3 Employee Retention Ideas for a Bootstrapped Budget

Employee Retention Ideas for a Bootstrapped Budget

All good small business owners know the value of key employees and their importance to their business’ success. They’ve invested time to find qualified candidates, contributed resources to train them, and are acutely aware of the significant financial and opportunity losses that would be incurred if an employee left the company. While some employee retention strategies rely on high salaries that far exceed the market average, not all organizations can afford this. So what is a bootstrapped company to do when it comes to attracting and keeping valuable employees?

There are many affordable strategies for employers to implement, and many are easier (and perhaps more fun!) to implement than you might think. It’s important to remember that money isn’t the only factor that affects employee satisfaction. Individuals value other benefits, such as flexible schedules, opportunities to grow, as well as appreciation in the form of small rewards. In this article, we will review three ideas for employee retention that don’t involve higher salaries.

 

Flexible Schedule

More and more businesses around the world are beginning to see the value of flexible schedules. While the traditional 9-5 dominates most corporate schedules, that leaves employees with little to no time to run personal errands, such as make doctor appointments or pick up their children from school. Offering your staff the flexibility to set their own schedules, whether it be to come in and leave earlier, or simply take a big break in the middle of the day, can be a big draw to keep them at your firm. In fact, a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 89% of the human resources professionals surveyed reported that having flexible work arrangements positively impacted their employee retention.

 

Mentorship Programs

A big priority for all people, especially those just entering the workforce, is the opportunity to advance their careers. While all good employee retention strategies should involve promoting from within, employee empowerment can be further achieved through the establishment of mentorship programs. Connecting seasoned and experienced employees with those recently out of college will provide invaluable industry advice and connections to your staff. Providing your team members with this opportunity to either share their expertise or learn from industry experts is empowering and can help prevent them from looking for other work opportunities.

 

Small Rewards

For employees to feel valued at the company they work for, management must make the effort to make the staff feel like they are recognized and rewarded for their hard work. While offering a large bonus may not be feasible, showing your appreciation with small rewards can be just as meaningful. Superstar salespeople can be encouraged to outsell their colleagues with gift cards to their favorite stores or restaurants. Even small denominations such as $25 or $50 can serve as motivation for excellent performance.

Acknowledgement of staff’s time and effort, such as offering your employees a half-day off after they just worked two weeks of overtime, will surely be appreciated. Other small rewards can include one-on-one time with the manager, which is something employees rarely get, catered lunches or simply a park picnic for a chance to get out of the office.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that your employees are only motivated by money — that is far from the truth. While that does play a role, employees want to feel recognized and appreciated by their management. Flexibility, spontaneity, and creativity can go far to make up for limited funds or bootstrapping. Show your staff that you notice their hard work with small and affordable rewards.

 

An important aside to consider is that as your business’s workload grows, you may reach the point where in order to retain your current employees you need to hire more staff. Employees that are overworked on a consistent basis will look for other work, no matter how many rewards are bestowed upon them. It is advantageous for companies to have enough working capital to hire new staff for busy seasons or periods of increased demand. Small business loans through IOU Financial enable businesses to hire new employees in order to ease the burden their current staff may carry. For more information about how a small business loan can help with staffing needs, contact IOU Financial today.

 

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Tips for Getting the Most from Your Small Business Marketing Budget

Getting the Most from Your Small Business Marketing Budget

Small and medium-size businesses don’t have the luxury of million-dollar marketing budgets that large corporations do. We know you’ve seen plenty “marketing on a budget” articles around the internet, so we wanted to take a slightly more strategic approach, providing some perspectives on “intelligently investing in your marketing.” You can find various strategies to spend a minimal amount to market your products or services, but will that generate maximum exposure? In this article, we cover three major areas for you to consider spending some of your small business marketing budget and strategies to help ensure your investments pay off.

 

Scale Operations With Marketing Technology

While finding free marketing platforms might seem like a cost-effective tactic at first, using paid marketing technology can provide greater efficiency, create less frustration, generate better data for reporting, and overall, provide better results when it comes to getting the word out about your small business. Platforms to consider are:

  • Marketing Automation – This is usually a marketing platform that consolidates all of your marketing efforts. Instead of having dozens of accounts for blogging, SEO, social media, emails, landing pages, etc. You can access and control all of them from one place. This allows you to evaluate and compare the performance of marketing campaigns, check the effectiveness of call-to-actions across different platforms, and automate multiple channels with the click of one button. Where to start?  HubSpot or Marketo.
  • Keyword Management – If you are doing any online advertising, understanding your keyword strategy is crucial to making the most of your advertising budget. While you can use Google’s Keyword Planner to check your keyword rankings, a platform like Wordstream will analyze your current keywords and makes improvement recommendations. This platform helps both newbies and professional marketers start and manage their AdWords accounts, promising to convert 60% more leads, while lowering marketing costs by 10%.
  • Social Media Management –  With the ability to manage all accounts from one dashboard, schedule future posts, engage with clients, and analyze social media campaigns, these tools can save you valuable time to spend on other things. The extra analytics and reporting provided can also help you make informed decisions about your social media marketing. Hootsuite is a great platform to consider for this service. Over 10 million subscribers are using this solution to integrate all of their social media accounts into one.

 

Invest in Social Media

While posting content on social media is always free, investing in these platforms can offer a bigger pay-off through increased exposure to your target market. Consider spending marketing money in the following areas to maximize your brand’s exposure on social media:

  • Social Media Advertising – Facebook, the biggest player in social media, has over 1.4 billion users worldwide; you can pay to create customized ads to target your specific audience by defining specific demographics such as the user’s age, location, interests, etc. The best part is that you can indicate what your maximum budget is, and Facebook will stop the campaign once you hit that number. Additionally, users can find directions to your business, a link to download your app, and even shop right from the Facebook ad.
  • Paying for Content and Photos – One of the best ways to generate traffic to your business’ website is by creating unique and informative content. However, not all small business owners are professional writers, which is why it can pay big dividends to hire an expert to create articles, infographics, and website content. Additionally, platforms like Pinterest and Instagram rely almost exclusively on images, so great photos can have a big influence over how many people choose to click on your link or not.
  • Hiring a PR Consultant – Hiring a professional PR consultant can really help your brand get the exposure it needs. A PR firm can develop a clever marketing campaign, find writers for you, and offer helpful advice on what cost-effective channels to reach your particular audience, helping you save money by avoiding spending it in ineffective areas. In many cases, PR professionals can help connect your organization with influential people (writers, magazine editors, bloggers, etc.) that can provide access to their own audience.

 

Spend Smarter on Traditional Advertising

Although there are many innovative ad strategies, that’s no reason to completely ditch traditional advertising! Of course, you’ll want to use it in a smarter way. While new businesses may still be discovering who their client base will consist of, those that have been operating for a few years have a better idea. Small to medium-size business owners that are interested in maximizing their return on any tactic, use tracking methods to measure their performance. When it comes to TV and radio, planning ahead to correlate sales with ad campaigns is important.

While a television commercial can be expensive, investing in a TV ad in a specific market where you know it will reach your target audience can greatly increase your sales. As well, paying for radio commercials during specific times of the year (Christmas, back to school, etc.) when your sales typically spike on stations that target a specific audience (parents, younger women, etc.) can be lucrative.

 

The success of any business is greatly affected by its marketing strategy. Looking for ways to fund that big marketing idea? Contact IOU Financial and put a small business loan to work. Our quick application and pre-approval process can fund a business loan up to $150,000 within a matter of days.

 

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$50 Million Credit Facility with Midcap Financial

IOU Financial enters into $50 million credit facility with Midcap Financial

  • Facility increases availability of capital to support growth, and lowers funding cost of capital
  • Marks completion of important strategic objective for IOU management

NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION IN THE UNITED STATES WIRE SERVICES OR DISSEMINATION IN THE UNITED STATES

MONTRÉAL, April 22, 2016 – IOU Financial Inc. (TSX Venture Exchange: IOU) (“IOU Financial” or the “Company”), a leading online lender to small businesses, is pleased to announce that it has entered into a $50 million credit facility with MidCap Financial (“MidCap”). The facility will have an initial commitment amount of $25 million and will be expandable to $50 million at IOU’s request and the lender’s acceptance.

MidCap is a middle market-focused, specialty finance firm that provides senior debt solutions to companies across all industries.

“The credit facility will not only increase the availability of capital to support our growth, but also lowers our funding cost of that capital. I am very pleased to have concluded this agreement with MidCap, achieving an important strategic objective for our management team, and further positioning the Company for continued growth,” said Phil Marleau, CEO of IOU Financial.

CCFL Capital, an Exempt Market Dealer, acted as the Company’s financial advisor in connection with the credit facility.

Fourth Quarter 2015 Year End Results

IOU Financial Inc. Releases Financial Results for the Fourth Quarter and Year Ended December 31, 2015

  • Loan originations in 2015 increased by 47% year over year to a record $146.4 million.
  • Total loans under management in 2015 was approximately $92.7 million, an increase of 63% over the previous year.
  • Increase of 94% in year-over-year gross revenue to $12.0 million.
  • Convertible debenture offering completed for $11.5 million of gross proceeds in 2015.

Montreal, April 22, 2016  IOU FINANCIAL INC. (“IOU” or “the Company”; TSX:IOU), a leading online lender to small businesses, announced today its results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2015.

FINANCIAL HIGHLIGHTS

  • Loan originations in the fourth quarter period ended December 31, 2015 were US$36.3 million, representing an increase of 9% over loan originations of US$33.2 million for the same period last year. Loan originations in 2015 were US$146.4 million, a 47% increase from US$99.5 million in 2014.
  • On December 31, 2015, IOU Financial’s total loans under management amounted to approximately $92.7 million as compared to $56.9 million at the end of 2014, representing an increase of 63% over the previous year. On December 31, 2015, the principal balance of the loan portfolio amounted to $27.5 million compared to $14.3 million at the end of 2014 while the principal balance of IOU Financial’s servicing portfolio (loans being serviced on behalf of a third-party) amounted to approximately $65.2 million compared to $42.7 million at the end of 2014.
  • IOU Financial recorded gross revenue for the quarter ended December 31, 2015 of $3.8 million versus $1.8 million for the quarter ended December 31, 2014, representing a 111% increase. IOU Financial recorded gross revenue during the year ended December 31, 2015 of $12.0 million versus $6.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2014, representing a 94% increase
  • IOU Financial recorded net revenue for the quarter ended December 31, 2015 of $2.4 million versus $1.6 million for the quarter ended December 31, 2014, representing a 50% increase. IOU Financial recorded net revenue during the year ended December 31, 2015 of $7.7 million versus $5.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2014, representing a 52% increase.
  • The Company closed its fourth quarter 2015 with a net loss attributable to common shareholders of $628,524, or $0.02 per share, compared to a net loss of $308,518 or $0.01 per share during the same period of 2014. The Company recorded a net loss attributable to common shareholders for the year ended December 31, 2015 of $3,658,473, or $0.06 per share, compared to a net loss of $1,318,656 or $0.03 per share during the same period of 2014.
  • The Company closed its fourth quarter 2015 with adjusted earnings, which exclude certain non-cash and non-recurring items, of negative $491,677, compared to adjusted earnings of negative $190,600 in 2014. The Company recorded adjusted earnings for the year ended December 31, 2015 of negative $1,695,156, compared to negative $1,400,635 in 2014.

“In the past year, IOU Financial reached record loan originations. We are now firmly established as a preferred alternative lender in the United States and, with the launch of our services in the Canadian market, we will soon serve small businesses right across North America,” said IOU Financial CEO Phil Marleau. “IOU Financial continues to lead innovation in the financial technology sector. Our strong market position positions us to deliver sustainable long term shareholder value,” continued Mr. Marleau.

IOU Financial’s financial statements and management discussion & analysis for the year ended December 31, 2015 have been filed on SEDAR and are available at www.sedar.com.

Banks Aren’t Lending: Kevin O’Leary Interviews DaVinci’s Pizza Owner

Today’s small business owner can struggle for months with a bank to receive the smallest amount of financing. Kevin O’Leary understands small businesses and got involved with IOU Financial to ensure small business owners always have access to affordable capital!

O’Leary interviewed Jason, owner of DaVinci’s Pizza, who waited for months only to be denied by a bank for a loan. When Jason found IOU Financial – he was approved and funded in under a week!

If you are a small business and working capital is the only thing holding you back from expanding, give IOU Financial a call. We can help restaurants expand their seating area, retail stores grow their product line, doctors update their equipment, and so much more!

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Expand your Business through Greater Product Offerings

After two years of operation, Voodoo Vapor found itself with two successful locations. The company’s owner had recently moved into a larger brick and mortar store and expanded her business with a free-standing mall location.

In order to continue the successful growth and evolution of the company, Voodoo Vapor realized that adjusting the way inventory was managed would be crucial. Increasing foot traffic and building a larger base of loyal customers could be attained if inventory could respond quicker to the rapidly changing variety of inventory the market was demanding. This was going to require additional capital, but the books showed the potential for a great return.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH WERE OUTSTANDING

The vaping market has come a long way since the introduction of electronic cigarettes. Since 2013, vaping has been experiencing explosive growth. In 2015, the market was estimated to be approximately $3.5 billion, and some experts are predicting growth to $25 billion in just the next 10 years.

Voodoo Vapor already had some experience with alternative financing, and was interested in exploring options and restructuring a loan from their current lender to better match their current cash flow needs. Voodoo Vapor wasn’t initially looking for a second position, but when IOU Financial offered their terms combined with the opportunity to put that funding to work, it was too good to turn down.

“The online application process couldn’t have been simpler. It only took a few minutes to complete.  And the terms, specifically the daily payback amount, made it easy to put these new funds to use immediately. Working with IOU was a pleasure because our loan officer not only understood our business and market, he even came up with some great suggestions for us.”

Voodoo Vapor Owner

FUNDING POWERS GROWTH IN A COMPETITIVE MARKET

As an early player in the central Ohio market, Voodoo was one of 12 vaping retailers in 2013. Today, there are nearly 120 outlets. Previously, quarterly inventory cycles used to be enough to keep up with the latest consumable vape products known as e-liquid. However, today the lightning pace at which the products are changing requires constant updates to inventory and services to stay relevant.

While there are many innovations and new products when it comes to hardware, the market for the e-liquid consumable component is constantly evolving. There are literally thousands of flavor options and hundreds of potential vendors for this consumable product, and trends rise and fall in a matter of weeks. Voodoo Vapor knew that shortening the inventory buying cycle could increase foot traffic to their retail locations, translating to a growing, loyal customer base.

READY FOR NEW OPPORTUNITIES

Attracting new customers with a wider variety of inventory isn’t the only way Voodoo Vapor has been putting IOU Financial’s funding to use. With the extra capital available, Voodoo was ready to act when the opportunity presented itself to expand the product line.

Voodoo has now entered the e-liquid game with its own product. The new e-liquid has become a huge success in her own store and has even landed on shelves of several other stores.

“I’m thrilled to say that we now actually have a waiting list of stores that are interested in carrying it. This exciting new venture wouldn’t have been possible without the funding we received from IOU.”

Are you looking to expand your inventory and reach your target market? A fast, fair and affordable small business loan could be right for you.Call 866-217-8564, or visit IOUFinancial.com/our-loans/ to learn more.

DOWNLOAD THE CASE STUDY HERE

Cash Flow Assistance for a Growing Small Business

Specializing in LED lighting and solar electric panels, Ohio Valley Electric has tripled its growth in the past years.  With five-plus years in business and an A+ BBB rating since the start, John, the owner, counts his success to always going the extra mile for his customers. “We started the business to help people, and when customers send you a payment in the mail and attach a thank you note; it makes all the hard work worth it,” said John.  solarpanels

Recently, the Indiana-based company sought additional working capital from IOU Financial. “Turn around for us on large jobs is often weeks or even months from ordering product to completion.  This causes our funds to become too tight to operate on,” explained John. The IOU capital allows the small business to finance the jobs that come its way in a proactive manner. “IOU gave us the funds to order material for existing jobs, as well as money to get our message out to more people,” said John.

“IOU seemed to be more flexible then the other people we talked with.  As a small business, you need to work with people that are flexible and helpful,” explained John.  “Some places require so much time to go through the process, and as a small business owner, time is too important for me to waste.”

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Maximizing Profits With Better Inventory Management

How Inventory Management Can Make or Break Your Small Business

All small businesses are focused on driving sales in order to boost revenue, but businesses that sell goods rather than services have the unique challenge of managing their inventory in a way that maximizes their profits. Small business owners rely heavily on the profitable sale of inventory to grow and stay in business. Gross margin — the difference between an item’s selling price and its acquisition cost — can be affected by several factors, both internal and external. How a business owner thinks about and handles inventory decisions and accounting can affect the bottom line, and it involves more than just deciding what to buy and when. Here are four of the most important factors related to inventory management:

  1. Economic Environment: It’s always wise to run a tight ship, but never more so than when the economy slows down. When sales slow down due to the economy, a “tight ship” means buying or making only enough inventory that can be sold in a relatively short time period. If the economy turns inflationary (costs of goods increase faster than expected), consider talking to your accountant about “LIFO” inventory management. Using a last-in, first-out inventory costing approach allows your cost of goods sold to mirror the most recent inflationary price hikes. This can benefit your business because it can lower your taxable income and income taxes.
  2. Market Environment: Today’s taste may be tomorrow’s waste — that’s the way it can go with a fickle consumer base. When some of your inventory goes out of style, your best move is often to mark down prices and take an accounting loss. The result is you restate your inventory value at the lower of cost or market, which in this case is market value. The benefit to your business by doing so, is that it boosts your COGS (cost of goods sold) and thereby cuts your annual taxable income — or even hands you a net loss for the year. Either way, it reduces your tax bill. You might have to write off inventory because of external factors like product recalls, boycotts, obsolescence, bad publicity and tariffs, to name a few.
  3. Shrinkage: Shrinkage – no, we’re not referring to George Costanza here — theft, spoilage, damage, short shipments, misplacement are all big enemies of profits. Fight back with cycle counting, in which you perform a daily physical count of a different part of your inventory. Repeat the cycle until you’ve surveyed all of your inventory, then begin again. The advantage is that you’ll detect shrinkage much sooner than if you had waited until the end of the year to perform an inventory check. The sooner you discover a problem, the sooner you can address it. If you uncover an issue, some potential ways to address it include adjusting your storage and security procedures, changing management or security personnel, finding new suppliers, or at worst, fire a dishonest employee.
  4. Inventory Tracking: Even if you’re running a small business, you can still consider automating your inventory tracking from inception to sale. High-tech features such as bar code scanners and radio frequency guns can track all movements of your stock items, allowing you to establish a perpetual inventory system saving you buckets of time that can be invested elsewhere to grow your business. Making investments in inventory tracking pay off with timely, accurate information about goods on hand and COGS. You also might be able to delay or reduce time spent on physical inventory counts. To maximize your benefit, take the extra step to integrate the information into your accounting and procurement systems.

 

Just remember, inventory management is all about maintaining and maximizing your margins. Being mindful of your economic or market environment can help you plan ahead, and implementing proper tracking can help you use all your inventory to its full potential.

Would additional working capital help you optimize your inventory management? IOU Financial is here to help. We offer business loans up to $150,000 that allow you to keep the right amount of inventory you need on hand, and establish the tracking you need to manage it effectively.

3 Tips on Social Media Presence for Your Small Business

3 Tips to Build a Stronger Social Media Presence for Your Small Business

While in the initial phases of starting your small business you may have created a Facebook or Twitter page without giving it much thought. Now that your company is operating smoothly, you may be looking to expand, and a stronger social media presence could be just the place to start. Social media plays a huge role in your SEO, customer service and outreach, competitive advantage and more.

Here are three important tips for kicking your social media presence up a notch:

  1. Be consistent – Consistency, in both the frequency of your posts and positioning of your content, is key when talking about anything on social media. Why? Social media is time sensitive, and consistently having content is how you build your brand, allow customers to see what you have to offer, and let  potential customers get to know you better. By posting consistently, you will be staying top of mind for customers and giving them special insight into your day-to-day business.  A good way to help yourself stay consistent is to write down a short plan that includes how often you plan to post and what kinds of content or offers are the best fit for your page. Updating this plan each quarter helps ensure your content remains fresh in the eyes of your audience.
  2. Engage with your audience – It’s imperative that your content is not only consistent, but engaging. Give thought to who your followers are and what topics are relevant to them so your content is more likely to be clicked on and shared. You can inform them of a helpful product or service, ask a question that entices them to start a conversation, or provide a quote that will strike a chord. Make sure each post provides a way for your audience to take action, whether that is clicking on a link back to your website or leaving a comment. And when people comment and engage with you, don’t be shy—reply to direct messages, comment back, and like their posts. It’s important to remember that social media is a two-way street.
  3. Don’t neglect reporting – Take time each week to check the built-in reports each platform has to offer. Almost every dashboard can tell you who you are reaching when, and whether or not they are clicking on and engaging with your content. Use this data to improve your content and adapt to your audience. For example, if you see that a peak in engagement typically occurs after 7pm, that’s the time to post your most important content. Maybe you notice that a new demographic has started following you, providing you with an opportunity to start offering targeted specials. Reporting can even help you track how often your competitors post and how engaging their posts are.

The power of social media for your small business should never be underestimated. Once you have committed to consistency, engaging content, and reporting on your performance, be sure to continually adapt your strategy based on the results you are seeing.

For more social media insight, check back with the IOU Financial blog. Happy posting!

Could Your Partner Prevent You From Getting a Business Loan?

Taking on a business partner is both rewarding and risky. Your business maybe doing well, but if your partner suddenly has a personal financial setback, such as a bankruptcy or foreclosure, this could very well  prevent your partnership from getting a business loan, especially from a bank. However, there is hope. Private commercial lenders like IOU Financial use a variety of metrics that banks tend to disregard to underwrite business loans.

Many partners go into business by incorporating or creating limited partnerships in order to:

  1. Create a liability shield, in which creditors can’t go after the partner’s personal wealth to settle a debt.
  2. Ensure that the company bylaws specify that the business’ debts are shared equally among the partners, leading one to believe that no partner will be stuck with an unfair proportion of the company’s debt.

Suppose your partnership gets a bank loan that both partners guarantee, and a month later your partner goes bankrupt and can’t pay back their portion of the loan. From item 2 above, you might think that you are only 50 percent responsible for the business loan, and that your partner, though bankrupt, must still shoulder responsibility for the other half of the loan.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

When your partnership gets a commercial loan, the guarantor partners are individually and severally liable. That means every partner is 100 percent responsible for the entire loan balance. Your partner went bankrupt, so his personal guarantee was discharged, leaving you responsible for the entire amount.

Your bank will want its money, and as for getting another business loan, they won’t consider it. These are a few of your options:

  • You can buy out your partner and then sell the partnership share to another person. If your small business is profitable, you may be in luck..
  • You can apply for a loan modification from the bank, removing the previous partner and avoiding default.
  • Apply for a debt workout, in which you make a settlement on the company’s debt.
  • Or, the least attractive of these options, the partnership files for bankruptcy.

A Better Alternative

Suppose your partner goes bankrupt, but you haven’t applied for your business loan yet. Instead of going to a bank, apply with IOU Financial. Sure, we look at the credit rating of the partnership and its partners, but we also look at the company’s cash flow. Under the proper circumstances, we may indeed be able to approve your business loan. If you have a good track record, been in business for over a year, realize at least $100,000 a year in business receipts, and maintain a daily balance of at least $3,000 in your business account, you definitely need to speak with us.

Here is another scenario. Your partnership already took a loan from IOU Financial, and subsequently your partner hits the skids. You still can refinance your existing loan with us once you’ve repaid 40 percent of the principle.

IOU Financial likes to say yes when banks say no. You can apply for a loan and receive a decision in just a few minutes. Contact us today to learn more about alternative lending that can help protect your assets and the integrity of your business.

 

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