Jumpstarting a Business After Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy filings increased by three percent in 2018, as per the latest statistics from the United States Bankruptcy Courts. However, this predicament does not prevent individuals from wanting to retrace their steps and make things right by venturing into business. Starting a new company after bankruptcy presents its own set of unique challenges. Therefore, the owner must set clear goals for their business while addressing the complexities that come with being bankrupt. Goal setting involves analyzing the situation one is in and working towards a set target and also asking for guidance from important avenues to avoid being financially distressed again. 

Seek Legal Advice

Entrepreneurs who have previously filed for bankruptcy need to understand the connection between bankruptcy and their startup. Therefore, seeking legal advice enables them to navigate the complexities of business and bankruptcy law. Legal advisors also assist entrepreneurs to best prepare for future conflicts that may arise post-bankruptcy. Matters of taxes, legal requirements and how to separate the business from the individual should be clarified at this stage. It is essential in situations where individuals filed for insolvency as sole proprietors. Therefore, the legal team could advise that the business be registered as a limited liability company to protect the owner’s assets in case of financial distress. 

Finance the Startup Without Credit

Every business requires a substantial amount of cash injection before it commences operation. Business loans come in handy for entrepreneurs to successfully operate. However, obtaining bank loans may deem futile post-bankruptcy. Besides, getting credit after bankruptcy may be expensive as financiers may charge higher interests rates on loans. Entrepreneurs should, therefore, strive to finance their venture without obtaining loans from financial institutions. Considering businesses that require little capital to start is a good option. Also, seeking financial assistance from family and friends may guarantee you an interest-free debt. Consequently, once the business is up and running, proprietors should ensure all obligations are met on the dates they are due and not on accrual basis.

Market your business

The success of any business is dependent on its customers and the effort put in place by the owner to reach them. Business owners must strive to ensure they bring on board as many clients as they can. While huge marketing techniques may be expensive for the startup at first, using friends, referrals and social media platforms are inexpensive but forthcoming forms of marketing. Consequently, the use of fliers, free samples and promotions can grow the customer base of a business. Also, having a motivated team who work in line with the business objectives will ensure quality service to clients. This, in turn, guarantees return and new customers for the business. 

Although being declared bankrupt may seem like the end of the world at first, it is not. With informed assistance, a person can go back to normalcy. Learning from previous mistakes by taking advantage of credit counseling you must attend to receive your discharge can help you prevent future financial issues. Knowing that building your credit score requires the use of any credit, acquired judiciously is a good start towards being smart when it comes to money matters.

Guest Author, Jenny Holt, is a former HR executive turned freelance writer, who now spends more time with her young family and ageing, but ever eager Labrador, Rover.

How to Decrease Costly Down Time During Construction Projects

Downtime during a construction project can have a big impact on both worker productivity and your ability to meet project deadlines. Any amount of downtime will can build up over time, and oftentimes downtime in one area will cause more in another. Although downtime on the job is inevitable at some point, it is a good idea to learn a few strategies you can use to prevent wasted work hours. Below, you will find a few tips for keeping your machines and operations running as effectively as possible. 

Rotate Workers

A lot of downtime can come from the physical needs of your workers. Long hours of working can be exhausting. Not only does this result in your employees requiring breaks, but their productivity can slow down as they become more tired leading up to those breaks. One way you can mitigate this is to rotate your employees. Set up shifts so that, when one set of workers are tiring and need a break, the set can rotate in and take over. Even just rotating tasks so that some can do restful activities, such as supervising and directing operations, in between more physically demanding activities can help keep your team fresh and efficient. Talk to your workers about their rest needs and work patterns to create a schedule that will work best for everyone.

Engage in Preventative Maintenance

Your workers aren’t the only ones affected by long work hours. Your machines will also need breaks and checkups to ensure that they are working efficiently. Machines work long and hard to bring your construction ideas to life, and maintaining them regularly can help you avoid the cost of full repairs and needless downtime later. Develop a preventative maintenance plan that includes things like inspections and selective repair work. Consider getting a guaranteed cost agreement for the life of the machines as well. If you have engines or motors that are frequently worked close to overheating, consider ways to rotate equipment so that each will suffer less strain and wear over time.

Manage the Details

Any large or small construction project will have a plethora of logistics attached to it in addition to the physical labor. However, your project managers and workers don’t always have access to all of the relevant information they need while they are on the project site. If they are unclear on points such as local building codes, work schedules, or subcontractors in the area, then it can be time consuming to try and coordinate with those who do have that information. Construction management services, however, can help you and your employees keep track of all operations and relevant information through phones, tablets, and laptops. This ensures that all necessary information is readily available to all relevant parties. Missed calls, emails, and elusive or vague calendars will no longer have the power to slow down your project completion rate when you have the proper management and tracking solutions. 

Consider the Weather

One of the biggest factors influencing downtime for construction is complications with the weather. Whether it’s rain, snow, wind, or even blistering heat, certain steps cannot be completed in extreme conditions. Make sure that you are keeping careful track of weather trends when scheduling project completion dates. Take steps to prepare for potential delays from the weather by getting what needs proper conditions done first. Ensure you have the right equipment, such as tarps, canopies, heaters, and dehumidifiers to help mitigate the effect of the weather on your work. Also, find ways to make even downtime productive by taking the opportunity to run equipment checks indoors, assemble necessary equipment and parts, organize paperwork, and create action plans for when the weather lets up.

Downtime is an inevitable part of any construction project, but not all of it is necessary. By taking precautionary measures, planning carefully, and orchestrating your tasks and operations effectively, you can greatly reduce wasted time and increase project completion speeds. The tips outlined above are just a few of the ways you can lessen the negative financial impact of downtime on your business.

Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She loves being in the outdoors and exploring new opportunities whenever they arise. Meghan finds happiness in researching new topics that help to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out looking for an adventure. You can connect with her on Facebook right here and Twitter right here.

Expanding Your Online Business: 4 Things to Consider Before Opening a Brick-and-Mortar Location

Many companies have expanded from brick-and-mortar operations to offering only online stores that can be used to purchase products and services. It’s a huge sector of the economy and has been growing rapidly since the introduction of the internet. 

However, what if you wanted to do the opposite? Instead, you could evolve from an online-only operation to also having brick-and-mortar locations. This too can lead to increased profit. Still, there are serious pitfalls you need to avoid. Here are four things to consider before making this transition.

How Niche Is Your Business?

The great thing about the internet is that it gives you access to millions of people you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. This includes consumers with extremely specialized interests. While you may be able to find enough of these individuals online to make a profit, achieving the same success in one geographic location may be much more difficult.

Will You Appeal to the Local Customer Base?

Similarly, you also need to ensure that you have the ability to actually appeal to the consumers in that locality as well. Your store may be a hit online with shoppers that live in Manhattan. However, if you start a brick-and-mortar location in Rapid City, South Dakota, the consumers there may find your New York-centered branding and marketing off-putting.

Can You Afford All the Costs Involved?

The most significant advantage online stores have over brick-and-mortar stores is the elimination of a lot of overhead expensive and startup costs. Obtaining a building that consumers will actually enter can be much more difficult than finding warehouse space. You will also have to be able to afford all the other expenses required to maintain that store like utilities, rent, and much more.

Do You Have the Management Skills?

Operating a brick-and-mortar store takes distinctly different management skills than managing an online store does. Customer service, for one, will often be face-to-face. You will also have to recruit and train employees that will work with customers directly. You need to ensure you are up to this task or your brick-and-mortar store will flounder as a result.

Just because you are successful with an online business does not necessarily mean you can translate that success to brick and mortar. However, there is still the possibility you could make a fortune by making this transition with your company. If you think brick and mortar can work for you, consider obtaining construction management services and other services that can help you plan for your new stores.

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 Your Small Construction Company can Save Money

Anyone who has ever run a construction company knows just how quickly overhead costs can come bearing down. Even if you spend countless hours planning out a job, a few small mistakes can easily turn into expensive problems that eat into your profits. Here is a look at four effective ways that small construction companies can cut costs and improve efficiency.

Outsource Your IT

There are many different reasons why thousands of companies throughout the country are now outsourcing their IT departments. For some small business owners, IT tasks can quickly escalate into time-consuming and frustrating projects. Letting professionals take care of your IT work is also going to improve your company’s security and reduce your risk of data theft. While you may not think IT solutions are necessary for a small construction company, the technology used on sites is incredibly important. New tracking software to help you better manage projects and coordinate workers will save you valuable time, making it an important investment for your efficiency as a company.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

If you want to keep costs down, recycled materials is the best way to go. Many companies today are taking advantage of the many benefits of recycled timber, recycled steel, recycled aluminum, and of course, the tax benefits that come with them. Not only can you buy recycled materials as a cheaper alternative, but you can sell your own scrap for recycling, as well. Doing this is excellent both for your company’s reputation as an environmentally-conscious construction source and for your company’s building costs.

Hire and Architect

Unexpected problems in construction can quickly become costly, especially if they involve the foundation and structure of the project itself. Architects may seem like just an extra cost, but working with one can ensure that your project is outfitted to succeed from the start rather than being secretly doomed to fail. This will also show your customers that you care deeply about the quality of your work and give them greater faith in your ability to get the job done right the first time around.

Rent Specialized Equipment

Working with a local equipment rental company is another tactic that could save you quite a bit of money. You have probably invested in a few key pieces of equipment, but you don’t need to have a wide variety of cranes, skid steers, and wheel loaders sitting on your property. Renting equipment as it is needed will lower your monthly insurance premiums and minimize your company’s debt. Equipment rental can also save you on smaller machinery, such as motorized saws, drills, and other regular equipment. Even if you happen to use machinery regularly, renting it will ensure that you always have the newest models that someone else is storing and maintaining for you. However, specialized tools and machinery should be rented as-needed either way to avoid costly storage and maintenance fees on items that aren’t being used to their money’s worth.

In an ever increasingly competitive market, you want to take every advantage you can to ensure that your company will come out on top. Cutting costs doesn’t have to mean cutting corners, and some ways that you can save money will help your company in its efficiency and reputation, as well. Consider your options and expenses, and you’ll find ways to cut down on project costs without ever sacrificing quality.

Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She loves being in the outdoors and exploring new opportunities whenever they arise. Meghan finds happiness in researching new topics that help to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out looking for an adventure. You can connect with her on Facebook right here and Twitter right here.

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.