Hire AND Keep the Best Employees With a Healthy Work/Life Balance

Offer one thing… flexibility.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “work/life balance” a lot. When you think about work/life balance and your firm, are you providing an atmosphere where employees feel that this is a concern of yours?  Work/life balance is certainly a hot-button issue, and is very, very important to many people in the workforce and thus it should be important to you!

Here are two of the top reasons why providing a healthy work/life balance at your company is important:

When you provide employees with flexibility with their schedule, chances are likely they will be more productive during the hours they are working.  Number 1 – they will appreciate the opportunity where they can schedule their hours around what works well for them personally for both them and their family.  Number 2 – They won’t be distracted during work hours thinking about family matters that they feel like they should be attending to.

You will attract individuals to your firm that are concerned with having a good, healthy work/life balance. Let’s say there is a prospective employee that is interested in your company and another company named “Company Balance.” This candidate goes through the interview process with both companies. Both firms make an offer to the candidate. Your offer actually comes in a little bit higher, and all other benefits are equal, except for one thing.  Company Balance is committed to a healthy work/life balance and will allow that employee to work flexible hours, take an extended lunch and make up the hours another time if need be, and even offers a telecommuting option certain days during the week.  That candidate accepts the offer from Company Balance because that type of flexibility is invaluable.

Never underestimate the importance of a healthy work/life balance to both your current employees and prospective employees.  Give employees the option of flexibility and sit back and watch the positive results.

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What You Should Be Looking for (or Looking Out for) in a Loan Offer

For most small businesses, the question isn’t whether you will need a loan, the question is when. The business cycle involves ebbs and flows of capital needed to pay bills, draw salary and buy inventory. Without sufficient liquidity, a business may have to cut staff, curtail operations or simply close down. An affordable commercial loan is a lifeline that allows the business to continue to thrive and grow. But not all loan offers are the same. Let’s take a look at what separates the good from the bad.

  1. Size: Most banks scale small business loan offers solely to a company’s credit rating and history. Many a bank loan is turned down or is too small because loan officers have no leeway to look upon each applicant in its entirety. What you want is a loan offer that judges your business holistically, one that values cash flow as much as credit. A good commercial lender will use information — such as RiskLogic scores, industry, years in business and geographic location — to approve loans that bank loan officers can’t or won’t. A good lender should see how you’ve operated in the past and how you’ve used previous loans — did you use them to grow the business or to make foolish purchases.
  2. Speed: Bureaucracy, thy name is bank. If you’ve ever wondered why it takes a bank forever to approve (or disapprove) a small business loan, it’s usually because the people making the decisions reside in corporate headquarters — New York, Charlotte, Hartford, etc. — and have no personal contact with applicants. Applications are often paper-based and sending the information around the country takes time. A better idea is to use quick online application, have a fast-track reference process, deliver pre-approval in seconds and provide funding within 24 to 48 hours.
  3. Cost: Not all lenders charge the same. Merchant cash advances are notoriously expensive. When looking at alternative lenders, pick the one with lowest rates and the best reputation for trustworthiness, such as an A+ rating from the BBB. Choose a lender that charges simple rather than compound interest and which doesn’t penalize you for early repayment.
  4. Convenience: The easiest way to repay a small business loan is to have fixed daily payments automatically taken directly from your account without distracting you from your business. Also, daily fixed payments are easy to budget. A good lender will offer a loan renewal once 40 percent of the original loan’s principle has been repaid. Renewal can result in a lower interest rate and/or higher loan amount.
  5. Credit Enhancement: Guess what – a credit card advance or merchant advance does nothing to build your business’ creditworthiness. That’s another reason to stay away from this type of borrowing.
  6. Human Factors: Does your bank seem cold, remote and have trouble remembering your name. Look for a lender that values human interaction while remaining entirely professional. Courtesy should not be optional. Look for a lender that understands small business because it has roots as a small business.
  7. Honesty: No funny business! Watch out for bait-and-switch tactics, hidden fees, rates that change after the small business loan is made, and pushy loan officers who try to talk you into loan products that are not in your best interest. If a lender requires a large application fee, run the other way. There should be no upfront costs when applying for a loan.
  8. Availability: Lending at many banks simply dried up in 2008. Big business created the crisis, but small businesses took it on the chin. Look for an alternative lender that made loans when banks wouldn’t. They’ll be there the next time Wall Street blows up the economy.

At IOU Financial, we strive to be the best in all eight of these factors. See for yourself — contact us through email or online chat, or call us at 1-866-217-8564. Don’t settle, select!

 

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IOU Financial Inc.’s Results for the Three and Six Month Period Ended June 30, 2015

Montreal, August 25, 2015 – IOU FINANCIAL INC. (“IOU” or “the Company”; ticker symbol IOU/TSX-V), a leading online lender to small businesses, announced today its results for the three and six month period ended June 30, 2015.

Loan originations for the second quarter ended June 30, 2015 were US$33.8 million, representing an increase of 39.7% over loan originations of US$24.2 million for the same period last year. For the six month period ended June 30, 2015, IOU Financial originated US$65.1 million in loans, representing an increase of 46.0% over loan originations of US$44.6 million for the same period last year. On June 30, 2015, IOU Financial’s total loans under management amounted to approximately $73.4 million as compared to $41.0 million for the same period last year, representing an increase of 79% over the same period in 2014.

On June 30, 2015, the principal balance of the loan portfolio amounted to $19.5 million compared to $11.0 million for the same period last year, while the principal balance of IOU Financial’s servicing portfolio (loans being serviced on behalf of other parties) amounted to approximately $53.9 million compared to $30 million for the same period last year. IOU Financial recorded revenues for the quarter ended June 30, 2015 of $2.9 million versus $1.5 million for the quarter ended June 30, 2014, representing a 93.3% increase. For the six month period ended June 30, 2015 IOU Financial recorded revenues of $5.5 million versus $2.8 million for the same period in 2014, representing an increase of 96.4%.

IOU Financial recorded net financial income before operating expenses for the quarter ended June 30, 2015 of $1.8 million versus $1.3 million for the quarter ended June 30, 2014, representing a 43% increase. For the six month period ended June 30, 2015 IOU Financial recorded net financial income before operating expenses of $3.8 million versus $2.2 million for the same period in 2014, representing an increase of 73.5%.

The Company closed its second quarter of 2015 with a net loss attributable to common shareholders of $696,296, or $0.01 per share, compared to a net loss of $424,529 or $0.01 per share during the same period of 2014. For the six month period ended June 30, 2015, IOU Financial had a net loss attributable to common shareholders of $911,294 or $0.02 per share (2014: $839,313 or $0.02 per share).

IOU FINANCIAL TO TRANSFORM SMALL BUSINESS LENDING IN CANADA

MONTRÉAL, Québec, August 19, 2015 – IOU Financial Inc. (TSX Venture Exchange: IOU) (“IOU Financial” or the “Company”) a leading online lender to small businesses in the United States, is pleased to announce today that it intends to open up its offerings to the Canadian marketplace.

IOU Financial’s unique approach to lending will revolutionize small business lending in Canada. Unlike traditional banking institutions, IOU Financial’s innovative, proprietary online technology quickly and efficiently assesses the applicant’s financial realities with an emphasis on day-to-day cash flow, with most loans granted within 24 to 48 hours. To date, IOU Financial has funded over US$225 million in small business loans in the United States.

“As a Canadian company with headquarters in Montreal, we are very excited at the prospect of serving the Canadian market with a transformative and reliable alternative to traditional banks,” stated Phil Marleau, CEO of IOU Financial. “IOU Financial provides small businesses with the working capital they need to quickly seize growth opportunities. We have already started the process of collecting information on potential direct clients in Canada as well as future broker prospects to position ourselves for a successful launch in the Canadian market. We look forward to our official Canadian launch in the months to come,” continued Mr. Marleau.

IOU Financial will be available to the Canadian market at ioufinancial.ca.

How to Reduce Small Business Debt

Your business can quickly spiral out of control if debt climbs to unsupportable levels. Sudden shocks are much harder to absorb if your cash flow is already tied up in debt service. The best remedy is to pay down your debt methodically. Insolvency and bankruptcy leave economic and psychological scars that you should work hard to avoid. Here are some ways to reduce business debt and improve your company’s finances:

  1. Update Your Budget: When you find it hard to pay monthly bills, sit down and review your budget. See where the cash inflows are failing to meet expectations and where expenses exceed the budgeted amounts. If the changes seem permanent, update your financial plan accordingly. Typically, the changes will involve variable expenses — changes to fixed costs should not come as a surprise, but in any case should be reflected in your budget and financial plan immediately. A revenue shortfall needs to be analyzed to see whether it is a temporary blip or a permanent change. Revise your budget so that you can continue to pay down your debt.
  2. Cut Expenses: You can devote more money to repaying debt by reducing your expenses. Think of cuts that will not cripple your business, such as unnecessary rented space, professional memberships, non-critical travel, non-essential employees or work hours and delayable inventory purchases. The trick is to make cuts that will increase net profits. For example, if you cut too much inventory, you may not be able to sustain your sales revenue. If you lay off too many employees, you may lose your operational edge. In some cases, it might be cheaper to use contract employees. If you explain the problems to your employees, they may agree to pay cuts until things begin to look up. If you have discretion over employer payments to workplace pension plans, omit your matching payments this year. With the advent of Obamacare, you might consider terminating your company’s health insurance plan. Offer incentives to higher-paid employees to take early retirement.
  3. Increase Revenue: Offer markdowns, volume discounts and better terms for cash payments. Speak with customers and see if they would be willing to move up the timing of their regular orders. If possible, increase marketing and advertising to stimulate sales. You might want to factor your accounts receivable to collect revenue sooner. Sell off assets you no longer need. Concentrate on inventory items with the biggest margins. You might have some goods or services that don’t really generate profits, so replace them with higher-margin alternatives. Introduce loyalty programs that reward repeat customers with special discounts and deals. If you run a brick-and-mortar retail business, perhaps you can expand into online operations and even begin selling to international customers. Online selling is very economical and can allow you to cut your fixed costs.
  4. Work with Vendors: Often, vendors will respond positively to requests to delay payments and may even float you a note for three to six months. It’s in vendors interests for your business to survive, so don’t be shy about negotiating with them. Prioritize vendor payments based on which ones have to be paid first.

Consolidate Your Debt: If you owe money to several creditors, you may be spending too much each month on minimum payments. Take out an affordable small business loan from IOU Financial to pay off your other debt. IOU Financial makes repayment easy by automatically collecting your payments daily directly from your checking account. This removes the scary prospect of large monthly payments and thus makes it much easier to budget.

 

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How to Conduct an Effective Interview

The call comes in from reception – your interviewee just arrived. Great! You’ve had this open position for 2 months, and this person’s experience looks perfect. You are hopeful! You grab your pen and notepad and head down to the interview room. You step in, make eye contact and shake hands. So far so good. You sit down and think, “Uh-oh where should I start, what should I cover?” You aren’t prepared, and start to sweat … This all could have been avoided with some careful preparation.

Here are 5 steps on how to conduct an effective interview:

  1. Be prepared! Walk into that interview armed with open-ended questions – questions that the person needs to answer with more than a yes/no answer. Make sure that your questions cover the areas of experience, work-related skills, interpersonal skills, and goals.
  2. Make sure to have everything scheduled in advance. Reserve an interview space and make sure that anyone that needs to see the candidate during the interview is scheduled to do so. Reconfirm the morning of the interview so the process goes smoothly.
  3. Make the person feel comfortable immediately. Be pleasant.  Make eye contact. Sit down and make a little small talk to set the person at ease. The more comfortable a candidate is, the more likely he is going to be open and honest with you.
  4. Remember that the interview is a two way street. Make sure you present yourself and the company in the proper light. Don’t talk negatively about others in the firm or the company itself. Honesty is important but bashing of any kind is not! In the end you may love the candidate but he has to want to work at the company as well.
  5. While you need to ask the questions and respond to any concerns of the candidate, remember you need to give him plenty of time to talk. Sometimes a manager may go on and on in an interview, and ultimately not give enough time to the candidate to really learn about his skills and experience.

Your preparation and demeanor during an interview is crucial to the success of the interview itself. By taking your time beforehand to prepare, and by providing a welcoming and positive atmosphere, your interview process should and will run very smoothly.

 

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Disaster Plan: Why You Need It and How to Create It

Natural disasters can wreck your business. Hurricanes, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, meteor strikes, terrorist attacks, nuclear meltdowns, viral contagions and other mishaps can cause power outages or shut down key vendors, events that can cripple small businesses. According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, 25 percent of businesses that experience a major disaster never reopen. That number rises to 40 to 60 percent when considering small businesses only. Furthermore, 90 percent of businesses fail within a year unless they resume operating within five days. The best defense is a properly drawn and frequently updated disaster plan. The plan should allow you to get back into operation quickly so that you can provide your offerings to your community.

The Big Picture

Your disaster plan needs to encompass the full range of contingencies that result from a natural or man-made disaster. The basic topics should include:

  • Identify your recovery team: Who will be in charge of crisis management, who will populate the recovery management team, how will you notify employees and maintain communications among all parties?
  • List types of disasters that are most likely: Rate the probability of each event’s occurrence so that you can concentrate on the most likely.
  • Identify alternate locations: Locate recovery and backup locations, and create relationships with your local disaster recovery service providers. Allocate space for a suitable emergency command center.
  • Create communications plans: Develop plans for internal and external communications, including an employee phone tree, emergency phone numbers, re-routing critical phones, and providing non-phone alternatives such as email.
  • Recovery plan for technology and data: Document all your computer technology and data backup facilities, including access to cloud-based files. Develop technical procedures to recover after interruptions, and layout which employees or vendors are responsible for restoring operation of critical technology. Ensure off-site backup and make plans for alternate computer centers.
  • Plan to restore operations: Each job function and employee responsibility should be well documented. Develop a plan to restore critical operations first and assign emergency management tasks to selected employees. You will need a way to track disaster costs and a person made responsible for this tracking. Review your business insurance to ensure it will help get you back into operation quickly.
  • Set up contingency financing: You will want to pre-qualify for commercial small business loans to help you pay the steep costs associated with disasters. Quick access to cash can make the difference between survival and bankruptcy.
  • Work out plans with supply chain: You will need to effectively communicate with suppliers and vendors, both local and distant, to ensure you can continue to receive critical materials and services. Identify all supply chain participants and store the list offsite. Share your plans with your vendors and create secondary relationships with alternate suppliers.
  • Ensure safety: Put together disaster recovery kits that include medical supplies, survival rations, flashlights, hand-crank radios and other emergency gear. Make sure you have an evacuation plan, perform drills and establish emergency shelter locations.
  • Test and maintain: Perform a simulation recovery at least once per year. Create systems to record the results of drills and evaluate results for improvements to the plan. Make sure you communicate any plan changes to employees.

Have Your “Go Bag” Ready

If you have to evacuate, you should be able to grab your “go bag” with a minimum of fuss or assembly. Suggested items include a fully charged laptop preloaded with all critical information, including emergency contacts, passwords, insurance policies, and floor plans if appropriate. It should also contain cash and credit cards, first aid supplies, critical medications, and basic office supplies.

If you’d like detailed guidance in setting up your business disaster plan, visit the U.S. Small Business Administration website.

Top Characteristics of an Effective Manager

You are a manager, and as a manager you have a staff. When you think of that staff what attributes would you like them to have?  Your list probably includes words and phrases such as hard-working, loyal, intelligent, and trustworthy. You probably even have a vision of the ideal employee.

Now turn it around.  Have you ever considered what attributes your employees would include if they were putting together a list of what they would like their manager to be? Stop for a moment, and consider that. And when you think about it, do you fit the bill? If not, there’s no time like the present to get started!

Let’s take a look at 3 areas that make someone the kind of manager that people truly want to work for.

  1. Approachability – Being the type of manager that people feel they can come to with a question or concern. Whether this means you have an open door policy, or even if you can’t in your position, being the kind of person that is willing to listen and take the time for your employees. And in addition to that, you are supportive regarding their concerns and feel as if you are on their side whenever possible.
  2. Being fair – We are all human and we may naturally get along better and have more in common with some people than others. But that should never get in the way of how you treat your employees. When it comes to business decisions, you should always be fair and consider the strengths of all of your employees, and never favor people that you have personal relationships with just because of that tie.
  3. Rolling up your sleeves – When your employees know that you will jump in when necessary that makes a huge difference in how they view you. If you just sit behind your desk and close the door when the going gets tough, your employees will not respect you and their sense of any loyalty may diminish. But when you step up when they need you to and lend a hand to help with a project or task they will certainly take note in a very positive way.

Now it’s up to you. Take a few minutes and really assess your strengths and weaknesses. Do your employees view you as approachable and fair, and do they see you as a team players? If not, it’s never too late to make a change. Just go ahead and do it!

Make Your Home Office More Productive

Working from a home office, there are so many perks. You have flexibility, you have a very short commute – maybe only down the hall, you don’t have to purchase a wardrobe to go to work and can even just wear your pajamas all day , you can even schedule a repair man during work hours because you are home, and the list goes on and on and on! So working from a home-office is perfect right? Certainly you are the envy of many who have to go into the office. But while the perks mentioned are certainly benefits, these benefits can also create pitfalls, if they aren’t handled properly. Well, most of them except working in pajamas, that’s always good!

Working from a home office can be riddled with distractions that can easily derail your productivity. Maybe you have a child that’s home, maybe you are hungry and grab a snack but remember there’s a show on at that time you want to watch so you sneak in 10 minutes, maybe you remember that you forgot to do the laundry you meant to last night.  It’s important to schedule everything, during your day when working from home, so distractions don’t pop in and cause your productivity to plummet. If you want to watch a show, schedule it during your lunchtime, if your child is home do your best to set boundaries and have as many activities set up for him/her in advance, and take care of your hunger have snacks at your desk just like you would in the office so you don’t have to step away to go to the kitchen, etc. etc. etc.

And there is always something to be said about closing the door! When you are in your home office treat it as an office, one where you are meant to focus and have a successful day. While closing the door may be symbolic, it closes you in to your work space, separating your work and personal spaces.

And lastly, be organized just as you would at work. Just because you are home, doesn’t mean organization isn’t important.  Organize your work and supplies as you would in the office so everything is easily accessible and you know where everything is.

Working from a home-office is a huge perk. Enjoy the benefits; just don’t let anything creep in that can derail you from your home-office being an environment that promotes success. It truly is up to you.

 

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