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May 22, 2017

Business Survival Tips During Slow Seasons

slow season

Most businesses have slow seasons or times of the year that just aren’t as busy as others. One example is the retail industry. Summer is often a time when retail-based small businesses see a slow down because their customers are often on vacation or enjoying the outdoors and not necessarily thinking about shopping as much.

These slowdowns can have an enormous impact on business, and you can see that as you research seasonal stock trends, and discern just what an economic impact the time of year can have on a business.

So if you’re a small business, how can you survive your slow times?

Get Outdoors

As mentioned above, one of the reasons a lot of businesses and in particular retail businesses tend to slow down in the summer is because all their would-be customers are outside enjoying the warm weather. So why not take your business to them?

There are a couple of ways you can do this, including participating in local, seasonal events and festivals or hosting your own outdoor event.

You want to put yourself front and center in plain sight of customers and clients, which can mean getting outdoors as much as possible during warm weather months.

Be Prepared

If you’re a veteran in your industry, you may already recognize the importance of being prepared and understanding seasonal trends, but if you’re a new business, doing some research can go a long way. Go back years or even decades and look at general industry trends in your business.

This will help you better prepare for a potential seasonal slowdown, and then you’ll be more equipped to manage things like cash flow if it does occur.

Also important is to consider the potential for a slow season when you’re developing your yearly plan. As you’re setting up projections for revenue and your goals, think about what peaks and valleys might occur, and prepare for the worst when you’re doing that.

Be Transparent

A lot of businesses will suffer during downturns because they try to hide it from their vendors and their bank, as well as investors and other people they have money-based relationships with. Rather than trying to hide it and stay afloat, be open and honest about your situation.

Everyone around you will appreciate it, and you won’t lose them when times are a little tough. If you’re honest and upfront you may even be able to negotiate on some things with your vendors and suppliers.

Get Organized

If you’re prepared for your slow season, you can look at it as a very good time to get organized and be better prepared for when business picks back up again. Slow times are ideal for performing an audit of your business, and analyze what’s working and what isn’t.

You can make sure that you are operating in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible, and evaluate how your employees are doing. If your staff could benefit from additional training, this is a great time to do that as well.

Look at slow times as having their own unique value in terms of strengthening your business.

Slow times are tough, but preparation is key to surviving them and using them as an opportunity to thrive.

 

May 19, 2017

The Tips You Need to Start Your Own Consulting Business

Consultant

Starting a consulting business can come with a lot of advantages if you have expertise in a particular area, especially if your expertise is highly in demand. When you work as a consultant, you are an advisor to another person or a company, and the market for these services totals in the billions of dollars each year.

Technology has also expanded consulting because it’s easier to communicate and collaborate.

With all the advantages of being a consultant, it’s important to realize that it’s not for everyone, and it takes not only a sense of passion but also dedication and the ability to be a self-starter.

The following are some things to know if you’re considering a move to your own consulting business.

Know Your Insurance Needs

Many consultants are lax when it comes to things like insurance, but that can turn into a big legal problem. Speak with a professional to learn if you need certain insurance, such as personal indemnity insurance. Companies need to protect not only their business but their personal assets, so even if you’re a consulting firm of one, it’s important to make sure you’re protected.

In the U.S. indemnity insurance is often called errors and omissions insurance, and it is like malpractice insurance for consultants in the event a consultant or their employees do something that causes loss or damage to a client.

Create a Pricing Structure

As you’re starting a consulting business, you’ll need to develop standardized pricing structures as well as proposal templates. To do this, you’ll need to do some competitive analysis and look at what other consultants in your industry are charging, as well as how long certain elements of a project will take you.

When you’re a consultant and you have a set pricing structure, you won’t have to worry about going back and forth on pricing, because your rates are set, and that’s it.

Important to remember is that people put more value on things that cost more, so don’t ever undercharge. Of course, you have to be able to demonstrate your value, but if you can do that, you can price your services at a premium.

Set Up a Corporation

Even if you’re working entirely on your own as a consultant, it’s a good idea to set up a corporation for your business.

Otherwise, your personal assets can be at risk if something goes wrong. Plus, if you’re a corporation it will lend your newly formed business a sense of legitimacy that clients will like.

Be Prepared To Sell Yourself

If you’re thinking of being a consultant, along with having expertise in a niche where there’s a demand, you have to be prepared to sell yourself.

You’ll need to brand your business with that in mind and be prepared to attend every meeting with the idea that you are going to sell yourself first and foremost.

Finally, be ready not only for face-to-face interactions where it’s all about selling your value, but also be prepared for demanding clients and obstacles because it’s inevitable in consulting.

 

Four Proactive Tips for Starting a Home-Based Business

home office

Starting a business on your own terms often feels like a leap of faith. After all, stepping away from the security and stability of a steady nine-to-five gig isn’t easy if it’s all you’ve ever known.

Yet given the volatile nature of the economy and the fact that those stuck in office gigs often wish they were elsewhere, it never hurts to think about how you’ll eventually escape the daily grind to become your own boss.

If you want to turn working from home into a reality, consider the following tips to put your ideas in motion. While your business idea may not come to fruition overnight, looking at the big picture of your business will increase your likelihood of making a smooth transition from office drone to entrepreneur when the time comes.

Brainstorm Sooner Rather Than Later

It never hurts to have an idea or two in the back of your mind in terms of what you want to do with your business. Don’t make the mistake of moving forward with your own business until you understand the in’s and out’s of your industry.

For example, you need to decide what sort of industries mesh with your skill set and allow you to work from home. Are you savvy with Internet marketing and ecommerce? Do you prefer to work with your hands? Could you potentially start a local business which allows you to engage with your community?

There is no “right” answer to these questions, but having a few ideas in mind will help guide you to figure out exactly what you need to get started.

Build Your Home Office

Regardless of what you decide to do, having a dedicated home office space to crucial to your success. If you’re running a web-based business, for example, you’ll need a dedicated space to take care of client contact and work in peace at the comfort of your computer.

But what if you’re dealing with physical products? Although nothing’s stopping you from running your business out of your garage, having a dedicated workspace can help you focus and keep your inventory from overtaking your home. Investing in a steel arch building as your workshop is a solid option as you give yourself a dedicated place to work and store your products safely.

Have Your Savings in Order

Simply put, you’re going to want to have as much cash on hand as you possibly can when it comes time to start your business. Start saving today rather than put yourself in a situation where you can’t afford to keep your business idea afloat. Even putting a hundred dollars here and there in a secure account can make all the difference when you or your business hit hard times.

Seek Out Potential Joint Ventures

It never hurts to have a partner in crime when you’re starting your own business. Whether through personal friendships or someone looking to provide some start-up capital, use your existing network to your advantage. Chances are there’s someone else in your inner circle that could help you get your business off the ground.

That being said, you should tread lightly when partnering up with close friends and family. Don’t make the mistake of sacrificing your personal relationships at the expense of your business.

With all of this in mind, however, don’t go off telling everyone under the sun that you want to quit your current gig, either. Although you don’t need to completely suppress your entrepreneurial ambitions, don’t make them public to your co-workers until you’re truly ready to jump ship.

Starting a home-based business can be a reality if and only if you have a smart plan in place. With these tips in the back of your mind, you can get your business off the ground sooner rather than later.

 

May 10, 2017

Tips and Best Practices To Improve the Efficiency of Accounts Payable

Accounts Payable

A company’s accounts payable department is an essential component of the organization, but it’s often one where there’s a lot of waste. Accounts payable departments tend to be stuck in the past, even when they’re part of a large, modern organization.

There’s a lot of manual data entry, time-consuming workflows, and clunky methods for handling of invoices. By eliminating the inefficiency of accounts payable, companies can improve their overall efficiency as well, and save money.

The following are some simple ways to achieve that objective.

Identify Where Problems Exist

In large companies, one of the biggest issues in addressing inefficiencies in individual departments comes from the fact that leadership doesn’t know where these problems exist. Before trying to address inefficiency in general, it’s important to do an audit of where there are specific issues, and where solutions could deal with those problems.

This will allow companies to get the best return on investment, and also make sure they choose the right technology solutions when it comes to automation.

Invest In Automation Software

First and foremost, all companies need invoice management software and a fully automated accounts payable system. This is the number one way to automate nearly all processes across the AP department and improve efficiency in a huge way.

With automated invoice and AP software, these departments will have the repetitive tasks done for them, eliminating much of the tediousness that tends to bog down accounts payable. Software is also an excellent way to simplify complicated workflows in general.

When workflows are automated it also cuts down on human error, optimizing overall performance.

Define Objectives

Improving inefficiency in and of itself is a fine goal, but it’s also important to set specific goals. For example, do you want to process a certain number of invoices each month without hiring new employees?

Maybe you want to reduce the number of people it currently takes to process the same number of invoices.

Whatever your objectives may be, it’s important to clearly define them to give yourself not only a framework from which to work, but also to measure your success and ROI.

Improve Visibility

One of the top ways to improve visibility into accounts payable is also through the implementation of a robust software solution. Regardless of how a company achieves this, it’s important.

There needs to be strong visibility into each aspect of the accounts payable workflow, and there should be a central place where relevant staff members can go to see the information they need, and if necessary, provide approvals.

When choosing software, look for options that have real-time reporting centralized on a user-friendly dashboard.

Onboard Your Employees with new Processes and Software

Finally, the organization needs to make sure they’re properly onboarding employees when it comes to any new workflows, processes, and also with the implementation of new software.

It’s important when doing this to highlight the benefits the changes will bring to employees, and also show them how it will impact their job directly.   

April 27, 2017

What To Know About Controlling Employee Access to Data

employee data

There probably aren’t many businesses at this point, whether large or small, that aren’t in some way invested in protecting themselves and their customers against cyber threats and potential data theft. By now most business owners know that they can be the target of these threats, no matter how small they are, but at the same time, businesses tend to overlook a critical area of protection: employees.

It’s important to know why and how to limit employee access to data and prevent accidental or intentional data loss that can occur through the actions of employees. It doesn’t matter if you use the best network scanner and security protection products if your employees aren’t also considered in your overall IT security plan.

Put Role-Based Access Control In Place

Role-based access is one of the most important ways you can maintain complete monitoring and visibility over who of your employees can access what. With role-based access control, you can restrict access to various systems and information only to certain employees and users. This means that each employee can only access what’s absolutely necessary to their job function.

There are many options you can use to create complete role-based access, and most software and cloud solutions have these customization options as well.

While restricting access shouldn’t be your only layer of security, it gives fewer people less access to data, making you less vulnerable.

Train Employees

A lot of data loss issues related to employees are entirely accidental. Employees simply don’t know or understand how certain actions could lead to a loss of data or a data breach.

That’s why it’s up to you as the employer to ensure that your employees are thoroughly trained. This training should be refreshed often as well because best practices and common threats can change quickly in the IT world.

Establish Procedures For Employees Who Leave

When employees leave a business for whatever reason they more commonly than you might realize will end up taking client data. They might not even see it as being a problem, but it can lead to massive vulnerabilities for the business.

Some of the reasons employees say they take client data with them when they leave include the fact that it could be useful to them in the future, the feeling that they helped cultivate that client, the idea that the theft couldn’t be traced back to them, and also that it was an accident.

The more you can define a procedure for when someone leaves the company, including wiping data from mobile devices, the more you can eliminate the risk of data being stolen.

Finally, as much as possible, limit employees’ use of the Internet and social networks while they’re at work. It’s a simple, effective way to lower the threat risk that’s present for businesses. The more employees are online and on social media at work, the higher the threat level is going to be for that business to be exposed to problems.  

April 20, 2017

Top 5 Tips For Asking For A Pay Raise

While it can certainly feel intimidating or awkward to ask for a raise, if you feel that you are not getting paid what your work is worth, then the time has come to ask your boss for one.

How to negotiate your salary properly in general is something that you should definitely learn how to do, because surprisingly few other people know how to and the result is they miss out on numerous opportunities for a potential pay increase. The same doesn’t have to happen to you, so here are the top five tips for asking for a raise:

1. Conduct Plenty Of Research

The only way to know how much your job is worth is to research it. Therefore, you will want to research averages on how much people are being paid in your line of work both in your state and nationally. You need to prove to your boss that you want more than just more money. You need to prove to them that they are underpaying you relative to what other people in your same profession and experience level are earning.

2. List Out Your Accomplishments

Your argument that you need a pay raise will always be more compelling if you have a complete list of accomplishments that showcases just how valuable you are to the company or business you work at. You will also need to write down or explain to your boss how each of those accomplishments benefited the company as well.

3. Pick The Right Time To Ask For The Raise

Be patient and ask for the raise at the right time. Not only do you want to wait for when you are fully prepared, but you also want to wait for when things are looking good for the company too. Asking for a raise when the company has recently had a large drop in sales or has had to lay off a large number of employees are two examples of times when you should definitely not ask for a pay increase.

4. Don’t Complain

One trap that you definitely don’t want to fall into when it comes to asking for a raise is coming across as complaining rather than requesting. There are certain things that you will not want to say to your boss, such as “Bill got a raise last week, so I want one too” or “I’ve worked for this company for five years and I don’t have a raise yet.”

5. Be Ready For Your Boss To Say No

Don’t go to your boss expecting them to automatically agree with you and give you exactly the raise you want. If they decline your request, politely ask them their reasons why or what you can do to earn an increase in salary. A more likely outcome is that your boss may agree to a raise, but not quite to the same figure that you are requesting,

Asking For A Pay Raise

One last thing to keep in mind is that the tips you have learned in this article won’t just come in handy for asking for a pay raise at your current job, they will also prove their worth to you for first negotiating your salary with a new job as well.