Costs to Cut and Costs to Keep: 6 Financial Tips for Small Businesses

Your business has a lot of costs that need to be managed. Without a guide, this can be confusing and difficult. What should you invest in? What can be cut from the budget? But don’t worry. Here are six financial tips about what costs to cut and which to keep that can help you along the way. That way, you can get back to doing what you are best at in your market and industry. 

Keep: Performers 

High performers make your business run better than anyone else. High quality workers mean you get high quality products and service. They should be kept around to keep boosting profits and overall quality. A great salesperson or someone who brings in revenue should be invested in. Potential customers won’t turn into returning customers if your employees drive them away. 

Cut: People Not Pulling Their Weight 

When employees start to get entitled and lazy, you can get into trouble. You need to get rid of people who expect to get paid more than they are worth. If they can’t justify their work to you, then it’s time to let them go. Additionally, if you can’t justify paying them what you are for what they actually bring to your business, they’re just creating a “money black hole” in your budget.

Keep: Researching Your Supplier 

Who your supplier is makes a major difference in your brand. It will affect the end result of your product, how fast products reach customers, and how happy your customers are with your end results. Invest the time and money into researching and verifying your suppliers. Seek out a third party to get supplier risk mitigation from those who are experts in helping businesses like yours. Your suppliers should be trustworthy and high quality at every turn. If they are, the time, money, and effort you put in will pay off.

Cut: Extra Long Lunch Breaks 

People need a certain amount of time to take a break during the day. As long as this is not being abused, then that is fine. However, you might find that your team’s breaks get longer and longer. Perhaps they are not keeping up with production. This might be time to start logging breaks and requiring them to keep a time sheet. Consider consulting with HR professionals about the right kind of break and time recording strategy for your business.

Keep: Customer Service 

If there is one thing you can do today to stand out from the competition it is having great customer service. Word of mouth travels fast. If you cut your customer service, you are only going to have more frustrated customers. Find the best people, invest in top-notch customer service training, and regularly consult customer reviews and feedback so you can be constantly working on and improving your system.

Cut: Advertising that Doesn’t Sell 

Just because radio and TV worked back in the day doesn’t mean they’re the way to go now. Whatever your advertising spend is, reduce it where you are not getting results. Then, double down on methods that are working. However, keep in mind that marketing that works takes time. Try looking into SEO services, social media help, and marketing firms that specialize in local or small business work. If you find what’s right for your business, you’ll begin to see growth and results.

Getting your business to a place where it is operating profitably can be difficult—it definitely takes a lot of work. However, it always starts with finding ways to cut costs you don’t need and keeping those that actually help you. If you use the tips above, you could find that your profit and loss statement is looking better every time you check in.

Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband.

Protect Your Business: 4 Strategies for Preventing Money Laundering

You’ve put in a lot of hard effort to make your business the successful profit-churning powerhouse that it is. The idea that someone could be ripping you off and laundering money from your hard work should be disgusting to you. However, it might even be happening right now with you completely unaware. To ensure that your business is protected from criminals looking to siphon off of your hard work, utilize these four strategies to help prevent money laundering. 

Appoint an Anti-Money Laundering Compliance Officer

Initially, you should create an anti-money laundering policy that is clear in its dictation and punishments. As a further safeguard, it’s also prudent to hire an Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Compliance Officer who will routinely check the accounts and ensure there’s no fraud taking place. If they notice anything odd, they can report it to you. Keep in mind that the AML Compliance Officer should have extensive experience and knowledge in terms of financial policy, procedure, and crime.

Utilize Software 

Besides just an employee looking over the books, it’s also a wise idea to have an impartial bit of software looking over your shoulder for you, too. One piece of software you might want to consider is one that provides name matching services. This can be used as an anti-money laundering process that ensures those you bring into the business and those you do business with are legitimate people without fraudulent claims attached to their names. 

Bolster Accounting And Cash Handling Processes 

Another strategy to prevent money laundering is to bolster the accounting and cash-handling processes so that it makes laundering a lot more difficult. Additional watchdogs can be set to overlook these processes. However, you should keep the number of people who handle the accounts and cash handling as minimal as possible. Not only does this decrease the chances of someone with questionable morals from accessing your accounts, but it also helps narrow down the suspects when laundering is suspected. 

Knowing The Deal 

It’s also a good strategy to be a part of all of the deals that are made in your business. Or, at least, to be able to observe them, so you can ensure you understand the exact terms and benefits of the deal. Most importantly, you should know who is benefiting from the deal, how, and why. You may be able to sniff out questionable parties and report them. 

Money laundering is a terrible way to lose hard-earned profits in your business. By following these four strategies, you can bolster the security of your business and prevent laundering from occurring.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley

4 Ways to Put an End to Your Debt

We have strong impulses that can quickly get us in trouble, and that’s a fact. Probably the strongest is the impulse to spend money – too much money. Sometimes it’s just a stupid thing, like relying too much on the power of our credit cards, but you don’t have to be reckless to end up in large debt.  Borrowing money has become a pretty normal thing in every grownup’s life – in this capitalistic society it may be the only way to get things we want or even really need. You’d say that there’d be a great debt awareness by now, but that’s not always the case. Even when it is, not many people are prepared for the unexpected that can take many forms – childbirth, lost job, an accident, etc. All these life-altering experiences will also quickly alter your finances and prevent you from paying back your loans on time.

Even if you lead a pretty steady life and are punctual with your repayments, their end may seem far out of reach. You’d want to pay off your loans faster and be done with it, but coming up with enough money seems impossible. That’s how you get accustomed to your debt. If you’ve signed a loan to finance your business you might expect that the growth of that business will take care of the repayments. But nothing can grow in financial shackles – not your business, not your life. And you’re the only one who can break from them. Poor financial decisions can be overcome with the right ones, and debt can become a thing of the past.

1. Make it a Priority

This is the worst thing about debts – the bigger they get, the less we want to look at them. You might say that you’d rather live your life than deal with numbers all the time, but there’s not much life in the situation where you’re running in circles. If you want to find the way out you need to look the numbers straight in the eye. It is actually a pretty obvious move and a really simple one. All you need is a Google Spreadsheet or a piece of paper if you’re a pen person. First, you need to visit the websites of each financial institution you have a debt to. Then simply copy down all balances along with their respective APRs, exactly as they appear – and pay special attention to your minimum payments for every account. Only after you track down all your debts this way you’ll know how much exactly do you owe and that is the road to getting rid of it.

2. Set Goals Along The Way

Knowing the exact amount you need to pay back can be overwhelming even for the most goal-oriented person, so the best way to go is to break it. Once your debt is in the form of manageable parts it won’t be scary anymore, and every small victory will provide you with more determination. The first thing you need to do is to assess how much money can you set aside for monthly repayments since that will shape your periodic goals. It will also provide you with a rough estimate of how long it will take you to get out, eliminating the factor of a neverending financial nightmare. To make these goals even stronger and boost your motivation, try to negotiate a lower interest rate with your creditors. Most people think that this possibility of interest rate reduction is a fairytale, but if you’ve done your homework on comprehensive credit reporting you should know better.  And now you have a bigger monthly repayment budget.

3. Catch The Big Fish First

When you have a clear list of debts in front of you it might be difficult to figure out where to start and decide on debt payment portion. Most people decide to pay balances low to high, not thinking about interest rates. It is understandable to try to keep your money, but that way you’ll do quite the opposite. If you’ve succeeded in reducing your interest rates you might be encouraged to take this road, but this should actually serve as a motivation to attack the debt with the highest interest rate and continue with the buildup of your budget. Debt is probably the only area in life where working your way down will get you much quicker above the surface. So you need to focus on the big fish you wish to eliminate first, making the minimum payment on other accounts. Then simply pass onto the next debt on the list, adding the money you’ve freed up to the minimum payment. People call this the snowball method, but once you try it it will seem more like a cleansing avalanche.

4. Balance Your Work And Savings

It is obvious that you’re gonna need to work more to pay off your debt faster. People go at great lengths, working overtime, taking second jobs, babysitting in their free time, etc. Although this is a very responsible thing to do, it could take you to the extreme where you’ll make your final payment in the nuthouse. That’s why it’s important to find the perfect balance between your work and savings. Yes, but you’ve thrown your complete savings on that big fish we’ve talked about above. Well, there are other ways to save up without working your ass off. It is just the question of how you look at the money. You have your bonuses, tax returns, birthday and wedding gifts, don’t you? Instead of treating that indirect income as a reward which you’ll use to buy you something nice, apply it directly at your debt.

But this windfall money is still not the only way to save up. You can downsize, for start. You have a shiny new car in your driveway, but you also have debt. So trade it for something cheap and you’ve saved up. Do the same with all your ʽtoysʼ – there’ll be plenty of time to play once you’re out of your debt. Once you’re out of big-ticket items that don’t mean your race is run. Every house or apartment is full of things we’re never gonna need, and yours is not an exception. And there are many people who do need (or think they need) that stuff, so it’s time for a garage sale.

In the end, you’ll save up by careful spending. Start with your utility bills. It’s pointless to pay for cable if you only watch Netflix, right? Then take a look at your fridge. Do you really eat all that? How about planning your meals? Maybe you can walk to the store instead of calling delivery every time? When you go shopping, leave your credit cards at home – handing cash will always remind you that you have to save up.

There you have it – looking your debt straight in the eye and breaking it down into manageable pieces it’s already half of the work done. It will boost your motivation to work harder and determination to keep the cash flow in the right direction.

Guest author Lucas is a business consultant with a passion for writing. Doing his research, exploring and writing are his favorite things to do. Besides that, he loves playing his guitar, hiking and traveling.

What Are You Doing to Improve Your Business?

Being a business owner can wear on some individuals over time. Given all the responsibilities in running a company, it can seem overwhelming. That said you want to do all you can to improve things before it becomes too late to act.

So, what are you doing to improve your business?

Finances Are Something to Focus in on

If you need to take steps to improve your footing, start by looking at how you are doing with finances. With that in mind, you might want to go online and apply here for a business line of credit.

In taking this action, you can move closer to receiving the help you need to straighten things out. Yes, some owners run into financial difficulties over time for one reason or another. That said you can’t afford to get into a funk where there is no end in sight to your financial challenges.

Even when you gain approval for a line of credit, the work does not end there.

With this being the case, also look at how you are doing when it comes to buying goods and services for your business.

Do you get the best deals possible when working with your vendors? If you rent office space, are you paying too much each month? Could you be using a better credit card to make purchases for your business? Remember, the interest fees with some cards can be quite hefty.

No matter what you do to improve your company’s financial outlook, do not wait until it is too late to take action.

Improving Your Brand’s Reach

As important as your company finances are, do not go to sleep on the importance of brand promotions.

As an example, do you promote your brand on social networking sites?

It is important to remember that social media is essentially free. As such, you do not have to spend tons of money to be relevant on social media. With some time and effort on your part, you can have an impact on social networking sites and not break the bank.

You also want to look at how your customer service efforts are being received by the public.

If your customer service is lacking, it can come back to haunt you. Remember, most of your customers have other options besides doing business with you. As a result, you could end up losing out on future business if some customers deem you did not go the extra mile for them.

Finally, you want to make sure you have productive and happy workers on your team.

Unless you have a one-person show running things, you will need the help of others. Given this fact, you want the best employees possible by your side. When you have them, you can improve your business approach.

Be sure to engage your employees and get their two cents on how you might improve your business.

Having meetings with your staff to discuss your company and how to make it even better are a good idea. You never know what someone might suggest for improvement that you did not think about.

In looking at where your small business will be soon, will you like what you see?

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers business topics on the web.

Maintaining Certifications and Compliance—3 Areas Every Business Should Consider

Every business has to stay on top of its management. From licensure to certifications, it’s vital that every operation stays organized. Mismanagement or even a temporary lapse in attention can result in major liabilities that cost thousands of dollars down the line. In order to keep employees happy and finances in check, don’t overlook these three major compliance and certification considerations. 

Employee Insurance

Depending on the size of your business, you may be legally obligated to offer your employees some form of healthcare coverage. The Affordable Care Act employer mandate requires any organization with 50 or more full-time (or full-time equivalent) employees to offer health insurance coverage. 

Failure to offer coverage to 95-percent of full-time employees will result in a fine of $2,320 per employee, excluding the first 30. Even if you’re only left with 20 employees after the subtraction, you would still face a penalty of $46,600. 

Full-time employees are considered anyone who works 30 hours per week or 130 hours each calendar month, including paid-time-off and vacation days. Teachers and other education employees are considered full-time even if they don’t work all year. 

While healthcare is expensive, it’s more than just a liability for businesses. Offering health insurance demonstrates you care about your employees, and greater benefits will boost morale and increase loyalty. 

Quality Assurance

Depending on your line of work, quality assurance may be more than just a form of risk management. There are different quality requirements across various industries including engineering and food servicing. Failure to meet these standards don’t just open the door for lawsuits but also jeopardizes your entire business’s reputation. 

QA allows business owners to consistently gain insight into their products and improve their services and delivery. Quality assurance is more than just protection; it also provides valuable insight into your company’s day-to-day operations and ensures your customers never received anything less than what they’ve paid for. 

Taxes and Finances

Even the most diligent business owner can slip up and miss some important figures come tax season. In order to ensure that your company doesn’t get audited or fined for a costly oversight, consider outsourcing your tax preparation and business financing to a professional accountant. Accountants adhere to proper standards and are able to fully commit to managing your business’s finances. Also, using software like this HCP aggregate spend reporting can also help significantly with organization and tracking.

Remember that business is all about improvement. Revisiting your foundation and making any adjustments to your current operations will ensure that your company is always capable of accommodating new changes and adapting to growth. Staying in compliance with business laws and ethical standards will help make your company a more effective, enjoyable and reliable establishment for everyone involved.

Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband.

You Don’t Need to be a Millionaire to Invest

When people think about investing they always think about films like Wolf on Wall Street, The Big Short, or Boiler Room. It’s fast-paced, it can get dirty, there are a lot of men shouting at each other in a hot room filled with computers. The deals aren’t always legit, but there are millions to be made. And, that might be true for some people. But there is a much easier way for people to invest small amounts. Yes, the returns are more modest, but it’s something you lead to learning as you go. In general, making smart investments will help you grow your wealth, and you don’t need to be a millionaire to invest either.

Who Are You

DIY – You want to learn from the ground up, you have an idea where you would and wouldn’t like to put your money. You want to know the best combination of indicators for day trading and you’re happy to put a lot of time into it.

Half and Half – You are comfortable being hands-on but want someone or something else to help you make the final calls. You want the stocks all processed for you, and you want to manage a varied portfolio. You have a little bit more money and some clear goals. A robo-investor is going to be great for you.

Think about what it is you want to get out of it. Do you want to learn the details, and handle everything, or do you want to be hands on but have a helping hand too.

Check Account Options

If you want to invest, you’ll need an investment account to do it. If you are going down the DIY route, then a brokerage account is what you’ll need. Going half and half? You can get yours through a robo-investor.

A brokerage account is like the quickest and cheapest way to start buying stocks, funds and open up the rest of investment types for you too. You will probably need to pay a transaction fee for every trade you make, which might sound expensive, but you won’t have a robo-investor creaming the top of your investment profits. But, it is all on you to make wise decisions.

Getting some help? You can sign up to something like Betterment, which has a $0 minimum and start buying. You’ll be charged a management fee, which is typical of all investors, and it varies depending on what you have invested in and how much you have made. The robo-investor will keep checking in on your goals to make sure you are getting the best service.

Even Easier?

If you aren’t ready to do any of those, but you still want to have some investments – Plum can help. Not only will it allow you to set up automatic savings each week, but you can also use those savings to make some investments. They have a range of options from sustained, small growth to the significant growth great gamble options like Technology. It keeps track of everything for you and gives you a breakdown of where your money is. You can withdraw it at any time too.

7 Proven Strategies To Successfully Manage Your Investment Property

Properties have always been considered a safe and profitable investment. In most of the cases, these assumptions are true. However, there is one common belief the real estate newcomers are usually wrong about – troubles don’t go away once you find a hot property and sign the papers. They are just beginning.

Although it doesn’t seem that way, rental investments require a great deal of careful management, and their eventual success hangs on the investor’s ability to perform it. Let’s take a look at a couple of strategies that can make this job considerably easier.

Keep the reliable tenants happy

The properties that are not necessarily considered hot and have a history of sitting vacant for months before finding reliable residents can cause their owners huge financial problems with each turnover. That is why landlords have to go out of the way to make tenants happy. Here are some of the ways you can do this:

  • Maintain open and friendly communication.
  • Be quick to respond to tenants’ requests.
  • Make strategic upgrades to accommodate tenants’ habits.
  • Do your best to keep neighbors under control.
  • Encourage longer leases even if that implies discounted rates.

Create a financial plan

Rental properties are not that different from any other business. As a result, if you want to make them profitable you need at least a rudimental business plan. This document should cover the property’s market value (as determined by size, location and amenities), expected revenue, monthly and annual expenses, and the list of upgrades intended to increase the property’s market value. This simple plan prevents rash decisions, excessive spending and gives landlords an excellent reference point for measuring their current progress.

Take care of the maintenance

Keeping up with property maintenance is one of the most important things you should do with your investment. This issue is so complex that some countries like Australia demand that strata managers and lot owners provide professionally made initial maintenance schedule that specifies obligations of maintaining the common property assets. These documents are a great roadmap for all future property interventions, so it is a good idea to hire trained professionals to make you one.

Study the law

Knowing the legal provisions regarding the landlord-tenant relations can be of tremendous help in handling potentially troublesome situations and streamlining the management process. Some of the most important topics you need to cover are the regulations regarding the security deposit, reasons for evicting the tenants out of the property, the very process of eviction and the circumstances in which tenants are allowed to legally withhold the rent.

Manage your property like a hospitality business

This plays out in two ways. On the one hand, you should treat your property with the same level of care and attention as you would if you were running a hotel. On the other hand, running the rental property like a hospitality business sets a great frame for establishing the relationship with the tenants. Yes, you should be pleasant and do your best to make them feel comfortable. But, at the same time you should maintain a professional distance and keep your doings within legally binding terms.

Market your properties

This is another topic where you could take notes from hospitality businesses. Waiting for the tenants to come to you instead of reaching out and marketing your properties to them is a horrible mistake. And remember this – listing your investments on Airbnb and similar websites is not marketing. Instead, your venture should follow all the steps other small businesses make and devise a comprehensive marketing strategy that includes branding, and actions across several different marketing channels.

Consider hiring a property manager

Managing several properties can be an overwhelming process. In such circumstances, hiring a professional whose sole job will be to manage your investments may be the only viable option. Managerial salary will make a cut into your profit, but your business will be set on solid ground, and you will have your hands free to explore other ventures. Alternatively, you may opt for businesses providing managerial services. This option practically outsources management outside your enterprise, but you do get a top-notch service for the price of a monthly subscription.

Managing a rental property is a task that requires a lot of patience and effort. And yet, a lot of landlords approach this duty like their job consists solely of picking up the rent and hiring contractors to perform annual maintenance. Such landlords don’t have staying power. Learn from their mistakes and use the seven strategies we gave you to turn your investment into a profitable business laid out on rock solid foundations.

About the author: Mike Johnston is a lifestyle and business blogger from Sydney. He is a regular writer at Smooth Decorator and Divine Magazine. He also contributed to real estate and environmental blogs as well. Mike’s goal is to create and share meaningful content that helps and inspires people.