10 Blogs You Should Be Reading for Business Advice

Everyone can benefit from some good advice. If you run a small business, or want to, good business advice is worth a whole lot, especially if its free, or at least reasonably priced. Which brings us to the top nine business blogs we think many entrepreneurs and small business owners will find useful.

  1. Small Business Administration Blog:

    Headed by Caron Beesley, the SBA Blog tackles the full range of topics of interest to business owners and entrepreneurs. It’s especially helpful for businesses seeking loans underwritten by the SBA.

  2. The 4-Hour Workweek:

    A blog/podcast founded by Tim Ferris, who wrote the New York Times bestseller of the same name. The emphasis is on improving your efficiency and freeing yourself from the mind-numbing drudgery that most businesses can inflict.

  3. American Express Open:

    A financial blog site that helps explain complex topics to the average small-business owner. It teaches owners how to go about using financing to grow your company. It also hosts a forum to answer your questions.

  4. Small Business Bonfire:

    This daily business blog, run by Alyssa Gregory, bristles with tips and tools for operating your small business. Topics cover everything a business owner should think about, from productivity to security. Whether you work from an office or at home, this blog is well worth your attention every day.

  5. Social Triggers:

    A marketing blog by Derek Halpern for the ecommerce set. It describes how to exploit social media using consumer psychology to achieve your business goals. The advice focuses on a mix of data-driven marketing and content marketing to boost your traffic, prospects and sales. If you’re looking for ways to recruit and keep online customers, this blog is for you.

  6. Copyblogger Blog:

    Copyblogger is a company that teaches online content creation for business. Content marketing can be in the financial reach of any small business, because you can do it yourself for free, without having to pay for expensive ads. Founded by Brian Clark in 2006, the free daily blog continues even as the remainder of the marketing company was split off as Rainmaker Digital.

  7. Entrepreneurs-Journey:

    This blog, started by Yaro Starak, is for folks who want to “live the laptop lifestyle,” that is, make money online with your website and blog. It’s a good resource for building your website, populating it with content, and using it to earn a living. You’ll also learn about operating an email newsletter and other marketing techniques that will drive traffic to your website.

  8. Jim’s Marketing Blog:

    Jim Connolly explores the many ways a small business can grow through effective marketing. His advice is geared to specific strategies and tactics rather than generalized (and mushy) “solutions.” He is also a convincing advocate for list-based content, though not to the exclusion of other forms, such as essays.

  9. Women on Business:

    A great resource for the often-underserved population of female entrepreneurs and business owners. Run by Susan Gunelius, the blog encourages contributions from business women that cover all manner of topics, from financials to management to marketing.

  10. IOU Financial Small Business Blog:

    Featuring some of the most sparkling writing on today’s business scene, the blog covers a lot of territory, beyond the basics of small business finance. You can learn about advertising, management, recruiting and much more in this free and timely blog.

Bottom Line Boost — 6 Ways Your Hospitality Business Can Save Money

Running a food establishment to turn a profit can be a tricky combination of creativity pitted against hard-nosed dollar smarts.

Positioning a business in a high visibility location with plenty of passing foot traffic, parking and a steady stream of customers, is still no guarantee of success if its outgoings and overheads are hemorrhaging money.

The process to regain control of spending must begin with an internal review. This is done to provide insights into excessive expenditure and poor processes whilst identifying crucial areas where strategies can be implemented to metaphorically and literally ‘trim the fat’.

By addressing the following key sectors, a business can turn around its turnover, rein in costs and boost profits.

Begin with the basics

Cafes, restaurants and hospitality businesses all survive on the income from food and drink. This means implementing optimum menu competitive costing calculations while providing an adequate profit margin is vital.

Menu pricing should be set based on a food cost percentage formula which takes into account:

  • Stringent, detailed recipe costing
  • Associated overheads of running a business including:
    • Staffing
    • Leases
    • Utilities

Licensed premises should run a similar audit of their bar prices to ensure they are balancing affordability with healthy profit margins.

Reduce waste

A compelling study by the National Restaurant Association in the US found that restaurants lose approximately four to ten percent of food to wastage. The restaurant industry alone is responsible for trillions of dollars of waste each year.

This means that substantial savings can be made without affecting the quality of an establishment’s fare, through streamlined food preparation methods, effective storage systems and well managed procurement processes.

The good news according to researchers at Champions 12.3, is that for every dollar businesses spend in strategies to lower food waste, an average of $14 is saved in operating costs.

Begin with a kitchen audit:

  • Install a rotation system to ensure the oldest food gets used first.
  • Inspect food quality from suppliers to identify issues surrounding trimming and loss (e.g. high fat content of meat).
  • Check expiration dates as food is delivered to ensure you are getting the freshest possible produce.
  • Review food preparation techniques to identify strategies to reduce wastage.
  • Review food storage temperaturesto increase shelf life of refrigerated produce.
  • Clearly mark expiration dates so staff understand when to move dishes to the ‘specials board’.
  • Predict peak demand periods to optimise procurement processes.

Preparation and Portion Control

Are diners regularly leaving large amounts of food on their plate? Identifying dishes where portion size is excessive, can substantially impact recipe costs. This is equally true for sides such as salads and chips. Making these an optional extra can have the double impact of saving on food waste and minimise ingredients expenditure.

Consider the off-cuts accumulated during food preparation. Could these be incorporated into other recipes to make full use of each cut of meat or serving of fish? Dishes which lend themselves to this type of economising are:

  • Soups
  • Stir fry
  • Chowder
  • Casserole
  • Stew

Review the Menu

Making a conscious effort to save money requires staff awareness, involvement and commitment. Staff training needs to be instilled and regularly refreshed to:

  • Create awareness and understanding regarding the vital role of economy in a food service environment
  • Identify strategies to monitor storage and preparation methods to restrict food wastage
  • Implement techniques to encourage faster table turnover
  • Promote and upsell meals and extras
  • Encourage practises which lower energy and utility usage

Table Turnover 

Long delays in table turnover can be reduced by installing pay-at-the-table and pre-ordering technologies. These apps result in reduced demands on staff, a streamlined customer experience and increased table turnover rates.

Apps which promote themselves in this arena include:

  • Hey You
  • PayPal
  • Groupee (enables menu splitting)

Faster table turnover is of particular importance in cafes where lower priced products mean you may be relying on higher turnover than a restaurant. Moving customers along can be an art and requires some tact by staff. To avoid confrontation, at busier times it may pay to install written policies.

These written signs needn’t be confrontational and can even carry some subtle humor. An example may read:

‘In a crazy bid to turn a profit, Management kindly request non-diners to give up their seats to the hungry, when  seating demands are high.’

Before seating them, staff can politely ask customers whether they will be requiring a dining menu and if the answer is in the negative, direct them to the window stools. Alternatively, they can give a gentle reminder when directing them to a seat, that lunch dining begins at noon and their table may be required.

In the hospitality industry even small details can dramatically influence viability. Awareness, motivation and processes are the key factors to turning the fortunes of a food service business. If a single step such as reducing waste can result in significant savings, imagine the impact multiple cost-reduction strategies could make to your bottom line!

Should you need funding to implement any of the tips above helpful advice about growing your business and need financial help in realizing it, let us help! IOU Financial specializes in helping small business secure business loans of up to $300,000. Contact us today at www.ioufinancial.com to learn more.

Guest Post: About the Author

Danielle Ryans is a freelance writer based in Sydney, Australia. She loves that writing allows her to explore new topics and ideas, and is interested in business, travel, health, food and lifestyle. You can follow her on twitter here. 

IOU Financial Inc. Releases Financial Results for the Three-Month Period Ended March 31, 2018

  • Net earnings on an IFRS basis and adjusted net earnings amounted to $0.8 million in Q1 2018, the second consecutive quarter with positive earnings for the Company.
  • Loan originations increased 11.2% to $24.5 million compared to the same period in 2017.
  • Provision for loan losses decreased 50.6% to $0.9 million in Q1 2018 driven by measures taken to reduce defaults.
  • Opex decreased 23.1% to $1.9 million for the first quarter of 2018.

MONTREAL, May 24, 2018 /CNW Telbec/ – IOU FINANCIAL INC. (“IOU” or “the Company”) (TSXV: IOU), a leading online lender to small businesses (IOUFinancial.com), announced today its results for the three-month period ended March 31, 2018.

“Following the positive results in the fourth quarter of 2017, IOU has delivered even stronger results in the first quarter of 2018. This is a testament to the measures taken to bring down loan defaults and control costs. IOU expects to continue to grow loan originations and generate profits over the coming quarters,” said Phil Marleau, CEO.

FINANCIAL HIGHLIGHTS

  • Loan originations for the first quarter ended March 31, 2018 increased 11.2% to US$24.5 million versus originations of US$22.1 million for the same period last year.
  • As of March 31, 2018, IOU’s total loans under management amounted to approximately $64.2 million as compared to $66.8 million in 2017. The principal balance of the loan portfolio amounted to $32.2 million compared to $43.8 million in 2017. The principal balance of IOU’s servicing portfolio (loans being serviced on behalf of third-parties) amounted to approximately $32.0 million compared to $23.0 million in 2017.
  • IOU recorded gross revenue during the first quarter of $4.4 million versus $4.3 million for the same period last year.
  • Interest expense during the three-month period ended March 31, 2018 decreased by 11.6% to $812,535, compared to $918,658 the previous year. The decrease is attributable to a decrease in borrowings under the credit facility.
  • Provision for loan losses (net of recoveries) decreased by 50.6% to $954,329 for the three-month period ended March 31, 2018. This decrease is primarily attributable to lower defaults by borrowers as well as by the smaller size of the loan portfolio. The improvement in the provision for loan losses (net of recoveries) is a result of changes made in 2017 in the Company’s lending policies and in the loan servicing and collection process, which includes an aggressive litigation strategy against businesses who default on their loan obligations.
  • Operating expenses decreased 23.1% to $1.87 million for the three-month period ended March 31, 2018 as compared to $2.44 million for the previous year. The decrease is attributable to the Company’s plan to reduce operating expenses initially introduced in the third quarter of 2016. The plan resulted in reduced headcount thereby lowering employee compensation costs, a decrease in marketing costs and reduced professional fee expenses due to vendor contract re-negotiations.
  • IOU closed its first quarter 2018 with positive net earnings of $797,198, or $0.01 per share, compared to a net loss of $1.0 million or $(0.01) per share during the same period of 2017.
  • IOU closed its first quarter 2018 with positive adjusted earnings of $804,088, which excludes certain non-cash and non-recurring items, compared to an adjusted net loss of $0.7 million in the first quarter of 2017. The $1.5 millionimprovement in adjusted net earnings is principally due to the $1 million decrease in the provision for loan losses as well as to the $0.6 million in reduced operating expenses in the quarter compared to the same period last year and to the $0.1 million increase in gross revenue.

OUTLOOK

IOU remains well placed at the forefront of the fintech revolution that is democratizing access to capital for small businesses. IOU expects to continue to grow loan originations and generate profits throughout 2018.

  • The Company will continue to enhance its proprietary, next-generation technology and algorithms that evaluate and price credit risk.
  • IOU will also continue to closely monitor the performance of its loan portfolio, capture operational efficiencies and keep costs under control.
  • The Company intends to grow loan originations by:
    • Continuing to identify, recruit and partner with business loan brokers;
    • Forming new strategic partnerships with entities such as banks and small business suppliers and leveraging their relationships with small businesses to add new customers;
    • Expanding its product offering to allow it to serve small businesses whose needs are not met by its current products;
    • Investing in direct marketing and sales; and
    • Continuing its expansion into Canada.

IOU’s financial statements and management discussion & analysis for the quarter ended March 31, 2018 have been filed on SEDAR and are available at www.sedar.com.

CONFERENCE CALL

The Company will hold a conference call at 4:30 p.m. (EDT) on Tuesday, May 29, 2018, to discuss its financial results. The dial-in number to access the conference call from Canada and the United States is 1 (888) 231-8191 (toll-free), conference ID: 8878074.

CORPORATE UPDATE

IOU has formalized its employment arrangements with each of its CEO, CFO and COO (each, an “Executive”) by entering into written agreements that formalize their current employment terms. Such employment agreements contain restrictive covenants such as non-competition and non-solicitation clauses. The employment agreements also set forth additional provisions with respect to termination, constructive dismissal, severance and change of control of the Executives, including the payment of between 6 and 18 months of salary, bonus and benefits in the event of a termination within 12 months after a change in control.

About IOU Financial Inc.
IOU Financial Inc. provides small businesses throughout the U.S. and Canada access to the capital they need to seize growth opportunities quickly. Typical customers include medical and dental practices, grocery and retail stores, salons, gas stations, auto repair shops, and restaurants. In a unique approach to lending, IOU Financial’s advanced, automated application and approval system accurately assesses applicants’ financial realities, with an emphasis on day-to-day cash flow trends. IOU Financial allows these businesses to apply for six, nine, twelve, fifteen and eighteen-month term loans of up to US$300,000 to qualified U.S. applicants ($100,000 in Canada) within a few business days, with affordable charges favorable to cash-flow management. Its speed and transparency make IOU Financial a trusted alternative to banks. To learn more visit: IOUFinancial.com.

Forward Looking Statements
Certain information set forth in this news release may contain forward-looking statements that involve substantial known and unknown risks and uncertainties. These forward-looking statements are subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, certain of which are beyond the control of IOU including, but not limited to, the impact of general economic conditions, industry conditions, dependence upon regulatory and shareholder approvals, the execution of definitive documentation and the uncertainty of obtaining additional financing. Readers are cautioned that the assumptions used in the preparation of such information, although considered reasonable at the time of preparation, may prove to be imprecise and, as such, undue reliance should not be placed on forward-looking statements. IOU does not assume any obligation to update or revise its forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

SOURCE IOU Financial Inc.

For further information: Philippe Marleau, Chief Executive Officer, (514) 789-0694 ext. 225; David Kennedy, Chief Financial Officer, (514) 789-0694 ext. 278

How My Business Can Give Back (While Still Being Financially Responsible)

Giving back to the community is a wonderful thing, just on the face of it. It’s also a way for a small business to show its ties to the community, attract new customers and increase networking opportunities. Your marketing should see a boost when you enhance your reputation and brand recognition by publicizing your social responsibility. The great thing is that there are many ways to give back without breaking the bank. Here are 10:

  1. Collection jar:

    Here’s an easy way to start. Put a collection jar on your counter for the charity of your choice. You can post a sign next to it saying you’ll match all contributions one for one.

  2. Referral program:

    You can team up with a charity or nonprofit by giving a set amount when a customer refers a new customer. For example, you might give $25 in the referrer’s name to your local no-kill pet shelter with each referral.

  3. Sponsor an event:

    This is a great way to get a huge amount of recognition in the community. It need not be expensive, especially if you team up with other businesses. Consider events like a 10K walk, where you donate water bottles to participants.

  4. Encourage employees to volunteer:

    Give employees some paid time off each quarter to volunteer at worthwhile causes. Programs like Habitat for Humanity gladly accept folks to volunteer for a few hours, a day or more. By participating in this type of initiative, you might find it easier to recruit and retain quality employees.

  5. Buy from your small business neighbors:

    Get together with your other nearby small businesses to promote local buying. This directly helps the community by supporting local businesses in their quest to fight off the big chains that dominate the landscape. Your group can print up signs and post them in your storefronts promoting local buying and naming the participants. You can also leave positive reviews on social media.

  6. Offer a play area:

    Parents are more likely to shop in your store if you set up a play area where they can deposit their young kids for a while. Even a few minutes of relief will be much appreciated by parents, who likely will become regular customers even after the kids grow up and leave home.

  7. Participate in community events:

    The key here is to print up T-shirts for you and your employees to wear at local events, like a highway flower planting or car wash to benefit the local high school.

  8. Adopt a highway:

    Speaking of highways, contact your local authorities about adopting a stretch of highway. It doesn’t cost much, and they will put up a sign seen by tens of thousands each day that recognizes your contribution. That’s cost-effective marketing!

  9. Sponsor a school sports team:

    You choose the amount of money to contribute. Maybe you decide to pay for shirts or caps with your logo on them. Then you can take out local printed ads announcing your sponsorship and wishing the team well. Parents will be impressed.

  10. Start a charity drive:

    Think about a book drive for the local library, or a food/clothing drive for the less fortunate. Alternatively, join in on an existing drive, perhaps a soup kitchen or toys for tots. Even a small contribution will be greatly appreciated.

 

Why Your Company Needs a Freelance Contract and What it Should Include

Thirty percent of companies hire freelancers. Hiring a freelancer allows you to hire an individual to help you with anything from graphic design or social media management to creating videos or accounting services. You, too, may utilize independent contractors to meet deadlines, handle staff shortages and fill in talent gaps. Before you hire freelancers, though, create a detailed contract.

Why your Business Needs a Freelance Contract

 

The independent contractors you hire for temporary jobs are not your official employees. To get on the same page and protect your company, you need more than an oral agreement. Your freelance contract will be specific and clear as it outlines details about the project, including payment, deadlines, confidentiality, and other conditions of your work agreement.

For the freelancers, a contract provides peace of mind. As they create your company’s promotional video, complete remodeling projects, or perform seasonal deliveries, they know exactly what type of work they will perform, how long they have to deliver the goods or services, and when they’ll get paid. Signing a contract also motivates your freelancers to commit adequate time and energy to the project.

The contract protects your company’s assets and proprietary information, too. A contract reduces your liability during a project disagreement and gives you legal recourse if a freelancer steals privileged information. Additionally, you will need copies of all freelance contracts if your business undergoes an IRS audit.

What to Include in a Freelance Contract

When creating a freelance contract, include several details:

Contact Basics

Include contact information, such as the address, phone number, email, billing address, and contact information for your company and the freelancer. This information ensures both parties can contact each other throughout the project process.

Project Details and Scope

Record details about the project’s parameters and expectations. Be as specific as possible to ensure you get the product or services you need, to verify that the freelancer knows what’s expected and to prevent misunderstandings. This part of the contract will also outline steps you will take if the work isn’t completed on time or as expected.

Nondisclosure Agreement

Protect your interests, including sensitive, confidential and proprietary information, when you require freelancers to protect details about the project’s work and clients. You can ask freelancers to sign an NDA before you begin contract negotiations or include it in your formal contract.

Non-compete Agreement

Preserve the relationships you have with current clients and protect your interests. For example, if you hire a freelance graphic designer to create graphics for your clients’ presentations, the non-compete agreement prevents them from offering their services directly to the clients.

Deadlines

Define deliverables and milestones. Include specific delivery dates and details about what happens if the freelancer misses a deadline.

Expenses

Describe who will pay for expenses such as software, stock photographs or mileage. While most independent contractors take sole responsibility for these expenses, your company may wish to cover some or all costs associated with specific projects.

Payment Terms

Outline when the freelancers will be paid and the payment total. Be sure to include the hourly pay rate, if applicable, and who’s responsible for billing. For payments made in increments, include the project and invoice deadlines and the exact amount of the payments. Remember to add information about acceptable payment methods and how quickly you will pay after you receive an invoice.

Final Copyright

Detail which party holds the final copyright to the finished project. In most situations, freelancers retain full rights until they deliver the milestone or final project.

Relationship of Parties

Specify that you are hiring freelancers as independent contractors, not employees. You may also need to include that the freelancers are responsible to pay their own income taxes.

Dispute Resolution

Review the procedure for handling disputes over incomplete or completed work and other contract details.

Signatures

Remember that both your company’s representative and the freelancer must sign the contract. It’s not legal or binding until it’s signed.

DIY Contracts Versus Hiring a Lawyer

You can customize a freelance contract template online or hire a lawyer to write one. With a legally-binding DIY contract, you can write in understandable language and customize each contract. Alternatively, a lawyer can write a clear, concise and specific contract that covers your legal bases. Ultimately, the decision is yours.

If your company hires freelancers, you need a contract. Use these guidelines to create a thorough and clear contract that protects your company and your freelancers.

Guest post: About the Author

 

PJ Taei is the founder of Uscreen, a video monetization platform to help you sell any kind of videos online.

 

Should Your Body Shop Offer an Independent Lifetime Warranty?

As an owner of an auto body shop, you may be wondering how you can give your business a competitive advantage. Every city across the USA has a multitude of body shops, so what can you do to set your business apart from others? A proven strategy for many owners has been offering clients an independent lifetime warranty on some products and services. Read on to figure out what you can cover with your warranty and how it can benefit your business.

What is an Independent Lifetime Warranty?

While some auto part manufacturers provide limited warranties, you can offer your customers an independent lifetime warranty on some parts and repairs. While you may not be able to offer warranties on items such as engines or tires, you can offer to cover repairs on fit, finish, functionality and overall quality. You can cover items such as body work or paint jobs, mechanical repair, parts and OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts.

Why Should You Offer Independent Lifetime Warranties?

As a small business owner, it may be difficult to manage costs as it is, and offering any kind of free work may seem like an unneeded expense. However, there are benefits to this incentive, such as:

Setting You Apart from the Competition

Many people shop around before committing to getting their car fixed or serviced at a body shop. They not only look for the most affordable price, but perks not offered anywhere else. You may not be able to beat the cheapest price in town, but you will be able to justify your cost by the fact that you stand behind your work!

Letting potential customers know that they don’t need to worry about bad service or faulty parts will set you apart from the competition and give new customers the faith to give you a try.

Repeat Customers

Another benefit of offering an independent lifetime warranty for your body shop customers is the promise they will keep coming back. A client may have chipped the paint on their car and came back to you for a free touch up, but chances are they may also require an oil change or a tune up at that time.

The promise of your guarantee will keep your clients coming back to your shop, where they likely will spend more money on additional work. This will lead to customer loyalty and more revenue for your business.

Word of Mouth Referrals

Individuals typically find body shops in two ways: through their insurance company or by referrals. Word of mouth referrals are incredibly important for small businesses, and offering an independent lifetime warranty is reason enough for your customers to share that information with their friends, family members and colleagues. This is not a common incentive for small body shops, and it is enough to impress your customers to recommend your business to others, growing your customer base!

If you are looking for effective ways to grow your auto body shop, you may benefit from a small business loan. Let IOU Financial help! Call us today to inquire about our fast and easy loans of up to $300,000.

 

 

How to Make The Most out of Your Direct Mail Marketing

Many people have dismissed direct mail since the introduction of online advertisement tools. While online tools are vital for small businesses, it is a mistake to assume direct mail is not as helpful; for one, it can be highly targeted. A small business owner has to purchase a mailing list with the addresses of people interested in what the company sells. It is much easier to entice people who are interested in your product or service, which is just one thing that direct mail marketing can do for a business.

Building Your Target Audience

The first step you need to take is purchasing a mailing list. The list will contain individuals who are interested in the products you sell or the services you offer. Now, some people just use that mailing list and send off their marketing material. The material is marked with a coupon or something similar that you can track if those coupons are used in your establishment later. You can slash the mailing list, and just focus on a particular area that responds well to your mailing list.

Another step you can take is to use the mailing list as a starting point. What you want to do is make a mailing list even more specific by using demographics. You probably already know which groups of people respond well to your product or services. Use that information to target your potential customers even better. What you are doing here is reducing waste because you do not want to spend so much on advertisements that may simply end up in a trash can.

Getting the Best ROI From Direct Mail

Making sure your direct mail marketing is effective takes work. There is no doubt about that truth. The following are a few tips to ensure the best ROI you can:

Clear Call to Action

Potential customers do not want to be confused regarding what steps they can take to benefit from your products or services. This means your direct mail should be very clear and use simplistic language to tell potential customers about your offers.

Be Sure to Include Perks 

Potential customers are being pampered by many other businesses like yours. You need to make sure that you pay attention to the perks competitors are offering potential customers and see if you can beat them. A good option is to offer a few coupons, but you can spice it up by partnering with other complimentary businesses to double your clientèle.

Use Names Effectively

People love to receive mail, especially mail that is addressed to them directly rather than just the resident. You want to make sure that you use the name of the person who lives in the location. Pepper the recipient’s name throughout the letter or marketing material.

Try to Avoid Being Aggressive

Yes, you want new customers, but you do not want to seem too desperate. Do your best to ensure you only include a few calls to action or just one. People do not like a pushy salesperson, so they will not appreciate pushy marketing material.

Taking these steps should help reduce the chances of your material being tossed away with the rest of the refuse in a household. Make sure you design your marketing material with intent. Usually, what works best is something clean, simple, and printed with big letters. It would be wise to speak to a direct mail marketing consultant. This specialist can help get your message across effectively.

Guest post: About the Author

Caylanne Crowne is a contributing writer and the media specialist for Allegra Network. She regularly writes for marketing blogs with an emphasis in career building and print marketing.

Bad Restaurant Review? How to Remedy!

All restaurant owners know the value of customer recommendations and feedback in attracting new customers. Savvy restaurateurs ask customers to leave reviews on their websites and social media accounts to speed up business growth. However, sometimes, the reviews left are not positive, and can present the business in a bad light. What do you do that in that situation? Read on to learn how to remedy a bad restaurant review.

Don’t Ignore

The one thing you should NOT do is do nothing. Some business owners believe that bad reviews are just part of doing business, and figure out that enough good reviews will distract from the negative ones. Others believe that there is nothing to be done about bad reviews at all, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. All it can take is one negative review to prevent potential customers from giving your restaurant a chance.

Contact the Customer

The easiest and often more effective method to deal with a bad restaurant review is to contact the customer that left it. Most websites, such as Yelp and Facebook, will allow you to privately message the individual. If you can connect the name to a client database, you may be able to figure out the person’s phone number or email.

If you have a way to message the person, always take that as your first step. Always remember to be on the customer’s side, whether you find truth in their review or not.

Apologize for the fact that they had a negative experience at your restaurant, and state that your customers’ satisfaction is your number one priority.

Most people will agree to remove or upgrade their review with just a tad of personal attention from the owner. Knowing that you took the time to acknowledge their feelings will make all the difference!

Offer an Incentive

If you feel that the individual is not likely to update their review after your initial contact, consider offering them an incentive to do so. Be careful in doing this, as certain websites, like Yelp, have a policy that penalizes business owners who incentivize clients to remove reviews.

However, doing so in a way that doesn’t directly ask the customer to take this action is acceptable. State that while you cannot change the initial experience, you want to make things right. Consider offering them a refund or a gift certificate to give your business another chance.

This second step is almost always effective in changing a person’s perspective about your business.

Respond Publicly

If the individual refuses to remove the review after the first two steps, the only thing left to do is respond publicly. Although this won’t hide the initial feedback from online users, it will give them another perspective, and show them that the restaurant’s management cares about the business’ reputation.

Always remain professional, empathetic and kind. Apologize to the reviewer and state that you tried to remedy the situation to make it right. If you offered them an incentive, don’t be afraid to include that in your public comment. This will tell the readers that you care about the opinions of your customers and address problems.

You also have the option to hire a Public Relations (PR) specialist to provide you with a good direction in tackling negative reviews. If you need financial help to afford these services, or need other funds to grow your business, contact IOU Financial. We offer fast and easy small business loans up to $300,000 with an easy fast pre-approval  process.

 

 

 

Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses

Accounting is not the most fun aspect of the business, but it’s surely one of the most important. That’s why, no matter whether what kind of products or services you sell, you’ll need a reliable accounting software as the backbone of your business’ finances. But if you’re a small or growing company, you probably don’t need the huge-scale feature—or price tag!—of the accounting programs that are targeted for much larger companies.

So which ones are the most affordable and intuitive to use? Are there any programs that create automated invoicing, expense reports, and bill payments? What about cloud-based software for convenience and security? If you’ve been wondering about the answers to these kinds of questions, the good news is that we’ve done all the research so that you won’t have to. After all, you’ve got a business to run.

QuickBooks Online

If a convenient and simple-to-use accounting program is what you’re looking for, Quickbooks Onlineis a smart choice. With an intuitive interface and cleanly designed dashboard, you have an at-a-glance look at your overall financial health, from outstanding or paid invoices, expenses, sales, and profits and losses. With built-in report templates and automated features like recurring invoices, bill payments and reminders, QuickBooks Online does away with the tedious and time-wasting nature of manual transactions to free up your time for actually running your business.

Via Quickbooks Online

QuickBooks is compatible with a ton of external applications so that you can automatically import and export data with no hassle. Plus, your data is automatically backed up, so you never need to worry about losing important transactions or reports. With a $10-$30 monthly subscription fee, as well as a free trial, the price for making your small business more efficient couldn’t be better.

Wave Accounting

When something seems too good to be true, it usually is. But Wave Accounting is a completely free accounting software, with no catch or tricks up its sleeves. Even better, it’s one of the best financial software programs out there for small business owners who don’t plan to scale (past 10 or so employees). Keep in mind that it is a step down in complexity from some of the more robust accounting programs since it doesn’t track billable hours or automatically attach tracked expense to invoices. And because it’s not capable of tracking inventory or creating purchase orders, this one isn’t for you if your business provides more than a handful of products. Still, reviewers swoon over its ease of use for a small company with simple needs.

Via WaveApps

And with basic features like automated recurring billing and payment reminders, automatically synced data with your other financial services like your bank, credit card, or PayPal, as well as cloud-based data backup, you can rest easy. If what you’re looking for is simple and frills-free, you can’t beat with Wave Accounting.

FreshBooks

Looking for a program that’s simple to use and offers reliable, top-notch customer service, as well as various integrations? FreshBooks makes it easy for you to invoice customers and track both billable hours and expenses. You can send payment reminders and see when a client has viewed your invoice.

Via FreshBooks

One downside is that FreshBooks is meant for single-entry accounting only, so if you require more complex features, this may not be the best choice for you. But with an easy-to-use intuitive design, mobile apps, and solid invoicing and billing capabilities, it gets the job done for a small business that doesn’t need all the fancy bells and whistles. Keep in mind that pricing is set upon your number of customers, as well as features and additional users.

Xero

If you’re looking for a platform that provides real-time updates from your bank and credit cards, and you’re the type who wants to know what’s going on with your finances on a moment to moment basis, a subscription with Xero will be your best bet.

Via Xero

Xero features a subscription model with tools for bookkeeping, invoicing, expense management, taxes and more. When you upgrade from the starter subscription (which allows you to send invoices to send five invoices and quotes, and reconcile 20 bank transactions per month), you get unlimited access to these features plus payroll, so you can adjust as your business expands.

Guest post: About the Author

Lauren Pezzullo is an east-coast-raised Austinite and musicophile who writes about the latest software and B2B trends for TrustRadius. She’s currently at work on her debut novel.

 

How to Help Your Audience Connect with your Brand Through Compelling Images

A famous saying states that a picture is worth a thousand words. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to increasing brand recognition and improving customer loyalty.

Did you know that 67% of consumers pay more attention to images, and often find them more important than written content, such as descriptions and even customer reviews? Including images in the way you tell the story about your company helps individuals create an emotional connection and become lifelong shoppers.

Read on to learn what type of images you should consider implementing for your business and how to choose the best ones within your budget.

What Images Can Help Your Branding?

Logo

Think of world-famous logos that require less than a second for a consumer to recognize them – such as Nike, McDonalds or Apple. This can help you understand how important a compelling logo is to the success of your business.

“We have less time and less space to tell our stories in than ever before,” says Alina Wheeler, branding expert. “To rise above the clutter, a symbol or a logo is the fastest communication known to man. It unlocks associations with your brand on sight, so it’s important to get it right the first time around.”

Product Images

Images run the show when it comes to designing your products or showcasing them on your website, catalog or in your marketing materials.

Website/ Marketing Images

As online users are bombarded by information, they skim over website content quickly and prefer images to help tell the story. Images are also highly shareable and boost search engine optimization (SEO).

Where Do I Find Compelling Images for My Branding Needs?

Stock Images Websites

As a small business owner, you likely don’t have the budget to hire world class photographers or marketing experts. However, that does not mean you should forego using attractive and high resolution images for your business.

You can find high quality, yet low cost images on a variety of websites, such as iStockphoto.com‎, Shutterstock and iStock. These websites include free and affordable stock images that you can purchase for commercial use. Some of the images can be purchased for as low as $1! Simply type in the keyword or topic you need (dentist, secretary, high-heeled shoes) and find all the related images available to be purchased.

Fiverr

While stock images may be useful for design elements, when it comes to creating unique visuals for your brand, such as your logo, you can’t rely on an existing image. Fiverr is a very useful site to connect with freelance designers (and other specialists).

For as low as $5 (and up), you can find a professional to create a one-of-a-kind image for your business needs. Fiverr also allows you to read freelance profiles and customer reviews as well as view samples of their previous work.

Create Your Custom Images

You don’t have to be a professional graphic designer to create images for your company. If you would rather do this task yourself than rely on others, you can do so with the helpful of online tools.

Sites such as Canva provide ready-made templates so you can create specific visuals for marketing, articles, infographics and more! Freelogodesign promises to help you create a free logo in just minutes. You can then add that logo to merchandize to market your products or services.

There are a multitude of ways to find free and affordable images, or make them yourself with the help of existing tools. If you would rather invest in your brand by hiring a professional or need financial help in utilizing the images you created to market your brand, IOU Financial can help. Visit our site at www.ioufinancial.com to learn about our quick and easy small business loans.