How to Create Customer Loyalty to Your Salon, Not Just the Hairdresser

Salon owners are in unique situations when it comes to operating their business as most of these entrepreneurs rent individual stations to hairdressers, who are self-employed. The owners are dependent on the hairdressers to bring in their own business; if they are successful, the salon is busy and profitable. If the hairdressers fail to attract customers, they will not be able to pay their monthly rent, and the salon will suffer as a result.

Another concern that hair salon owners face is that customers become loyal to their individual hairdressers instead of the salon. If the individual chooses to move to a different space, the customers will follow, decreasing business for the salon.
The answer to these potential problems is for business owners to persuade customers to fall in love with the salon instead of just their hairdresser. This can be done with the following tips:

Suggesting Different Hairdressers

When a client calls the salon to request an appointment with a specific individual, they are often simply told that they are not available if they are booked or don’t work during that specific time. Instead, train your receptionist to offer the services of a different person if the stylist they request is not available. This way, your customers will come to rely on multiple stylists in your salon instead of only being loyal to one.

Discuss this option with your staff before implementing the change, as they may be upset if their loyal customers are given the option to book services with someone else. If this occurs, point out that everyone will benefit from this setup, as all hairdressers will be able to share customers if they are not available.

You can also suggest that hairdressers receive commission if their customers are serviced by someone else in your salon. Instead of potentially losing on the sale if they are busy, they can receive a certain percentage or fee from a colleague.

Expand Services

Another strategy to promote customer loyalty to the salon instead of the individual stylist is to expand the services offered in your establishment. Some professionals specialize in only one service, whether it is hair cutting, blow-drying, up-dos or coloring. Instead of having customers visit multiple salons, hire staffers that will offer different kinds of services, keeping the clients in your salon for all their hair needs.

Consider offering other services, such as nails, waxing and makeup in your salon. By doing this, you will save your customers time by meeting all their beauty needs in one space. Not only will you increase revenue for your business with this move, but you will also likely retain more clients if any person leaves the salon as they will become dependent on your business as a one-stop shop.

Incentivize Repeat Customers

To keep customers loyal to your business, you need to create incentives for customers to keep coming back, even if it is to see different hairdressers. Ask all people who frequent your salon to sign up for your mailing list, which you can use to communicate with them. Send coupons, special deals, offers and announcements by mail and email to entice clients to keep coming back through your doors. Share these deals on social media, and consider offering a discount for every like or share from a customer. By your clients to come back, they will become the salon’s customers instead of just the hairdressers!
Some of the suggestions on retaining customer loyalty suggested in this article can be a financial burden to small business owners. For example, expanding services may require funds to build new stations and purchase supplies. Marketing the salon calls for expenditures on paid advertising or consulting a marketing professional. If you would like to invest in your salon but cannot afford to, consider getting a small business loan from IOU Financial. Contact us to find out how you can get approved for a loan in under 24 hours!

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Protecting Your Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) is a creative work, such as a design, invention or manuscript, whose rights are owned by your company. Those rights are established through a legal mechanism, such as a trademark, copyright or patent. IP is valuable – sometimes the most valuable asset a company can hold.

Here are the three major ways to protect your IP:ip-blog-image

  • Patents: You apply for a patent at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Patents provide 20 years of protection from the filing date. You can apply for a:
    • Utility patent: Available to anyone who discovers or invents a new, useful process, mechanism, product, or composition of matter. You can also patent a significant improvement to any of these.
    • Design patent: Used for new designs of manufactured items
    • Plant patent: For use when you discover or breed a new, asexually reproducible variety of plant
  • Trademarks: Protect symbols, names, phrases, logos, artwork, colors and sounds used to distinguish your goods and services from others. Registration is not required, but is available. Trademarks remain in effect indefinitely.
  • Copyrights: Provide protection for original works of authorship, including musical, literary, dramatic, and artistic, whether published or unpublished. Copyrights automatically attach to original works, but you can also register them at the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyrights last from 70 to 120 years.

A startup company might, in its rush to get a product or service to market, not fully protect its IP. After all, it takes some time and money to register a patent. However, failure to protect IP can ultimately be very expensive and dangerous to a company. You have to worry about a partner, executive or employee stealing your IP, not to mention the threat of corporate spying. Here are some tips for protecting your IP:

  • Educate yourself and your team on the topic of IP. Learn the differences among trade secrets, patents, copyrights and trademarks. The time you spend up front understanding IP will pay big dividends later on.
  • If you have a novel idea, make sure it isn’t already patented. Do a Google search to see if it makes sense to spend your money on a protected idea.
  • Patent your valuable ideas, even if you don’t necessarily plan to develop them on your own. Someone else may want to buy a patent from you.
  • Use an expert attorney to file your patent. Always insist on a fixed fee.
  • Do not delay filing your patent application. It’s like taking a number at the deli counter – it holds your place in line. After initial submission, you have 12 months to augment your application and fill in any missing details. The approval process requires patience, since it takes up to five years. That’s why you often encounter the term “patent pending.”
  • Identify through an audit your non-patented IP, such as copyrights and trademarks, whether registered or unregistered.
  • You may need to file for international patents, because a U.S. patent won’t protect you from international competition.
  • Use non-disclosure agreements with all employees and consultants to prevent them from stealing your IP.

To research and file patents may cost you tens of thousands of dollars. A commercial loan from IOU Financial is an easy, fast and low-cost way to finance the protection of your IP. We can provide funds within 24 hours of approval, so contact us today.

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Shop with the Scarecrows! Well, at least in Woodstock, GA.

Small Business Saturday will be here November 26th, and will be taking downtown Woodstock, GA by storm. Scavenger hunts, selfie contests, prizes and discounts around town will be bringing flocks of customers out to shop small. The initiative was started by American Express to remind people that in between the Black Friday and Cyber Monday madness, supporting your local community with purchases can make a big impact! Small Business Saturday always falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving for that reason.

Over time, the event has grown tremendously, last year 95 million people participated across the country, and AMEX has delegated responsibilities to Neighborhood Champions. This year, IOU Financial has been selected as Woodstock’s Neighborhood Champion, for the continued support of fueling small business growth.

IOU Financial has kicked off the #shopsmall movement by joining the neighborhood’s Scarecrow Invasion! Small businesses around downtown Woodstock have decorated scarecrows to represent certain facets of their business! So what is IOU Financial’s theme?2016-10-21_1306

MONOPOLY!

Yes, we know money isn’t a game, but we know it is fun when you see it in your bank account! The IOU Monopoly Scarecrow (#128) sits right outside Woodstock Pharmacy on Main Street. He’s got all the telling signs of a true monopoly man, a top hat, cane, and don’t forget all those IOU dollars floating around! The festive fall sign points customers back to why they should be focused on shopping small November 26.

If you live in or around downtown Woodstock, you know how many great restaurants, coffee shops, retailers, and more are located there. IOU Financial is proud of the thriving businesses in our local community, and excited to be part of the festivities that promote the growth of small businesses in our very own neighborhood!

If you happen to visit Woodstock before Halloween, stop by the Visitors Center and vote for our scarecrow #128. Votes are $1 each and all proceeds are donated to GROW, an organization that helps Woodstock complete beautification projects. Plus the winner receives bragging rights with an awesome trophy.

Don’t live near Downtown Woodstock? No problem! Visit shopsmall.com and see what your neighborhood has in store for Small Business Saturday.

6 Ways to Know What Your Patients Think of Your Practice

We all have been told that it doesn’t matter what others think of us, and it should only matter what we think and know about ourselves. While this is good advice, when people are your bread and butter, knowing what they think of your business is important. In the healthcare field, what your customers are thinking could be the difference between success and failure. In this post we will reveal 6 ways to find out what your patients think of your practice. Let’s get started!

Ask them

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It may seem obvious, but have you asked your patients what they think? By simply asking, whether it is in general discussion, by way of online survey, or even in-office forms, knowing how your patients feel is important. Some may not be willing to share in person, but would be open to completing a survey while they wait to see you! Asking your patients directly what they think of your practice is a great way to see how they feel and what they like or do or do not like.

Ask others

Another way to know what your patients are thinking is asking what others have heard about your practice. Do your patients tell their friends they enjoy your service? Do other providers get back to you and share the feedback your referral patient brought to their office appointment? Patients are probably sharing their thoughts with others about your practice. It may even be most accurate to hear what patients think of your practice.

Follow their actions

Do your patients bring in referrals for you? Do they tell you that they shared the amazing care you delivered with their friends and family? Are they sitting in your  waiting room or are your seats empty? What your patients do can be very telling of what they think. If they are sharing your card, telling you about the referrals they may have made for you, or even asking feedback on their loved one’s care may mean they trust and value your perspective.

Compare the numbers

Numbers are not everything, but they can be a sign of your success. Looking at your number of patients over time is a helpful way to decipher what your customers think about your business. With so many healthcare practices out there, options are pretty endless. If your numbers are on a steady decline, and it is not linked to remarkable healthy outcomes, it may be your patients indicating to you that things are not going as well as you think. Compare numbers over time to see if patterns exist and if there are ways to identify places to improve upon.

Website reviews 

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Another key area for your customers to leave feedback in online.If your practice is listed on social media sites and review pages, seeing what the feedback says can be a big help in gauging your patients’ overall perception. Online reviews are usually a very honest depiction of a customer’s experience. Take an Internet stroll and see what is out there!

Check the seats

Are they warm? If your chairs are empty, filled with late cancellations and no-shows, it may be singling a lack of respect for you and your practice. By having chairs with rear-ends in them, patients who call ahead and keep appointments can signal a high degree of respect of your services.

Understanding what people are thinking about your practice can help you make decisions to keep that positive energy going or make some course corrections. One cannot really know what people think about your practice without looking at the various ways people express those options. By following the various methods to assess what your patients think of your practice, you can rest easier knowing you are meeting their needs. If there is room for improvement, you will be better equipped to fix whatever is keeping you from receiving the coveted “best provider out there” title.

Turning Window Shoppers into Sales: 4 Simple Ways to Bring Outside Shoppers In

Window shopping for some is a pastime, and for others it’s a way to see what deals and sales are for the taking. Do not let a window shopper just glance in your store and move on! By simply following these four steps, you will ensure that the average window shopper will enter your store and become your customer in no time.

1. Post sale signs in the window

window-shopper-blogWindow shoppers first shop with their eyes, and they shop for deals. They look for signage signaling a sale, new items, and catchy tag lines that speak to their needs. Draw customers in by what you post in the windows. Post a current sale, a discount if you buy a qualified amount, or offer an in-store sale that can’t be beat.

Extra tip: Use bright colors that catch the eye. Certain colors evoke different emotions so find ones that translate to the sale you are holding!

2. Use “Act Now” terminology

Window shoppers see a lot of storefronts. So why would they stop at yours and come inside?…because you told them to! Don’t be shy about directing window shoppers to what you want them to buy. Post signs like: “Spend $$ get $$$ Now”, or “Don’t let this sale go by”, or “You need this look.” Using “act now” terminology will increase the foot traffic to your store. Nobody has read a sign that said “If you want to come inside we’d be OK with it,” and felt compelled to go inside, so don’t be afraid to tell people what to do!

Extra tip: Use some popular fonts and keep it simple to read from afar. Spending time on a fancy font will translate only to wasted signage.

3. Offer a free item

It’s no secret that shoppers like deals. Shoppers also like free stuff. So make it a win-win and offer a free item with any in-store purchase. The item can be simple or small, as long as it adds value to the shopping experience.  Offer the item for in-store purchases on that day only and increase the urgency and desire to obtain the deal before it expires.

Extra tip: Offer a deal “worth up to x amount of money” and steer clear from stating exactly what the free item is on the store signage. This draws in more customers seeing the dollar value being saved rather than an item they may not necessarily want or think they need.

4. Put your best foot forward

The first thing a window shopper sees is your storefront. Place your best items in the window around the signage offering a sale or free item. Selling clothes? Display the best outfit in front, closest to the door. Selling electronics? Feature the latest gadget right up front so customers see you have the latest in the industry. Don’t be shy about the best products and put those in the line sight of your next potential customer.

Extra tip: Put the best items closest to the door.This follows the natural walking patterns of customers and raises the desire to get in your door to get that stunning product they just saw.

Turning a window shopper into a customer can be done, and with some extra guidance and tips, any storefront with a good product can draw in a crowd. Following the four tips outlined above, increase the foot traffic in just a few moments. The art of turning a passerby into a sale happens when you provide a shopping solution only found in your store!

How to Predict Your Inventory Needs for the Holidays

As the weather starts to cool, merchandisers’ thoughts turn to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, while online sellers are more interested in Cyber Monday, three days later. Then comes the whole Christmas shopping frenzy, and the post-Christmas bargain hunting. In all cases, getting your inventory right can make the difference between a profit or loss for the whole year.

Merchandisers have been busy planning their holiday inventory since August, or earlier. That’s important, but how do they get the numbers right? Brick and mortar stores need to know what and how much inventory is needed for each location. Online merchandisers must have enough inventory to withstand the blizzard of last minute shopping that occurs when consumers can’t find what they are looking for at retail locations.

Make the right prediction, and you’ll sell out most of your inventory without too many stockouts. Predict unwisely and you may be sitting on a ton of unsold merchandise in January, or empty shelves in mid-December.

The biggest part of the answer is data, and the software that makes sense of the data. We’re talking about programs that track sales of certain products over time at certain locations, applies information about buying trends, selling strategies, margin requirements and so forth, and then provides an estimate of inventory requirements by product and location.

The program is run iteratively as new data becomes available, so that retailers can make late adjustments if needed. For example, a weather event during the holidays may shift supply/demand balances in the affected area. Changes in consumer spending, safety recalls, economic disruptions and many other factors can influence inventory requirements.

Predictions aren’t too useful if you can’t implement them. One of the biggest problems is financing. If you predict a 20 percent increase in required inventory levels, you’ll need the money to pay for extra goods. This is one area where IOU Financial excels, as we provide loans quickly, without a lot of red tape, so that you can pay for additional inventory and take full advantage of anticipated demand. A small business loan could help you organize your finances before the holidays!

The next step of the process is to establish milestones and set goals. Products have to be ordered, received and stored according to strict timetables that depend on your predicted inventory needs. Knowing in detail what you will need and when you will need it allows you to begin shopping around for low-cost suppliers and carrier services. If you have a good relationship with a carrier, you can leverage it by agreeing on moderately higher rates for preferential treatment during the holiday peak.

Of course, knowing what you’ll need to store and transport can help you plan your capacity and logistics. You may need to lease additional warehouse or storage space for the holiday season. This is a critical decision, because it affects how efficiently trucks can be used to deliver goods to retail locations and/or customer locations. There are supply chain consultants that can help you manage logistical challenges during the holiday season.

Another area of concern is any additional labor that will be required to satisfy requirements to order, store, deploy and sell merchandise in an optimal fashion. You may have to recruit and train temporary workers to support inventory operations. If you own a small, single store, you might just need one or two temporary workers, but a larger operation may affect warehouse operations like picking and sorting.

Finally, you need to manage your store so that consumers can locate hot items quickly. You must also put aside enough space to receive and deploy daily shipments of new goods. Of course, you’ll also want to evaluate your store staff and hire extra cashiers or stock clerks as required.

#ShopSmall: Get Involved to Get Profitable and Make a Difference

If you own a small business, you are already providing jobs and offering great products and services to your community, but sometimes these efforts can go unnoticed. That’s where Small Business Saturday comes in. This year, on November 26, customers across the country will shop in their community and recognize the value that small businesses can bring to their local economy.

 

What is the Shop Small Movement?

First initiated in 2010, Small Business Saturday is an annual event sponsored by American Express, held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It is a response to shopping events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when big retailers and corporations hold massive sales in stores and online. Small Business Saturday encourages individuals to patronize their local brick-and-mortar small businesses (with 500 or less employees), reminding everyone that when they invest in a local business, they invest in their community!

The Twitter hashtag  #SmallBusinessSaturday was used to build awareness for the event, as well as allow people to tag their favorite businesses. Last year, 95 million people went out to support local businesses in their neighborhoods!

 

Why are Small Businesses Important?

Although the United States is home to a multitude of big-box retailers and corporations, small businesses remain important and relevant. In fact, The Houston Chronicle reports that “according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms. Since 1995, small businesses have generated 64 percent of new jobs, and paid 44 percent of the total United States private payroll, according to the SBA.”

Small businesses offer employment opportunities to local residents, contribute to the local economy, and provide funds for schools and government offices.

 

How Can You Participate in Small Business Saturday?

American Express encourages all small business owners to participate in Small Business Saturday by making engagement in your community as easy as possible. There are free custom marketing and advertising materials available for your storefront, website and social media. Additionally, there are articles and videos with tips and advice on how to promote this event and your business, such as offering specials and deals and holding contests.

 

How Can Small Businesses Get Involved in their Communities?

In addition to participating in Small Business Saturday, there are many benefits when businesses get involved in their local communities. By participating, sponsoring, and donating to events, charities, or sports teams, business owners market their brand and increase their customer base.


Customers respond to businesses that care about communities; a study by Cone Communications and Echo Research found that 82 percent of individuals take corporate social responsibility (CSR) into account when purchasing products or services from a business. In addition, when employees are given the opportunity to help their neighborhood, it increases their satisfaction levels and promotes employee retention.

How can you get involved in your community? Build off the Small Business Saturday momentum and implement any of these ideas:

  • Sponsor a little league team
  • Donate supplies to a school
  • Host a charity event for a homeless shelter
  • Sponsor a garden renovation project
  • Plant trees at a local park

There are many advantages to both local small businesses and communities when the two work together. If you are in the local Atlanta area, click here to find out more information about Small Business Saturday event in your area. If you live in another part of the country, find your local host and consider participating in Small Business Saturday to promote your small business in your community.

Driving Further Success through Working Capital

What began as a quarterly newsletter about the air racing community, eventually evolved into a multi-faceted business dedicated to helping the aviation industry grow. In 1993, the small business expanded from its only offering, a newsletter, to start producing embroidered products for numerous aviation organizations.in-blog-image-quote

Just 3 short years later, the business was embroidering for groups such as: Leeward Air Ranch, Commemorative Air Force (Minnesota Wing), Warbird Rides of America, Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association, Warbirds Parts, Experimental Aircrafts Association (Antique Division) and several others. They were also giving back to the aviation community through donations to Experimental Air Association, Commemorative Air Force (MN Wing) and Flight Expo, Inc.

Now with 20+ years in business, the promotional and merchandise side of the organization has grown in demand at numerous aviation events. Helping other aviation groups grow and achieve their goals has always been a highlight of being in business, and in order to keep doing that, they needed a business loan to introduce a new product line for upcoming shows.

IOU Financial was chosen as their preferred lender because “they do not shy away from loans under $10,000,” the business owner remarked. With this funding, the owner is able to grow the business with new, exciting ideas ready for implementation. IOU Financial provides responsible capital to small business owners across the US and Canada in as little as 24 hours. Even “the customer service is awesome,”  the aviation focused small business owner exclaimed!

IOU Financial Announces Private Placement of Up To $2.2 Million of Equity

IOU Financial Inc. intends to complete a non-brokered private placement of up to 8,148,148 common shares of the company for gross proceeds of up to $2.2-million. The shares will be offered at a price of 27 cents per share (representing the 21-day value-weighted average price of the shares on the TSX Venture Exchange as of Sept. 30, 2016), on a prospectus-exempt basis, in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

The company expects that insiders of the company, including Philippe Marleau, Serguei Kouzmine, David John Kennedy, Yves Roy and Jason Cawley (or entities related to, or controlled by, them), each of which is a director and/or officer of the company, will participate in the private placement, for approximately up to 60 per cent of the $2.2-million private placement.

The net proceeds of the private placement will be used primarily by IOU Financial to finance small-business loans in the company’s target markets (the United States and Canada) and for general corporate purposes. The private placement is subject to regulatory approval, including the approval of the TSX-V.

The private placement may be considered a related party transaction within the meaning of Regulation 61-101 respecting protection of minority securityholders in special transactions. However, the private placement is exempt from the valuation and minority approval requirements provided under such regulation since the fair market value of the private placement to related parties is less than 25 per cent of the market capitalization of IOU Financial. The board of directors of IOU Financial has approved the private placement. Messrs. Cawley, Marleau, Kouzmine and Roy declared their interest prior to the approval by the board of directors of IOU Financial and abstained from voting thereon.

About IOU Financial

IOU Financial provides small businesses throughout the United States and Canada access to the capital they need to seize growth opportunities quickly. It makes loans of up to $150,000 (U.S.) to qualified U.S. applicants ($100,000 in Canada) within a few business days, with affordable charges favourable to cash flow management.

How to Keep Your Business Staffed Effectively Through the Holidays

While the holiday season is a joyous time, it can also be a stressful time for many small business owners. Not being properly prepared can leave an employer short-staffed and unable to handle the influx of business. On the other hand, owners who face a slow season during the wintertime can face financial hardship having to pay salaries with no profit coming in. Be ready to keep your business appropriately staffed through the holidays with these considerations:

 

Time Off

Most staff members request to take time off during the holiday season in order to spend time with family, visit friends or take a vacation. Business owners can become overwhelmed by the time off requests, and the business can suffer as a result.

Approving time off during the holidays is tricky – if it’s not managed properly it can not only prevent the business from delivering what clients and customers want but can also create internal strife,” says Samuel Tanios, president and chief executive of Human Elements Consulting, in an article on Glassdoor.

To avoid chaos, make it a policy that employees must request holiday time off at least a month or more in advance. Consider granting time off on a first come, first served basis – just make sure to announce this decision to your team.

If you have a small team, or need all your employees at the office during peak times, establish vacation blackout days, alerting your subordinates that no time off will be granted on certain dates, or offer monetary incentives on these peak days for staff to stay motivated.

 

Staffing for Your Season

Busy Season

The holidays are high-grossing months for many companies. Retail stores, event planning services and catering businesses often experience a peak in business during this time. However, not having the staff to fulfill orders or handle the sales can create a backlog in fulfillment, causing stress for the owner and hurting the company’s reputation.

To avoid this, you must prepare for the holiday time by hiring extra employees at least two months in advance. This will give you a chance to properly train the new hires and be certain that they can handle the fast-paced environment that the holiday season will bring.

 

Slow Season

Some businesses see a significant decline in business during the wintertime. As such, owners have to make staffing decisions to account for lower sales during this time. Being responsible for paying salaries with no funds coming in can put a business in the red, and it can be difficult to make up the difference even when business picks up.

Some small business owners establish mandatory time off for one or two weeks during the holidays, when employees can use their accrued vacation time or simply not get paid. Others offer their staff the opportunity to work part-time, staggering the schedule so that the employees work during different days or times.

Don’t let the holidays hurt your business operations; prepare for a busy or slow season in advance. Two ways to get prepared, no matter what season you are entering are budgeting and lending. Start setting a budget and planning for your expected revenue. You can do this with a Business Budget Smart Sheet, available to help you start getting your spending in order. Another option is a small business loan from IOU Financial, which can help your business stabilize cash flow through the slow season, or hire and train new staff for your busy season.

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