Streamlining Your Bookkeeping Process: Tools for Small Business

Whether you’ve been running your small business for years or are just opening up shop, efficient operations are the key to business success. When it comes to bookkeeping, it’s vital you run a smooth operation that gives you timely, reliable results. Bookkeeping tasks includes setting up accounts, entering transaction data, generating reports and preparing tax returns. It is the key part of your accounting system, including invoicing, bill payment, banking, inventory management and payroll. We’ve assembled here a short prescription for streamlining your bookkeeping process and have included a list of bookkeeping tools to boost your efficiency.

Five Keys to Efficient Bookkeeping

Even minor improvements can have a major impact on your business’ efficiency. Here are five:

  1. Establish or review your system:

    If you are just now organizing your business, you will need to have a detailed bookkeeping system in place from the very start. It starts with basic tasks, such as entering your receivables and payables as soon as you can — don’t let invoices or checks pile up on a desk, as it’s all too easy for something to fall through the cracks. Review your chart of accounts to ensure its properly set up and capturing all the information you need. Establish training materials in case you change bookkeepers, as this will save much time should the need arise.

  2. Maintain your pace:

    As we just touched upon, you should never fall behind on your bookkeeping. Even a delay of a few days can snowball into bigger problems. Errors often occur when you have to play catch-up. For example, your inventory system might fail to reflect orders placed if you haven’t yet entered the data into the system. It’s wise to have at least one “backup” bookkeeper who can step in when the primary one is away.

  3. Contract with a CPA:

    You probably don’t need a full-time CPA on staff, but that shouldn’t stop you from hiring one as a part-time consultant. CPAs can ensure your books are being kept correctly. You’ll probably have the CPA prepare your tax returns and answer any questions that come up. And in a pinch, your CPA can temporarily maintain your books if you need to find a new bookkeeper.

  4. Keep receipts:

    It’s such a cliché, but nonetheless true. If you don’t keep, organize, and record your receipts, your business will likely slow down as you search for purchase information from weeks or months before. Consider digitizing each receipt, and in any event, set up a filing system that ensures you can find a receipt when you need it.

  5. Use the best tools:

    It goes without saying that, in 2019, very few businesses are run using a paper-based accounting system. Since everyone automates, it makes sense to choose the systems and tools that have impressed the experts and other users. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pay thousands to get a basic accounting package. In fact, some good ones are free! Keep reading to see some expert recommendations.

Tools for Efficient Bookkeeping

The most valuable business tool is your accounting system. If you are a small company, consider getting a modular system with separate packages for basic bookkeeping, invoicing, inventory, payroll and so forth. Here are some noteworthy systems to consider:

  1. Wave:

    This is a top-rated free accounting system with more than 1.5 million users around the world. It’s a cloud-based system accessible anywhere you can establish an internet connection. It has impressive functionality, including invoicing, receipt management and banking. The only cost is a processing fee for online payments.

  2. Sage Accounting:

    Perfect for self-employed business owners who need a simple system that can be upgraded as your business grows. Prices start as low as $10/month.

  3. FreshBooks:

    A powerful accounting system that integrates most accounting features and interfaces with popular CRM and customer service apps. Prices start at $19.95 per month.

  4. Others:

    Many other accounting systems also perform well, including QuickBooks Online, Xero, Sage 300 Cloud and Sighted. If you need a payroll package, consider WagePoint, Gusto and SurePayroll. For tracking time and expenses, look at TSheets, Expensify and Neat.

Take the time to get your bookkeeping right from the start and you’ll save countless hours on error correction and rework. Your business will save money and you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

The Best Tech Tools Entrepreneurs Recommend to Boost Business Productivity

As an entrepreneur or small business owner, it’s important to make sure you’re covering all areas of business in the most effective way possible. While you’ll have different priorities at different times, your accounting department is just as important as your customer service department. Each cog is vital in running a smooth and effective machine.

However, as a small business, the chances are you’re doing a lot of these processes yourself, but thanks to the modern age, there are plenty of tools out there to help you get things done correctly while maximizing productivity. This means apps!

Today, we’re going to look at a selection of some of the best apps and tools out there that can help you get every job in your business done to the best of your ability.

QuickBooks

As we mentioned above, accounting is a crucial department you’ll want to make sure you’re nailing in your small business. Get it wrong, even on the tiniest mistake, and this can have huge consequences for your business, especially from a legal standpoint.

Fortunately, the QuickBooks app makes it easy for you to load up and connect your bank accounts to easily keep track of all your finances and get the facts spot on.

Square

Being able to take mobile and card payments as a business is essential when it comes to maximizing your revenue and providing your customers with the best experience possible. Square is an excellent solution for making sure you have all bases covered.

ZenDesk

As above, the level of customer service you offer is essential because this is what people are going to think of your business and will make or break as to whether they recommend you or never come back. ZenDesk makes it easy to offer fantastic customer service from your computer or mobile.

Toggl

When running a small business, it’s easy to get caught up with tasks, and you end up spending way more, or way less, time than you originally planned. Toggl is a free time tracking app that can help you keep on top of things and spending your time and energy in the right places.

Evernote

Every entrepreneurial tool list will mention Evernote, and that’s simply because it’s so effective at what it does and brings so many benefits to small business. “From jotting down notes and ideas for the future to keeping track of employee hours and orders, Evernote can be whatever you want it to be” shares Nina Harper, a business blogger for WriteMYX and Brit Student.

MailChimp

Marketing your business is an essential process you need to go through to get your business out into the world, and one of the best ways to market is through email marketing. MailChimp makes it easy to manage and create your email marketing campaigns, and you can get started for free up to 5,000 people!

HootSuite

Hand in hand with the marketing point above, you’re going to want to market your business on social media to get it out to the masses. While there are plenty of options to choose from, Hootsuite is a great way to manage all your accounts in one simple place.

There are all the features you could need, including post creation and scheduling to answering comments and managing the accounts you follow. Hootsuite, available on desktop and mobile devices, really does have it all.

WordPress

Every business needs a website to be an online HQ for the company, but this can be expensive and complicated if you have no experience in it. “However, WordPress is designed to alleviate these troubles and make it easy for anybody to set up a professional website in no time at all” explains Sarah Coombes, a writer for Next Coursework and 1Day2Write.

Through WordPress, you can manage everything from the theme and design of your website to the blog post and content you’re creating. Everything; all in one place.

Slack

Slack is an instant messaging platform designed to help you and your team communicate in the most integrated and effective way. Slack ensures your team can sign into their workspaces from anywhere to stay in touch and maximize productivity.

Slack is available on all devices, and with the ability to set up an infinite number of channels, which could be dedicated to different projects, different clients, or different departments, it’s easy to stay organized and one step ahead of the game.

Guest Post: About the Author

Emily Marchant is a marketing manager at Academic brits and Origin writings. She is responsible for renewing and retaining existing subscribers through campaigns that involve newsletters, sponsored content, partnerships, ads and events. An excellent project manager and a team player, and a blog contributor at Phd Kingdom.

Are You Overpaying Your Business Expenses?

Running a small business is a costly undertaking in terms of time, effort and money. Unfortunately, too many businesses spend too much on their expenses. This eats into your working capital unnecessarily, possibly crimping your flexibility and your ability to take advantage of opportunities as they appear. Let’s look at some expenses for which many owners overpay.

Credit card processing:

As your business grows, so does your credit card volume. Have you asked for a quantity discount on your credit card processing fees? This is an extremely competitive market — shop around and you might find much better deals.

Design instead of content:

Your website is a tremendous lead generator. A problem surfaces when owners lavish too much money on design without paying enough attention to content. Your search results will improve if you populate your website with timely, authoritative content. While fancy design is fine, it won’t improve your Page Rank, and it can be expensive to create and maintain. Spend that money instead on quality writing and search engine optimization.

Oversized office:

Rent is expensive. Are you paying for space you don’t really need? Have you filled your office with expensive furniture and equipment? Many businesses can function in smaller spaces or even in a home office. The latter is a great option because it gives you a tax deduction without additional expense, eliminates your commute time (saving money on gasoline), and perhaps reduces your wardrobe costs.

Inefficient employees:

You might spend more on labor than any other expense. Inefficient employees are costly because you are not getting your money’s worth and you might even overstaff to compensate for some bad apples. There are ways to quantify how much an employee is returning to the business. Good employees should return 5 to 10 times what you pay them. If your employees are underperforming, replace them with better ones (even if they cost more) or use contractors instead.

Unproductive advertising:

Do you know your marketing return on investment (ROI)? If not, you don’t have a handle on how your marketing efforts are performing. Many businesses spend a lot of advertising dollars on Google and Facebook. These media sites can provide extensive information about your marketing ROI, but it goes to waste if you don’t use it.

Using paper:

OK, its 2019. Aren’t you ashamed you still haven’t gone paperless? If you had invested in a paperless office, you’d be saving a small fortune on printing and photocopying costs. Plus, don’t you want to save the trees?

Unnecessary travel:

Some transactions require in-person interaction. But does that really pertain to your business? Consider the costs of travel, hotel, meals and entertainment. Chances are you aren’t getting a good return on these expenses. Your time might be better spent conducting your business on Skype, and you’ll save a fortune.

Living the louche life:

You are a business owner, not a superhero. If you burn the candle at both ends, you’ll get burnt. Guard your health by avoiding too many nights entertaining customers, vendors and employees. Your tab will be substantial, and your health might suffer. Sure, you can probably charge off your entertainment expenses, but you may pay in other ways.

Failure to grab opportunities:

In the penny-wise and pound-foolish department, false economies can cost you in the long run. For instance, you might be offered inventory or raw materials at a discount, but you don’t make the purchase because you don’t want to borrow the funds you need. This behavior can stymie growth. The lesson is to use borrowing intelligently. If you don’t, you can be certain your competitors will.

These are just a few of the many ways you can cut waste and increase efficiency. Should you need to beef up your working capital, contact us at IOU Financial for business loans that are easy to get and easy to repay.

How to Reward Employees Without Breaking the Bank

Us humans are driven by incentive, and modern leaders understand the importance of rewarding high-performing employees. While typical ways of doing so include bonuses and pay raises, oftentimes small business owners can’t afford to reward their employees monetarily. If you are in the start-up phase of growing your business, you don’t have to forego rewarding your staff members; instead you just need to get creative in rewarding them without breaking the bank.

4 Great Ways to Reward Your Employees Without Money

Simple Recognition

If you want to make your employees feel appreciated, oftentimes all it takes is to voice your  gratitude. If one of the members of your team just turned in a well-researched project, or another one handled a customer service issue in an appropriate manner, simply acknowledging their efforts and saying thank you can be enough of a reward for your employees.

If you want to take your appreciation a step further, you can send out a departmental or company-wide email recognizing the efforts of one of the staff members. Alternatively, you can set up an “Employee of the Month Program” where you choose one employee who has gone above and beyond that month.

Although none of these initiatives will cost your company one penny, they will make your employees feel noticed and appreciated for their efforts, and will encourage others to some friendly competition for recognition.

Time with the Boss

Most bosses are incredibly busy, and don’t have a lot of individual time to dedicate to each of their team members. However, it is extremely important to your employees to spend that time with you, which will help you create a meaningful relationship and a bond that will encourage them to be loyal to your organization.

One way to reward your employees is to dedicate some one-on-one time to a different high achiever on a weekly basis. You can take this person out to lunch; but if this is not within your budget, you can simply take a walk together or even meet in your office.

Dedicating this time to your employee will show them that you care about them, their thoughts and opinions and plans for the future. Make sure to spend that time focusing on the employee; however. This can be a time for mentoring or giving valuable advice that can help them grow in their positions.

Best Parking Spot

Parking is a hot commodity in many metropolitan areas, and many employees need to pay for their own spot, park far away or forgo driving to work altogether. As a reward for a top-performing employee, why not give them the best parking spot your company has? Even if you only have one dedicated spot that you use, that could be a great incentive for your employees that will not cost you a dime.

Ask Them

If you’re not sure what is the best way to reward your employee, why don’t you ask them about what they prefer? Some may choose a paid day off, while another one may want to reassign a project that they’re not interested in on another colleague. Within reason, letting your employees choose their own rewards will make them feel valued and important.

If your employees have truly gone above and beyond and have shown how much they are committed to the team, you may consider investing in giving them financial rewards. After all, that is a way to stay competitive within your industry and keep your employees loyal to your company.

IOU Financial is dedicated to helping you with this goal. Contact us today to find out about our quick and easy small business loans of up to $500,000.

 

Small Business Tax Deductions You Should Know About

2019 continues the new tax regime passed two years ago that proved so friendly to business. The corporate tax rate now tops out at 21 percent. While that’s great for reducing your tax bill, it also means that deductions are worth less than they used to. Nonetheless, deductions help you save money and might make the difference between an overall profit and loss.

Qualified Business Income (QBI)

You can deduct up to 20 percent of your QBI from a U.S. business that operates as something other than a C Corporation. It also works for the self-employed, trusts and estates. Wage income and C Corp income do not benefit from this deduction. The deduction has certain other conditions:

  • Maximum income: Joint filers $315,000, others $157,500. Deductions above these thresholds may be limited.
  • Limit: Lesser of (20 percent QBI + 20 percent REIT dividends + 20 percent publicly traded partnership income), or (20 percent of taxable income minus net capital gains)

Bonus Depreciation

It’s back! We’re talking about 100 percent bonus depreciation that allows you to deduct the entire cost of qualifying assets with useful lifetimes up to 20 years. In addition, the cap on expensing business assets instead of depreciating them is $1 million, phasing out dollar for dollar once you place assets worth more than $2.5M into service. The universe of depreciable assets is wider, and includes lodging furnishings (refrigerators, stoves and beds), HVAC equipment, roofs, and security and alarm systems. They’ve cut farm equipment depreciation periods from seven to five years.

Business Vehicles

Bonus depreciation on business vehicles obtained after September 27, 2017 and put into service in 2018 is capped at $18,000 in year one, $16,000 in year two, $9,600 in year three, and $5,670 thereafter. If you buy a heavy pickup truck or SUV for business, you can qualify for up to 100 percent deduction in year one.

Entertainment Expenses

These generally are no longer available. But you can still deduct holiday parties. You can deduct up to 50 percent of your employees’ meals while traveling on business. The 50 percent deduction on client business meals appears to be intact, but double-check with your tax professional.

Commuter Benefits

Employers can no longer deduct transportation benefits for employees. This includes mass transit passes and parking. However, employers can deduct up to $20/month to subsidize employees who ride their bicycles to work. Alas, these bike riders will be taxed on the benefit. Employees can set aside up to $260 a month in pre-tax money to cover vanpools, mass transit passes and parking.

Net Operating Loss (NOL)

You can offset up to 80 percent of taxable income with NOL in future years. You can carry forward NOL offset indefinitely, rather than just 20 years under the old tax law. You can no longer carry back NOL.

Family Paid-Leave Credit

For 2018 and 2019, you get a tax credit for workers on paid medical or family leave. The credit amount equals 12.5 percent of the wages paid during the leave. That credit is larger when the employers pay workers on leave more than half of their normal wages. There are many strings attached to this credit, so check with your tax professional.

Cash Method of Accounting

If you are a C Corporation, you can use the cash method of accounting if your average gross receipts over the previous three years was less than $25 million. The cap used to be $5 million. This also applies to LLCs and partnerships owned by a C Corporation.

The Best News

The best news is that business loan interest is still deductible! IOU Financial will lend your business up to $500k and you can deduct every penny of interest. So why wait? Contact us today!

Smarter Offices: Tips to Automate and Update Your Workplace

What is your organization willing to do for a more efficient workforce? You can’t log on to the internet without seeing the impact of chatbots, AI or the Internet of Things (IoT) that make our devices and appliances even smarter. Some corporations are issuing Segways and microchipping employees to provide easier access to everything from building entry to snacks. Let’s take a look at what else is in store for the future.

Smart Offices Are Among Us

With technology that once seemed only the purview of sci-fi flicks, modern gadgets are now replacing the physical boundaries of traditional business with virtual pathways and surprising innovations. This phenomenon extends past the physical barriers between your company’s employees and clients; it encompasses solutions from the use of convenient websites with helpful chatbots to incorporating tech in the physical equipment of your office.

Check out these examples of a smart office:

  • Internet of Things: IoT is a network concept that can power your office with smart lights, virtual reality cameras, thermostats, speakers, and other tools to help employees feel more comfortable and concentrate better on work, even from remote locations.
  • Interconnectivity: Smart devices like relays, dimmers, and smart switches can be set up to power the office efficiently and conserve energy. Sensors detect and control UV light, temperature, and ambient light levels to operate smart windows that keep out radiation while maximizing natural light. Apps activated from wearable tech can provide instant access to Slack and similar communication-and-convenience apps so employees can order snacks or coffee from their desks.
  • Machine learning: Knowledge management and leadership tools area already taking advantage of machine learning. You can seamlessly integrate technologies that automate meeting management, file management, and interoffice communications. Employees can answer emails in a fraction of the normal time with accurate voice-to-text tools and explore other ways tech can help them concentrate on the tasks at hand.

Tech for Employees

Whether employees are looking for easier commutes or sitting/standing desks for a healthier workplace experience, there’s plenty of tech available to help make it happen. Check it out:

  • The use of standing desks and sitting/standing desks is gaining momentum in the office. When you alternate standing and sitting, you avoid back pain and remain more alert throughout the day. GeekDesk, Uplift Desk, UpDesk, VariDesk, and Humanscale are models that help employees stay healthy and productive.
  • Self-driving vehicles, like the Tesla Autopilot, are already out there. However, Volkswagen has announced plans to roll on autonomous vehicles on a much larger scale. Starting the workday while still on the commute could eliminate lost hours on the road and allow for fewer hours in the office.
  • Modern offices feature open, inviting spaces that put dark cubicles in the past where they belong and encourage collaboration and productivity.
  • Millennials and Generation Z are children of the digital era who love working with cool gadgets, like taking calls with Echo Dot, a compact speaker that connects to Google’s Alexa voice control. This kind of connectivity can help your youngest workers avoid the stress of unplugging that many of their generation suffer.
  • These young workers also use digital apps to address any task they can — for instance, calculating taxes via smartphone, warming or cooling homes remotely, or feeding pets long-distance. Make sure you’re offering digital options available to shorten workers’ wait times and to-do lists in the office.
  • Smart tools can also prevent repetitive stress injuries that cause carpal tunnel and similar conditions. Voice-activated gadgets and voice-to-text functionality embedded in office applications help reduce the amount of typing needed and give fingers a break.
  • Technology has changed conference and boardrooms, too. Many companies have implemented AI tech for conferencing that orders the tech needed for a video call with colleagues around the world, or for webinars with clients. These smart systems are self-diagnostic and can report any issues they’re experiencing as well as collect data to streamline future operations. Amazon’s Alexa for Business is a forerunner in this area, but future applications will enable workers to multitask through voice or typed commands to connect to digital tools seamlessly.

Tech for Customers

Customer and client applications will greatly benefit from the latest tech, too.

  • Customer service and client communication will also benefit from new technologies. Chromecast and Apple TV, small network appliances that can receive digital data from multiple sources, are already ideal for conferences and PowerPoint presentations. Zoom is a video call tool that only requires a 9-digit number to join.
  • Chatbots improve customers’ experience by answering simple questions on demand, collecting client information to offer personalized recommendations, and providing expanded pathways for marketing and sales.
  • Three Square Market administrates mini-markets in hospitals, hotels, and businesses. To use the market, customers have microchips implanted under their skin, which allow them to make purchases with the swipe of a finger.

Smart office tech still comes with a large price tag; however, those costs can be expected to come down, thanks to economies of scale, as more businesses join the movement. With Generation Z and millennials becoming increasingly dominant players in business and commerce, most of these trends aren’t just likely to become widely adopted — they’re inevitable. Get a head start now on improving employee and customer experiences through smart tech, and you’ll find your business in a position to thrive in the future.

Guest Post: About the Author

Laura Gayle is a full-time blogger who has ghostwritten more than 350 articles for major software companies, tech startups, and online retailers. Founder of www.BusinessWomanGuide.org, she created her site to be a trusted resource for women trying to start or grow businesses on their own terms. She has written about everything from crowdfunding and inventory management to product launches, cybersecurity trends, web analytics, and innovations in digital marketing.

 

5 Tips for Better Inventory Management

There are dozens of ways to improve your inventory management. In this article, we have five important tips for establishing you beginning of year inventory so that you can report your taxes correctly.

The Internal Revenue Service requires you to value your inventory at year’s end so that you can determine your cost of goods sold, or COGSs, gross profits and taxable income. The IRS assumes your beginning inventory for one year is equal to the ending inventory of the previous year — if it isn’t, you must tell the IRS why. To prepare your tax returns, you need to establish your year-end inventory value, either by taking physical counts or by using an estimation method approved by the IRS.

Tip 1 – Prepare for Inventory Count

If you establish your inventory value through a physical count, your preparations depend on how you keep inventory records. If you use an automated inventory management system, you can quickly switch from normal operations to inventory counting in the waning days of the year. Paper-based inventory systems are inherently slower and require you to have stationary inventory before beginning to count. You might need to freeze paperwork, receiving, manufacturing, purchasing and shipping several days before year-end to ensure that no inventory moves into or out of your storage area during the count.

Tip 2 – Count Your Inventory Efficiently

If your inventory is small, counting by hand might suffice. However, many companies use devices such as barcode readers and radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags to speed the process. RFID readers count inventory by receiving electronic transmissions — they do not require line-of-sight access to inventory. Even if you maintain a perpetual inventory system, you can still choose to take a year-end count. This allows you to adjust your inventory value to match the information you collect, and helps detect shrinkage, damage and other problems. The IRS requires you to take a physical inventory at “reasonable” intervals to ensure accuracy.

Tip 3 – Use the Perpetual Inventory Method

The IRS allows you to use avoid year-end counting in two ways — perpetual inventory and the retail method. A perpetual inventory system immediately captures the receipt, movement and sale of inventory, relying on inventory tracking technology and an automated inventory management system. The IRS requires your perpetual inventory system to record the actual cost of inventory you buy, produce, use, transfer or sell. Your ending inventory must also reflect the value of beginning inventory.

Tip 4 – Consider the Retail Method

The IRS permits you to estimate ending inventory, and thus next year’s beginning inventory, via the retail method. To apply the method, you must calculate a cost-to-price ratio for goods you sell. You apply this ratio to sales revenue to determine your COGS. Subtract COGS from the sum of beginning inventory and the cost inventory acquired during the year. The result is your ending inventory cost. If you sell different classes of goods — the normal situation for many retail stores — you should calculate a cost-to-price ratio for each separate class and track acquisitions and sales by class.

Tip 5 – Expand Your Inventory

If you want to grow your company, try expanding your inventory through a business loan. This will allow you to purchase more inventory and more storage space in support of expanded sales. If you can efficiently manage an inventory of X size, the jump to 1.5X or 2X should not present insurmountable problems, and in return you can expand your sales revenues without a proportional increase in operational costs, due to economies of scale. Contact IOU Financial to arrange an inventory loan and watch your bottom line grow!

 

How to Improve Internal Communication in Your Small Business

A vital component in being a successful business is effective communication. While that may seem like a simple concept, poor communication strategies seem to be a common theme in all businesses, no matter their size. Improper communication practices can create problems and pitfalls for teams working to accomplish their goals, and can even impact your business’ bottom line. So, where do managers and business owners start? By implementing tools and improving internal communication frequency to create a more unified business.

Communication Tools

In this digital age, we are able to access news and information almost instantly with our many devices. We expect the same in the business world; becoming a workforce that expects information to disseminate instantly. To keep up, it is essential that small businesses empower their workforce to communicate in a fast and timely manner. In other words, businesses need to empower their employees to communicate. Here are some examples how:

  • Implementing the use of an instant messaging platform can provide every employee direct access to one another. Tools like Google Hangouts Chat can connect employees no matter where they are. Whether in the office or working remotely, questions can be asked and answered instantly. These messaging platforms allow for constant communication among peers. Each employee has the ability to manage and monitor multiple discussions at one time. Additionally, teams can utilize this chat ability to set up a virtual room with the team in its entirety. This type of communication channel promotes more frequent knowledge transfers, the desire to collaborate, and serves as a knowledge bank of archived conversations; allowing employees the ability to refer back to previous conversations and eliminate redundancy in workflow.
  • Providing employees with the opportunity to have face to face conversations is another avenue for enhanced communication. This is especially relevant for any small business that employs remote workers. Utilizing telecommunications applications like Skype can bridge the gap between employees in the office and off location. Messages can sometimes become lost in translation through text, so having the capability to video chat can further ensure that teams remain on the same page. Not only does it allow those working remotely a seat at the conference room table, but it also facilitates the ability to read facial expressions, be aware of body language, and form real connections with their peers on the receiving end.
  • Another option for consideration is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service in exchange for a traditional landline. This means that instead of dealing with traditionally hardwired phones, you’re able to make phone calls over the internet. There are three different VoIP service options in use today: ATA, IP phones, and computer-to-computer. Each VoIP method converts analog audio signals and turns them into digital data that is transmitted over the internet. VoIP phone services can both save your company money and effort by streamlining all communication efforts to one service.
  • To further set your employees up for success, consider utilizing Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) to support all of your diverse communications systems. 8×8 offers cloud based unified communications that combine instant messaging, video conferencing, and VoIP services into one suite; further streamlining your business efficiency by uniting all of your current communication tools.

The continuous development of strong communication skills will further strengthen all aspects of your business. While these tools impact things like timeliness, and the ability to share information instantly; you are also facilitating more opportunities for collaboration. The more that employees are able to work together, the stronger their work relationship becomes resulting in more productivity.

Guest Post: About the Author

Steven Maxon, is a communication advocate dedicated to helping businesses make integrated communications decisions.

6 Useless But All-Too-Common Expenses That Turn Your Business Into a Money Pit

It takes a lot of money to keep a small business going – especially if you’re trying to make that business grow. When money is so important, every single cent needs to be spent wisely.

Many small businesses wind up spending a lot more money than they actually need to spend. Those funds would be better off allocated for growth or expansion. Cut the fluff out of your budget and use your newfound cash to help you build a brighter future.

Unnecessary Office Supplies

You’re always going to need office supplies, but changing the way you do things can reduce the amount you’ll spend. Going paperless is one of the easiest ways to save money. Keeping things digital allows you to save on paper, recycling, toner, and printing supplies. Many small businesses burn through mountains of these materials, and paperless businesses barely use them. Going paperless also makes your business eco-friendly, and that’s never a bad thing.

Leasing a Huge Building

You need to give yourself some room to grow for the next year or two, but not for the next decade. While it is a wise move to opt for an office space or retail space that will give everyone some room to move, it’s not a wise idea to overspend on something that you’ll never completely use. It may be wiser to choose a shorter lease on something slightly smaller. If you have your heart set on that huge building, try to negotiate the lease. You might be able to get it for a little less.

High Health Insurance Costs

You need your employees to be healthy, and offering decent insurance is a surefire way to attract top talent. There’s something else you can do that would benefit both your business and your employees. Start a wellness program. A wellness program is much less expensive than high insurance costs, and people who prioritize their wellness are a little less likely to need to use their insurance. Offer up some healthy snacks and partner up with a local gym for a discounted membership. Encourage your employees to use their sick days to discourage them from spreading germs around the office.

Advertising to the Whole World

Small businesses want to acquire as many customers as possible. They take to the internet to spread their message far and wide in an attempt to be heard by the right people. The problem with that overzealous approach is that casting a wide net is expensive. In addition to its hefty cost, it’s more of a gamble when it comes to locating an ideal customer.

Focusing on highly targeted ads will help you obtain customers and spread your message with little effort. If you don’t sell your products online, limit your advertising to people who live within a tight radius of your physical location. If you do sell online within your country, only advertise to people who fit your demographic within that country. It’s the most efficient way to spend your ad dollars. When you expand your business, you can begin to expand your reach.

Having Too Many Employees

It takes a lot to run a small business, and this means you’ll need people to make things run smoothly. Hiring people whom you can barely afford to pay may hinder you more than help you. It might be worthwhile to spend a little more on a rock star employee who is content to wear many hats, rather than paying several people the minimum to deliver an average amount of effort. Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to small business employees.

You can also reduce workload by automating as many processes as possible. The right tools can help you achieve a whole day’s work in just a few hours. Don’t do anything manually unless it absolutely requires live human involvement.

Failing to Follow Rules and Regulations

Making legal mistakes is one of the most expensive situations a small business can wind up in. Small businesses try their best, but sometimes fail to secure the right permits or licenses they need to operate or expand the way they’ve planned. Running a business is a learning experience, but you can’t afford to learn with your money.

It might be worthwhile to retain a lawyer for your small business. You need someone to look over the money, the rules, and the licenses as you grow and change. A lawyer might seem expensive now, but nothing is more expensive than finding yourself on the wrong side of the law.

Many small businesses work with tight budgets, but sometimes those budgets are tighter than they need to be. Keep a close eye on the books to be sure you’re not tossing away the funding for your success.

Guest Post: About the Author

Alana Downer is an avid finance blogger from Sydney, Australia, currently writing on behalf of Learn to Trade– money and finance experts. Interested in all things connected to growing a stable income, Alana might often be found online, sharing her financial tips and participating in discussions. Feel free to reach out to her on @alanadownerLTT.

Networking for Small Business Owners

Networking for small business owners is imperative to make vital connections to grow your company. Interacting with potential investors, business partners or clients will help you form loyal and trusting relationships and open up new opportunities.

The biggest roadblock that prevents small business owners from networking is lack of time—it’s difficult to carve-out hours to attend an event or a conference when you are practically living at the office. However, networking should not be ignored—with these tips, you can achieve this goal.

Utilize LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social media platform designed to connect professionals in virtually any industry. They currently have over 500 million members in over 200 countries around the world. The first step to using this site is to create a personal account with your photo and contact information. You should add details about your business so that when you communicate with other members, they are able to easily find what company you own.

You can also create a business page showcasing your business on LinkedIn. If you connect your email account, you will automatically be able to add your contacts. You can also search for contacts via their name or company they work for.

LinkedIn transformed the networking world by allowing users to create groups by interest or industry, where you can find like minded entrepreneurs or clients without leaving your home or office. You can also join professional groups and ask questions to get help in growing your business.

Host a Meet & Greet

Devoting time to net working can be especially productive if you combine it with other goals, such as brand recognition and connecting with new customers. A great way to do all three is to host a meet & greet inside your business, if it has a physical location.

Start with inviting other small business owners either in your niche or simply in your area. This will be a great way to connect with other entrepreneurs, bounce ideas off each other and learn new tips on improving your business operations.

To make sure that everyone interacts and has a good time, plan some activities, such as ice breakers or fun games. Make sure the attendees have enough room to mingle and get to know one another. Facilitate interaction by setting up small tables where attendees can congregate, but encourage everyone to move around the room.

This will not only connect you with other like-minded professionals, but also expose your business and products to possible new customers.

Cross-Promotion

If your goal is to network with potential customers, a highly effective way to do so is cross-promotion strategies. Partner with another business, preferably not in your industry so as to avoid competition. You can work together to promote each other’s brands on collaborative materials.

This can be as simple as leaving flyers or coupons in each other’s locations, or as complex as creating a marketing plan to promote both brands. For example, think of world-known companies such as T-Mobile and Netflix offering their services in a joint plan.

By joining another company in your networking efforts, you can expose your brand to a brand new customer base and decrease your marketing and advertising costs.

If you are looking for financial assistance to invest in your business, look no further than IOU Financial. Our company supports small businesses with easy and quick loans. Contact us today to learn how you can get a secured loan of up to $300,000 in 24-48 hours.