in the industry. He has spent the past 30 years travelling the world and has consulted with over 1,000 companies. In that time, he has addressed more than 5 million people in 5,000 talks and seminars throughout the US, Canada and 70 other countries.

Tracy’s YouTube channel is one of the best resources for business professionals from all industries, and the accumulated 46 million views are well-earned. Topics range from personal growth to leadership and business tips and more. Updated with fresh videos weekly, most of which run under 10 minutes, this channel is great for the busy professional on the go.

Best Host & Interviews

Marie Forleo – MarieTV

Named one of Oprah’s top thought leaders for the next generation, Marie Forleo is a YouTube host, entrepreneur, life coach and philanthropist. 

Forleo has dedicated her channel to videos and interviews that help entrepreneurs and business professionals reach their ultimate potential. Best of all, her outgoing and approachable personality makes the material engaging and inspiring.

Forleo is also a great interviewer and regularly hosts interesting guests. With over 500,000 subscribers, 48.8 million views and 4 new videos a month, MarieTV’s playlists are organized by topic, making it easy to find specific videos that interest you.

Best Financial News & Market Analysis

Bloomberg Markets & Finance

You may very well be familiar with Bloomberg as a top media source for business and political news, but have you visited their YouTube channels? Our favorite channel for market and finance news and interviews with leading business figures is Bloomberg’s Markets and Finance channel. 

This channel doesn’t have just one single host. Instead, it relies upon a variety of experts to provide content for the channel. Playlists are organized by topic and video host for easy navigation, and with dozens of new daily videos (totalling over 46.2 million views), content is always fresh and current. If you work in finance or business, you will definitely want to become one of the 360,000 subscribers to this channel.

Best Inspiration & Personal Growth Tips

Tony Robbins LIVE

A go-to among celebrities, entrepreneurs and athletes, Tony Robbins is a success strategist focusing on personal growth, self-help and entrepreneurial advice. As an extension of his highly-publicized seminars and books, Robbins’ YouTube channel publishes new videos weekly. 

Whether you’re looking for advice or inspiration, Robbins’ channel has it all — which is evident by his 650,000 subscribers. Videos vary in length, so whether you have a spare hour or just a couple minutes in between meetings, you can always find a video that will help you get one step closer to achieving your personal and professional goals. 

Ready to watch? Here’s how to watch YouTube for business.

Ready to get watching? You can access the free YouTube platform through any web browser, or download the free app to your favourite mobile device from the App Store or Google Play.

Working desk with documents

Don’t sell yourself short: 3 common invoicing mistakes

If you’re making these common invoicing mistakes, you can correct them quickly…

common invoicing mistakes

A business is nothing without income. That might go without saying — but many business owners spend so much time focused on finding new opportunities and doing daily tasks that they lose sight of the most important parts of generating income: the invoicing.

An invoice isn’t just a receipt. It’s a contract that summarizes your hard work and helps ensure you’re compensated for it fairly. That’s why it’s so crucial to make sure your invoices are accurate, so you’re not selling yourself short.

Here are three common invoicing mistakes that, if avoided, can help your business thrive.

 

1. Not itemizing your services or products

Many people assume that the person they’ve been dealing with is the same person who will process their invoice, and will know what service the invoice is for. This is often untrue, and most businesses require an itemized invoice so their accounting departments can process them correctly.

Providing an itemized invoice up-front will help avoid delays in payment down the road. It’s also good practice for your own accounts so you can easily reference a past job. This is useful in the unfortunate case of a contract dispute, or the (even more intimidating) event of a tax audit.

 

2. Not clearly indicating a payment due date

common invoicing mistakes accounting

This is one of the most common mistakes people make with their invoices. Common turnaround times are 30-day and 60-day schedules, and you should specify this to ensure your payment comes in when you need it.

That said, some accounts will require payment schedules longer than you’d like. If you find that you need your invoice filled sooner, or you’ve run into issues with delinquent accounts, it might be worth thinking about funding options such as invoice factoring.

Related: What’s the cost of NOT using invoice factoring?

 

3. Omitting payment terms

It might seem obvious, but this is the single most important part of your invoice. You should make it as easy as possible for your accounts to pay you, including the address where they need to send payment and your preferred payment method.

If you use a factoring service, it’s also important to remember that you should provide their terms so your accounts can pay the invoice directly to them.

 

Pay attention to these three details to proactively avoid the pitfalls and give your invoicing the attention it deserves. That way, you’ll also get the payment you deserve!

Mobile security

Combat cybercrime: 3 actions every business should take

How your company can combat cybercrime, prevent an attack and bounce back in the event of a data security breach.

Combat cybercrime

Whether big or small, any business is vulnerable to cybercriminals and fraud. However, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may not be ready for cyber attacks, and each one of these can be disastrous. In fact, an incredible 60 per cent of small businesses fold in the six months following a cyber attack.

Although this is a scary statistic, proper procedures can help you prevent an attack or, at the very least, recover from one with minimal damage. Here are three things you can do to prepare in advance and limit the impact of cybercrime.

1. Train your staff to combat cybercrime

According to research by Kaspersky, 88 per cent of SMBs that have suffered a data breach claim that social engineering played a part. What is that? Social engineering is any form of cyber fraud that relies on using human error — such as phishing (getting you to click on a harmful link), pretexting (pretending to need sensitive data for a legitimate issue), or quid pro quo (pretending to provide a service in exchange for access to data).

Human error also comes into play in simpler ways. Employees could leave their laptops in a public place, while others might keep a Post-It with their passwords on their desk. It’s easy to become careless with safety, and these small mistakes can easily be exploited by someone with bad intentions.

The easiest way to prevent these attacks is to train your staff appropriately. Teach them to identify common scams such as phishing and to be extremely careful with sensitive data. Repeat this training regularly to prevent a sense of complacency from developing.

2. Encrypt your data

Combat cybercrime - Encrypt data

“Data encryption” is one of those technical terms that feel too complicated to understand, but it’s actually very simple. Data encryption registers your data as a code, which can only be read with an encryption key or password. It protects your data as it sits in your system and during data transfers.

Encryption is particularly important if your employees carry around laptops with sensitive business data (this can easily be stolen or lost) or if such data is often exchanged by email. You can protect your laptops and system using an encryption software — PC Mag has a useful roundup of the best ones on the market.

For email data, you need a separate email encryption software — specifically, a type called secure webmail is best for small businesses. This is because it is cost-effective and doesn’t require both the sender and recipient to be set up with encryption.

3. Be ready to react quickly

A data breach response plan will make your reaction to a data breach fast and effective. With a good plan, you can prevent loss of service and even mitigate the damage. Without it, you will be caught completely unaware, making the attack much more harmful.

Data breach response plan templates are available online, along with guides highlighting the best practice. Do your research and spend some time developing yours, and remember to revisit it as your business grows and your data protection needs become more complex.

Of course, you will need to determine exactly what happened, both to mitigate the damage and prevent it from happening again. It might be worth investing in a team digital forensic specialists, (search for reputable and certified services such as Secure Forensics), who can put a data breach response plan into action. They may also utilize private investigators to locate the people responsible for the attack.

It goes without saying you can’t bounce back from a breach without backing up your data, so a solid backup and storage strategy is also crucial. Keep full backups of everything — at least two separate online copies and a third offline one, preferably in another physical location.

Why combat cybercrime?

Cybercriminals target SMBs specifically because they expect them to be vulnerable and poorly prepared. It’s your job to prove them wrong. While you don’t have the limitless resources of a large corporation to protect yourself, you can definitely make it harder for the fraudsters and combat cybercrime from within. Taking the time to develop a concrete strategy surrounding your data protection and response to breaches could literally save your business, so make it a priority.

 

Up Next: Are Your Clients Safe from Hackers?

Combat cybercrime - Safe from hackers

A woman handshaking

When is a good time to expand your small business?

expand your small business

Expanding your business can be both an exciting prospect and a daunting challenge. An upcoming expansion may indicate your company is profitable and successful, but at the same time, it requires careful thought, planning and execution.

To say the least, it’s important to get it right. Plenty of companies see major success by building up the business, but companies may also risk financial troubles from expanding too quickly.

For example, one study found that two-thirds of the fastest growing companies ended up performing worse long-term than companies growing more slowly.

Signs you should expand

So how do you know when is the right time to expand your small business? Here are four indicators that it could be the right time.

1. Loyal customer base

If you’ve built a strong base of repeat customers, this could be a sign that it’s time to expand. Repeat customers provide recurring revenue that stabilizes your business, and strong customer loyalty demonstrates a demand for your product or service.

However, a rush of one-time customers doesn’t necessarily mean you have a loyal customer base. Rather, it could just be due to a temporary fluctuation in the market.

2. You can no longer meet demand

Do you regularly turn away new customers because the demand is higher than your current capacity? Expanding your business can make it easier for you to meet this demand. However, you’ll want to make sure this is a true result of increased demand and not just poorly run processes within your company.

3. There is growth within the industry

If your industry is gaining popularity, then you should consider expanding your business to meet the industry’s consumer growth. Spend some time researching industry trends to see if your industry is on the rise.

4. Your business is meeting and exceeding goals

Every business starts out with a plan and milestones they hope to reach. Once you start regularly meeting or exceeding these goals, it’s probably time to expand. However, you need to have the right partners and systems in place to meet these bigger goals.

If you’re ready to expand your business, you’ll likely need to consider how much working capital you have at your disposal to keep up with the growth. Make a cash flow budget that factors in your potential growth, and ensure you’ll have the right financing in place. Now could be the perfect time to discuss options with your funding partner to get your growth strategy in place.