Slow Season Business Plan for Auto Repair and Body Shop Owners

Summer is here, which means soaring gas prices and as a result, the slow season for many auto repair businesses. Although your shop may be empty, it is important to use this time wisely. There are many things to be done during the slow months to help you take advantage of your busier times of year. What you do during the summer can help you plan ahead and make necessary improvements, especially if you’re in an area of the country with harsh winters and are busy making accident-related repairs during the colder months.

Take the time to follow this body shop and auto repair business plan now so you can cash in later. Here are the steps:

 

Know Your Numbers

You will have very profitable months and other times when business is very slow, so you need to learn your numbers and plan accordingly. Calculate your bottom line – how much you need to make to keep your business up and running. This includes your rent, employee salaries, insurance and other fees. If you need assistance in budgeting and notating, there are tons of free resources to use. Check out the Business Budget Smart Sheet to assist you in keeping daily and monthly costs.

After you have started figuring out your numbers, analyze how many cars you are able to fix in one day, as body shops are limited by the amount of staff and available days for repair. Once you know your numbers, you can plan on ways to maximize steady work depending on how many repairs you are able to logistically make.

 

Create a Seasonal Calendar

This task can be hard for new auto repair owners, but should be elementary for anyone who has ran the business for over one year. To plan for slow season, know when the slow times will occur. These can happen for a few days around certain holidays, a week if a local fair comes to town, or a few months during the summer. Once you know when your business is bound to slow down, you can create strategies to bring in more sales and work on your business during that time.

 

Implement Marketing Strategies

Many body shop owners make the mistake of increasing marketing during busy months as the extra cash provides an opportunity to invest in advertising. However, that is the wrong strategy. You are limited by the available bays and employees, and could end up turning clients away or asking for long wait times. Instead of attracting new clients when you are already busy, save the profits from the busy months to invest in auto repair marketing strategies during the slow months.

When advertising, consider what marketing strategies you can offer to encourage clients to visit your shop. You can offer slow season discounts on car repairs and maintenance, such as a free car wash with an oil change or a free $20 gas card with a repair job over $250. Consider what special services you can offer in addition to regular ones; options may include window tinting, car detailing and roof rack installations. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your auto repair marketing.

 

Make Improvements

When times are slow, enlist your staff in making improvements to your business that you would not otherwise have time for. Cleaning and organizing will make the busy months go by more smoothly. Take inventory of your equipment to check if anything is outdated or broken and needs to be replaced. Survey your entire business to see if anything needs improvements that you can make when times are slow. Perhaps your driveway needs to be repaved or your waiting area needs to be redone.

 

Research a Small Business Loan

If you take the steps listed above and discover that equipment needs to be replaced, you need to launch a marketing campaign, or you need more cash flow, use this slow time to research your small business loan options. Alternative lenders like IOU Financial offer loans for these types of situations and offer fast turnaround times. You can have your cash in hand and implement your auto repair business plan before summer is over, positioning yourself well to get ahead of the competition and make the most of your next busy season.

 

Contact us to learn more about using a loan to get ahead this summer.

5 Tips for Small Business Owners to Focus on What’s Important

Many small business owners fall into the trap of trying to “do it all,” getting so busy that they lose sight of long-term goals, a cycle that threatens to result in a failing business.

According to Bloomberg, eight out of ten small businesses fail within the first 18 months. No wonder. We all know how easy it is to get swallowed in the day-to-day business operations and let poor time management skills take over. Small business owners need to be the visionaries and forward thinkers, but that can often be what gets put to the back burner first.

To stay in that 20% of thriving businesses, read these 5 tips for small business owners to focus on what’s important.

 

  1. Hire Strategically

Your never-ending list of busy work and “to-dos,” can become distracting and all consuming. Identify your strengths as the business owner and delegate tasks that you don’t have time to give 100% to anymore. This could include marketing, purchasing, finance, sales, etc. Giving up these responsibilities is a sign of real growth and lets you focus on the bigger picture of your business growth.

 

  1. Saying “No” to Meetings

An over-crowded calendar can be a recipe for disaster. If you have hired strategically, you should not be involved in every aspect of day-to-day decision-making. Aim to be accessible to your teams, but don’t be involved in things like daily sales meetings. Learn to set boundaries, prioritize and attend only meetings with your most immediate priorities.

 

  1. Plan to be Interrupted

Staff members will pop into your office, and you will run into someone while getting coffee that leads to a 30-minute discussion. Sure, you should put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign and close your office door, but this will not prevent them all. If you plan time in your day that gives a buffer to your existing schedule, you will be less stressed or frustrated by conversations that run longer than expected. Your employees will appreciate you not constantly rushing off as though you don’t have time for them.

 

  1. Select Your Tools

We are a technology driven world, and there are many tools to choose from. Find a millennial in your office, and tell them about what time management you are struggling with. Choose a calendar, task, alert, notification, or alarm app, and stick to your schedule! Your phone can be the greatest tool you have at your disposal to keep you in line, so use it to its full potential. Beyond your phone, there are many wearable pieces of technology that will help in your time management needs. Some of the most basic devices you can set to vibrate each hour to remind you to get up, not let a meeting go over, or just help you keep track of the day!

 

  1. Go Home!

As a small business owner you have a task list that will never end. An NFIB article explains you need time to take it easy in order to maintain balance and stay energized about what you are doing in the office. Yes, some days/weeks you will stay late and barely get sleep, but knowing this is not sustainable is important for your overall health, and in turn the health of your business.

While no one can completely remove the things that can derail their day. Using these 5 tips will help you have more time and energy for the long term planning your business needs to thrive. You can now plan for that store expansion, find out what inventory is working for you, or get ahead of your slow season with more marketing. Now that you have the time, all you need are a little funds to get started!

Small business owners never have enough time, so slogging through a traditional bank’s loan process is the last thing they want to do. That’s why IOU Financial customers say our speed put us ahead of the competition for their lending solution. Want to see how fast? Apply for your loan here.

How Alternative Lenders Can Help You Get a Loan, Grow Your Business, and Build Good Credit

In order to grow your business, capital is critical. While larger businesses might have stock offerings or equity loans from major investors, small businesses often have to rely on loans. A loan can be the key to accelerating business growth – it means a small business owner can buy new equipment that will increase production, hire new employees, or purchase new inventory. However, getting a loan often means your credit will be put under the microscope, which can spell trouble for small business owners trying to get a traditional loan. For small businesses it makes sense to look for a lender that can understand their unique situation. That’s where alternative lenders come in.

 

Small businesses may have bad marks on their credit due to past problems with liquidity (their ability to meet their short-term liabilities), and that can hurt their chances of obtaining a traditional loan. However, alternative lenders understand that a short-term liquidity challenge should not be extrapolated to assume that the business will become insolvent. For example, smaller businesses have fewer customers, and if one of the customers is late paying their invoice, this can greatly impact a small business’ ability to pay their bills and meet other financial commitments. This is just one of the nuances of credit decisions that are unique to small businesses and that alternative lenders like IOU Financial handle on a regular basis.

 

What are credit decisions based on?

A business’s credit is based on a multitude of factors including: the length of time in business, the amount of debt a company has relative to its credit and to its cash flow, and payment history. However, sometimes a new business has trouble getting any credit, and having no credit available can sometimes be looked at like having maxed out your credit – not good. Gaining new credit through something like an alternative loan can actually be a positive for a credit score. By building good credit, as you make payments on that credit and pay the balance down, your company’s credit rating will improve. A better credit rating means a company is more likely to gain access to new credit in the future, and it also impacts the interest rate they will pay on that credit. A loan to make improvements can also help companies increase revenue, another way a business can improve its credit.

 

What do alternative lenders base their decisions on?

Alternative lenders like IOU Financial know that credit is important, but it is just one chapter of the story. There are things beyond just credit score that we look at. We want to see the whole picture of your small business: Are you generating revenue? Is your revenue increasing? Where does your revenue fall in line with your expenses? What are your day-to-day bank deposits? For a business to be financially healthy the balance of assets, liabilities, and equity should be analyzed as well as an assessment of solvency and liquidity. In sum, you need to have the cash flow to pay your bills and make payments on the potential business loan. Of course, we will also see what the loan will be used for and if it will decrease expenses and increase revenues. A holistic assessment is necessary.

 

Want to see what alternative lending can do for you? Talk to an IOU Financial Small Business Loan Consultant and learn about the ways IOU Financial can help you get the capital you need.

Modernize your Equipment and Systems to Bring in New Customers

Freight-Base was ready to develop an online system that would give them an edge over their competitors, but they needed capital quickly to launch it.

When the owner was turned away by a local bank, IOU Financial’s fast and simple process became his go-to lending resource, both for his business and his charitable foundation.freightbase-quote

Freight-Base, which specializes in international logistics, had been in business for thirty years when owner Jack Groat was ready to make his big idea a reality. He had hired a team to create a worldwide GPS tracking system that would allow customers to track every step of the shipping process, view photos of their freight, and get detailed location information. When Jack approached the local bank to get the capital he needed for additional research and developing the system’s website, he was turned away despite his business’s long tenure.

He then pursued a home equity loan. When he saw that the paperwork required him to disclose extensive information about his business and his charities, he decided that wasn’t the right route for him either. IOU caught his eye and he started investigating what alternative lending could do for him.

Loan Logistics Made Simple

Jack decided to go with IOU Financial, and the entire process, from application to receiving funding, was only 48 hours.

Freight-Base quickly put their $50,000 loan to work to enhance trackmypackage.com, the online portal for their worldwide GPS tracking system. They are also using the loan to upgrade their online quoting system so it can provide an accurate, instant, door-to-door quote. The system gives Freight-Base an edge in the market in two different ways: most large logistics companies don’t offer door-to-door quotes and have a waiting period for quote estimates. With these upgrades, Freight-Base has an edge over its larger competition. Jack said the product is in process of gradually expanding so that it covers more countries.

“Even though we’ve been in business a long time, it’s nice to be super excited about something that no one else has. You’re competing against the monsters of the industry. It’s a great feeling you have inside that you’re doing something that helps the company and helps the employees.”

Cash Flow to Help Cowboys and Cowgirls

Jack was so pleased with his experience that he returned to IOU when he needed additional cash flow for his charity, the Little Boots Foundation. The foundation holds a family rodeo and vendor show each year that offers fun, non-competitive cowboy and cowgirl activities for children. The challenge was the large, upfront cost of paying all the vendors for the event before they had their proceeds in hand.

“In the past, I took a loan from my company or a personal loan to cover the cost of the festival,” he said.

With IOU, he applied for a loan in the morning and received the funds in the afternoon. By having the cash flow to pay in full, he has been able to negotiate better prices with the vendors.

“It’s so convenient. I can’t tell you how pleased I am,” he said. “This is the first year in nine years that the entire festival is already paid off, and now we are just able to push the promotion and really enjoy the festival.”

Fast Capital with Clear Terms

Not only was IOU Financial’s process fast, but Jack also said the terms were simple and clear.

“It’s a one or two page sheet,” he said. “It tells you exactly what they are going to do, how many payments there are, and there’s no penalty for prepayment.”

Jack chose to use IOU’s daily withdrawal option to pay back his loan, and he plans to take advantage of not having prepayment penalties and pay off the cost of the festival once the proceeds are in.

With an easy experience from beginning to end, Jack said IOU is a go-to resource for business owners who are on tight time lines for their projects.

“It’s a very serious decision for someone to take out a large loan. When you’ve made the decision and you step over the line and take the loan, if you’re under a time constraint or anything like that, I would recommend IOU.”

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Tips to Make Your Dental Office Remodel a Success

Being a dentist involves more than medical expertise – you also need to have business savvy when you’re faced with key decisions, such as when to invest in new equipment and remodel your office. A dental office remodel can be expensive and disruptive in the short term, but it can give your practice the technology and layout it needs to keep both your staff and customers happy. To make the most of your redesign, you’ll want to take into account the impacts of your timing and the overall design. dentist

Timing is Everything

An article in the professional journal Dental Economics gives some insights into which seasons make the most sense for major business changes like a remodel. The data suggests that May and September are the slowest months for dentistry, whereas business peaks in August, October, November and April. If you were planning to temporarily close your office in order to modernize and refurbish it, the early summer would impact the fewest patients.

Envisioning the Final Product

Wells Fargo bank published a thoughtful article about dental office trends that points out the importance of making the office look professional without appearing unapproachable. Two key design concepts stand out: using all of your office’s square footage to its fullest potential and sticking to classic design principles.

The article also suggests the following design guidelines:

  • Never let treatment zones be on public display.
  • Lay out your business area so the receptionist can easily swivel to greet patients and then swivel back away from them to take care of other tasks. This way, transactions and conversations with patients who are checking out can be kept private and separate from the waiting area.
  • Plan for a space where patients can discuss fees with your staff privately.
  • Break rooms and private offices should be isolated from the practice’s patient-activity areas.
  • All treatment rooms should have identical equipment and similar layouts to avoid staff having favorite rooms.
  • Make sure you budget for and lay out all the technology you need in the treatment areas for patient education, practice management, treatment co-diagnosis and even entertainment.
  • Leave some room for expansion over time.
  • Choose a classic, timeless color scheme. Reserve bold colors for walls and other paintable surfaces.
  • Use quality, durable finish materials for countertops and cabinetry. It might be a little more expensive up front but will last over the life of the current office design.
  • Work with your interior decorator to plan inexpensive seasonal updates so you can keep your décor fresh over the next 10 years.

Financing Your Project

A key component to project success is lining up the right kind of financing. A small business loan is from the right lender can mean the difference between staying on schedule or delays that impact your bottom line.  Online lenders like IOU Financial offer quick turnaround and flexibility that a traditional bank loan can’t match. Want to figure out your costs for financing your dental office remodel? Visit our loan calculator to learn about our financing and how to make sure you qualify for a loan.

 

accomplish-more-with-IOU-Financial

Continued Publication Growth for 26 Years

Starting in 1990 with one publication, this Wilmington-based media company has matured into a business that produces two weekly publications and one quarterly publication. The North Carolinain-blog-image-mediacompany small business has been flourishing for 26 years, and has bought and sold six other publications over the course of its success. With his impressive background, and 18 years in a corporate environment, the owner has grown the business into the noteworthy company it is today

The business owner realized their opportunity for growth, and sought working capital from IOU Financial several times for expanding the product line and hiring new employees. The capital was instrumental in growing the business because it was available in a very short time compared to the long drawn-out process at the bank.

“IOU’s strengths are expediency, great communication, and professionalism,” explained the business owner. “I would tell any potential IOU customer that they’re dealing with a reputable and dependable company.”

5 Reasons to Choose a Small Business Loan Over Crowdfunding

On May 16, equity crowdfunding became a reality in the U.S. as a result of Title III of the 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. The new rules allow a small private business to raise up to $1 million a year by selling shares to the general public without first registering the stock offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission. On the surface, this might seem like a boon to owners of small businesses, but closer analysis reveals that this well-meaning rule has a number of flaws. On the plus side, it does infuse up to $1 million into your business, but the price you pay for that money might make you think twice:

  1. New partners: If you are the sole owner of your small business, you might not like taking on a bunch of junior equity partners, each with a separate opinion, potentially offering advice on what they think you are doing wrong. Dealing with feedback and input from small or large investors can be a huge distraction, might influence decisions on how to run your business.
  2. Due diligence: The rules for equity crowdfunding subject you to a higher degree of time-consuming due diligence than what you’d experience through, say, a business loan. The reason is that your share sales must be mediated either by a broker dealer or an online funding portal, both of which are registered with the SEC and subject to its reporting standards. Basically, this means you have to allocate precious time and significant effort preparing disclosure documents about your small business, and then wait for the dealer or portal to its part.
  3. High costs: Did you know that you could spend anywhere from $30,000 to more than $100,000 simply to prepare the documents required for equity crowdfunding? Yikes! You’ll need to fork over paperwork for an SEC filing statement, legal disclosures, financial information and more. You must spend this money before you even know whether you’ll be successful in your capital raising efforts. And that’s not all – you’ll also have to pay the broker dealer or fundraising portal a share, usually 7 percent, of the money you raise. That’s $70,000 on a $1 million sale of shares, plus all the documentation costs.
  4. Ongoing reporting: Your paperwork nightmare doesn’t end when you sell your crowdfunded shares. The SEC requires that you produce reports periodically, because the agency is charged under Title III with monitoring the private market. This may likely require you to hire a lawyer and/or accountant to prepare this reporting properly.
  5. Limiting your options: Accepting funds from equity crowdfunding now can make it much harder to get any attention from venture capitalists or angel investors later on. Typically, these investors dislike petty shareholders even more than owners do.

Now, we are not saying that raising capital isn’t a good way to pump money into your business. But we think that it’s a lot easier and cheaper to start with a business loan. In today’s lending market, a small business owner can receive a loan with no upfront fees, no ongoing reporting, and no time wasted on petty shareholders.

If you’re looking for up to $150,000, IOU Financial can get you funds with instant pre-approval and funding in as little as 24 hours. When you compare the cost of a loan with what is required by equity crowdfunding, it’s clear that you can save a bundle by finding the right lender and avoiding the hassles of dealing with shareholders.

 

4 Ways to Get the Best Deals from Your Vendors

Your vendors are your partners. Without them, you would not be able to stock your shelves or get the supplies your staff needs. Having good vendor relationships means less stress and better deals so you can focus on managing your business.

When working with vendors, you want to make sure that you’re getting a good deal, especially if you are just starting out. Fortunately, getting the most for your money when working with a vendor can be as simple as asking the right questions and being courteous. Here are four vendor management tips that can help you keep costs down while growing your business and keeping your vendor happy, too.

Do Your Research

The first way to make sure you get a good deal is to shop around before you sign on the dotted line. Researching and comparing vendors will give you a good sense of current offerings and prices. If you already have an ongoing relationship with a vendor, dedicating some time annually to researching current prices and offers will keep you informed. If needed, you can use that research to negotiate a better deal than what you currently have.

Negotiate

Many business owners believe that the prices quoted by vendors are set in stone. While that may be the case sometimes, it is not always so. Use the research you have done to inform your discussion with your vendor if it’s time to negotiate a better deal. You may surprise yourself by the savings you can earn just by asking. Even if the price is non-negotiable, you may be able work out favorable payment terms and give yourself more time to pay off a balance by negotiating the terms of the deal.

Form Relationships

You make it a priority to wine and dine your clients, but don’t forget that forming strong relationships with your vendors can prove to be just as important. By making a personal connection with your vendors, they will be more willing to be your advocate. A good vendor relationship can benefit you in many ways, including discounted pricing, personalized service, expedited delivery, and faster and better support.
To maintain a good relationship, remember to be courteous if an issue or a mistake occurs and give your vendor a chance to make it right before escalating the issue. Show your gratitude for consistently good service so the vendor knows you appreciate their work.

Plan Ahead

Any vendor appreciates a consistent client, which requires you to plan ahead. While emergencies occur where you may suddenly need an influx of product overnight, generally, you should keep careful inventory and monitor your sales or usage history to create a schedule with your vendor. Once you develop a history and your vendor knows they can rely on you to be consistent, you may be able to negotiate a discount if you prepay for an entire order or order in bulk.

 

Need funds to pay off a big order or start expanding your inventory? Consider a small business loan so you can pay up front and get the most bang for your buck when negotiating with vendors. Contact IOU Financial for more information about how you can secure a small business loan in as little as 24 hours so you can have what you need on hand without stretching resources too thin.

Get Your Small Business Found Online with Content Marketing

Remember when you launched your small business’ first website? It was probably an exciting day. Thoughts of new customers and an ever-increasing number of visitors had you patting yourself and your team on the back for a job well-done. Of course, it probably didn’t take long to realize that a website isn’t something that is launched and simply forgotten. Real effort must be put into earning credibility with search engines, attracting more traffic, engaging those visitors, and encouraging them to share your message with others. The constant race to rank higher in search engine results in order to be found by new customers can quickly consume a lot of time and attention. Constant changes to search engine optimization (SEO) protocol and site ranking algorithms can be hard to keep track of and make reaching those upper echelons of search results harder and harder to achieve.

 

Rest assured though, that if you treat your website like one of your top sales people, you’ll have less to worry about. The constantly changing world of SEO typically revolves around trying to weed out the imposters, and reward the authentic players.  One of the ways that search engines such as Google evaluates a website is whether it contains unique, original content that engages real visitors. By arming your website with new content on a regular basis like you might do for a sales team, you can demonstrate that you have a lot of knowledge and valuable information to share.

 

Now, we admit there is a lot more to increasing a website’s rankings and “findability,” including website code structure, metadata and tags, etc.  However, today we’re going to stick with covering a handful of content ideas that should be within reach for most small business owners.

Brush Up Your Writing

Written content, which can cover everything from blogging to forums, on your website can be used not only to attract new visitors, but engage them for longer periods of time once they arrive.  Ensuring that content is constantly refreshed, updated and innovative will make it easier to climb to the top of the proverbial SEO mountain. Making sure that your blog has new entries on a regular basis will alert search engines’ algorithms that your business is an active online participant and deserves the public’s attention. It is important to note that you should write content for your customers, not search engines!

The Power of Video

One area that is often overlooked when it comes to SEO-focused content is video. Embedding videos into your website can be a great way to not only engage your customers, but also trigger Google to recognize your site quicker. When posting videos, ensure that they are tagged with the correct keywords that are relevant to your business or what you’re selling. For example, if you own an online-based clothing store you wouldn’t want to title your video “Video 1”. Instead, a title such as “New Spring Dresses” will add valuable keywords to your video and improve search results, as well as show up in the new “Video” section of Google and Bing’s results page.

 

In addition to adding important keywords to your videos, you also want to make sure that the videos you use for your website are high-quality and viewer friendly.

Ensuring that your videos are quick to download and are visually inspiring will keep your audience‘s attention longer and show that your brand is savvy and invested in retaining your clients.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

The same rule of keeping things visually appealing also is important for the photography shown on your website. For online retailers, product photos are paramount to success. Regularly updating your product photos and landing page photos are important for customer engagement and search engine optimization.  With a plethora of free photo and video editing tools available, any company with any sized budget can look like a million bucks!

 

You work hard to make sure your products and services are high quality, so make sure your website and online presence reflects that! If you don’t have the time or money to invest in making improvements to your content, consider a loan from IOU Financial to get you the funds you need to get the job done. When done correctly, you will surely see the return in your online traffic and sales!