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5 Common Money Mistakes and How to Fix Them

The coronavirus pandemic has burdened many small businesses. One of the ways a business survives the pandemic and looks beyond it is to manage its money prudently. That means being aware of money mistakes and avoiding them, or at least fixing them fast. Here are some of the most common money mistakes and ways to keep them under control.

  1. Starting up without a business plan.

    The plan is the foundation of your business, specifying how it will be operated, marketed, and financed. A business plan also helps you recruit investors and secure loans. It lays out milestones, goals, and metrics to measure whether you are succeeding. Without a carefully considered plan, surprises can cause your business to descend into chaos. If you launched your business without a comprehensive plan, don’t panic. It’s never too late to establish a suitable business plan. If you need assistance, contact your local SBA SCORE chapter – they have the expertise you’ll need to ensure your business has a proper foundation.

  2. Insufficient cash:

    The two main culprits are overestimated receipts and underestimated expenditures. When cash runs short, you face a liquidity crisis in which you can’t pay your bills on time, if at all. This will eventually lead to bankruptcy or a fire sale unless you take steps to prevent it. Start by developing several worst-case scenarios to see where you are most vulnerable. For each scenario, map out a series of steps you can take to correct the situation. And make sure you have a convenient loan source that you can trust, like IOU Financial. Loans can help you navigate through a cash crunch, but you must first work out a plan to use the money wisely and to repay it on time. Luckily, IOU Financial offers extremely flexible repayment terms that our borrowers can live with.

  3. Intermingling business and personal funds:

    This leads to disaster. Paying expenses with your personal credit card or checking account makes it difficult to track your business’ performance. You can also expect problems sorting out personal and business deductions when you file your next tax return. This problem is compounded if you are audited by the IRS or by angry investors. Finally, intermingling business and personal funds will make it exceedingly difficult to obtain a business loan. The fix is to establish a separate business account at your bank and to procure a business credit card. Use these to record all business income and expenditures. If you need to use personal funds for your business, create and document a formal transaction. If you have business partners, include them in your money management strategy.

  4. Falling behind on your bookkeeping.

    Sure, paperwork is a pain in the neck. But you won’t know real pain until you face a financial problem with incomplete, inaccurate, or non-existent records. For example, if you hurriedly stash your purchase invoices in a drawer, you may forget to pay them and/or reap any discounts offered for prompt payment. Conversely, how will you stay on top of your receivables when you can’t locate the invoices you sent out? Will you be able to substantiate your business expenses like travel & entertainment? You can use a friendly software package like QuickBooks to keep your books and records. If you can’t or won’t do the bookkeeping yourself, hire a part-time bookkeeper to whip your business into shape.

  5. Mispricing your offerings:

    Whether you sell a product or a service, setting the wrong price has a significant impact on your business. If the prices are too low, you may increase the total volume of sales while losing money on each transaction. Set your prices too high and you’ll suffer reduced sales while your competitors steal your business. The fix is to do some research and reassess your pricing strategy so that it’s in line with your current local prices.

Cash is your businesses’ lifeblood. You must nurture it if you want to remain in operation, especially during times like these. When the time comes for a loan, please contact IOU Financial first. We can fund you quickly and provide you with flexible repayment terms. Don’t wait until it’s too late – remember, government stimulus packages are unreliable at best, but we’ll still be here at your side fueling the growth of small business.

Business on a Budget: Smart Spending Tips for Business Owners

For new and experienced business owners, balancing income and expenditures is never as easy as it seems. There is a qualitative cost to every decision made, and extreme cost-saving measures can make it hard to attract employees. Spending too little on marketing can cause a business to become invisible to potential customers, too.

Short-term profits can inspire investor confidence but sustaining a company over the long term requires a different kind of thinking. Retaining employees that can grow a company is hard, especially in an era when the internet allows employees to search for a new job with a click of a button. Employees need to be motivated to maximize their output—and that motivation often comes from feeling like they’re being invested in.

Cutting corners isn’t worth it if it kills a business’s image or employee morale. Here are the basic ways owners can spend their money wisely while still investing in the future.

Employee Benefits That Matter

Sometimes business leaders assume that “networking opportunities” are a great way to attract young professionals. While this is true for extroverts who want to build a name for themselves, many entry-level employees are more concerned with basics like health insurance. Older employees may also be seeking good 401k contributions, and time off matters to employees who have kids or want to travel—but one thing is for sure: Free luncheons and gym memberships don’t retain employees.

Health insurance is expensive, but it’s a much better use of money than catered networking events and yoga classes. Even if your labor force isn’t facing a high turnover right now, remember that employees’ priorities change as they have families or start to face health problems. They may seem to enjoy working for you, but they may seek out employers that offer better health insurance benefits, leaving you scrambling to find their replacements.

Keep Travel Costs Low

Travel can seem like an inevitable cost of wooing new clients and establishing trust with suppliers, but now it can often be replaced with video calls. While sometimes in-person meetings are necessary for inspecting supplier facilities or other manufacturing-related work, they are often just to make meetings clearer and more efficient than the standard conference call. Video calls offer a perfect balance of coordinated visuals and reduced costs for all parties. Travel can also burn out employees with families at home, so it’s not always a perk that attracts or motivates employees.

If clients begin to expect visits from executives, then it can be hard to stop those visits later on, so it may be best not to start them in the first place. Plus, the money saved by minimizing travel can be passed on to customers. Since travel is such an avoidable cost, it makes sense to keep it low at first, and then increase that budget if managers insist that it is needed.

Buy in Bulk

While buying in bulk requires some foresight and planning, it can be well worth it in the long run. Basic office staples like paper and printer ink cartridges have a near-indefinite shelf life, so stocking up on them is an excellent option for reducing long-term costs. It can also make it more worthwhile for you to do specific tasks in-house—like printing large quantities of newsletters and other essential documents.

Coffee and other cheap food items should be kept around the office as well. Instead of having someone run out for coffee ahead of meetings, encourage employees to use a basic stock of coffee, sugar, and creamer to avoid wasting time or being late for the meeting. For employees who are on a deadline or simply forgot to eat lunch, having granola bars stashed in the kitchen can make a huge difference in how quickly they’re able to get back to work.

Avoid Catering

Catered lunches are nice for meetings on a tight schedule, but they’re ultimately a waste of money. In many metro areas, even having sandwiches and chips delivered can cost over $15 per serving. Pizza can be cheaper but can still add up to hundreds of dollars per month for large departments.

Catering is only necessary for meetings with clients when the meeting location is far from most lunch options. It’s great for offices in a far-flung industrial park, but for urban offices with a variety of sandwich shops nearby, it’s better to give employees time to grab their lunch. Plus, catering for a large group can be tricky due to allergies and other dietary restrictions.

Choose the Right Location

Having office space in a high-traffic area is important for businesses that need to regularly attract new clients and customers. However, the exact location of that office can be tricky to figure out, especially in expensive metropolitan areas. While downtown offices can be great for visibility and networking, they might not be feasible for new startups or companies with razor-thin profit margins.

For businesses that have a strong manufacturing focus, offices near an industrial park can be just as good as downtown space. Opening a store downtown may seem like a great way to grow a business, but if most local shops are closer to the suburbs or in another trendy area, then that downtown location may be a waste of money.

Getting the best value possible will come down to a balance of location, size, and available amenities, so be prepared to sacrifice one of those three. Depending on the location, parking and other auxiliary costs could be more expensive as well.

Seek Employee Development

Sending employees off to special training can seem like an unnecessary cost, but it can be a huge asset to a growing business. Clients care about reliability and skill and being able to tout your employees’ certifications can help significantly in competitive and crowded industries. Even if the training doesn’t matter to clients or customers, it could be worth it for small businesses that need to run more efficiently on a shoestring budget.

Carefully research training in your industry to determine which ones will offer a significant return on investment. A vaguely titled training provided by a random consultant may not be worth the money, but a certification course offered by a university could be a game-changer. Of course, local and online options are preferable to far-flung training with high travel costs.

Negotiate with Everyone

Suppliers, vendors, landlords, and even lawyers all come with a price tag. However, that price tag can be surprisingly flexible—especially if you have a long-term healthy relationship with them. In economic downturns, landlords are particularly willing to negotiate a cheaper lease instead of risking losing a major tenant.

Negotiation is an art, so special training may be necessary to get results without hurting relationships with clients and suppliers. Plus, it’s far easier to negotiate cheaper hourly or per-unit costs when buying in bulk, so start with your biggest bulk expenditures. While your savings may not seem like much at first, they’ll add up after just a few months.

Your business’s overall outlook can improve quickly with negotiation skills and other tweaks to spending practices. Even businesses with low overhead can see savings when per-employee expenditures are taken into account.

Guest Post: About the Author

Tania Longeau serves as the Head of Services for InkJet Superstore. Tania oversees a team of Operations and Customer Service Reps from the Los Angeles headquarters. Before joining InkJet Superstore, Tania was a team leader and supervisor working for one of the biggest mortgage and real estate companies in the country. She is a happily married mother of one who enjoys spending time with her family and reading in her leisure hours.

8 Proven Methods for Small Businesses to Save Money

Small businesses frequently go through cycles of strong and weak profits. When profits are low, you probably will want to find time-tested ways to save money. You do this by cutting costs and reducing your overhead without sacrificing sales. Here are 8 proven ways for your business to save money:

  1. Outsourcing:

    You can save money by outsourcing tasks that are not central to your business mission. This keeps your full-time staff as small as possible while outsourcing work not performed by staff. You can hire contractors and consultants as needed for specific tasks, often at a lower all-in rate than needed for an employee with the same skills.

  2. Advertising:

    You can continue to reach customers without traditional advertising. Rather, low-cost alternatives are available that will save you money. One alternative is to spend your marketing money on public relations rather than advertising. For example, a good PR strategy can get your company mentioned as authoritative sources in media outlets and publications. Inbound marketing using SEO and social media can be just as effective as conventional advertising in increasing traffic to your website.

  3. Vendors:

    Review your relationships with your vendors to see whether you can negotiate lower costs. Vendors want to keep their goods and services flowing to their customers and might be willing to charge less if that allows them to maintain their business volume. You can negotiate on a huge range of costs, from phone service to office supplies. The nice thing is that there is no penalty for trying to lower vendor prices, whereas forgone potential savings are the penalty for failing to negotiate.

  4. Cloud:

    If you don’t already live in the cloud, now is a great time to move in. Cloud-based solutions can save you big money compared to the cost of acquiring and operating your own expensive hardware. Cloud-based systems host your databases and software. SaaS (software as a service) costs an annual fee that can be much cheaper than developing or running your software in-house, such as payroll and ER systems.

  5. Telecommuting:

    Everyone can win when you embrace telecommuting if that’s possible for your business. You can save on office costs and ongoing operating expenses. Your employees save commuting costs and enjoy a better work experience. The result is to produce work products with minimal overhead. You can start with some of your office staff and work towards expanding telecommuting as convenient.

  6. Green:

    Happily, the moral imperative to go green coincides with cost-cutting. You’d be surprised how little things can add up to big savings. For instance, turn off machines when not in use, and use a printer that prints on both sides of the paper. Better yet, reduce your use of paper by adopting a paperless office concept. Where feasible, buy recycled supplies and equipment, utilize efficient lighting, and recycle your own waste for money.

  7. Debt:

    It might save you money to consolidate your various debts into one, convenient loan that charges a reasonable interest rate. If you have to make several debt payments per month, consolidation can cut it down to a single lender. If you choose a lender like IOU Financial, you can have your payments deducted daily from your bank account, keeping your payments affordable and automatic.

  8. Maintenance:

    Are you paying for daily cleaning services at your office? Perhaps you can cut back on this expense by training staff to keep things clean and neat. With proper staff training, you may be able to cut back to weekly cleaning without noticing the difference.

Conclusion

We’ve touched upon several ways for you to cut your business costs with little or no sacrifice to your operations. There are many more methods to save money, and we will no doubt return with additional suggestions in a later blog. Remember, it takes just a little extra effort to implement money-saving protocols that will continue to save money for your business over the long run.

Are You Ready for Your 2020 Budget?

You can’t put it off any longer. The time has arrived to prepare your 2020 budget that’s so necessary for important activities such as:

  • Projecting cash flows
  • Preparing for taxes
  • Identifying borrowing needs
  • Evaluating growth opportunities
  • Assessing performance

The stakes are high, because 50% of small businesses fail during their initial five years. You can increase your chances of success by budgeting your company’s income and expenses. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

Review the previous budget:

Your 2019 budget contains a wealth of information. The most important is the line-by-line comparison between budgeted and actual expenses and income. This exercise should point you toward any significant adjustments to your 2020 budget.

Estimate your income:

You need a realistic picture of monthly income. If your company is brand new, speak with other small business owners to build a rough mental picture of your cash inflows. Don’t overestimate, as it encourages overspending, and don’t underestimate income, thereby inhibiting growth and expansion.

Estimate your expenses:

Start with fixed expenses, typically including rent, salaries, insurance, utilities, and taxes. Naturally, these can vary from one year to the next. Prudence suggests you pay about 30% of your income on estimated tax payments. You owe these on the 15th of April, June, September, and January. You don’t want to get dinged for underestimated tax payments.

Pay attention to unexpected items:

These may include vehicle maintenance and fuel costs, office supplies, shipping costs, meals and entertainment expenses, and professional dues/subscriptions. Also, allow for events like equipment breakdowns, rent increases, and other contingencies. Put aside a contingency fund so that surprises don’t blow your budget.

Consider capital expenditures:

You may be able to increase productivity by purchasing a new machine or system. The budget should include the amount of current cash inflows that must be allocated for these expenditures versus using funds from retained earnings. You may also want to use excess capital to pay down debt and thereby lower your interest expenses. On the other hand, you might want to borrow money to finance growth or to plug a gap in your budget. IOU Financial can provide you with a business loan of up to half a million dollars and get funding in as little as one day.

Concentrate on return on investment (ROI):

When you have multiple funding opportunities, choose the one with the highest ROI that exceeds the weighted average cost of capital. You can use internal ROI calculations to see which ones provide the most benefits. The same is true for marketing ROI, in which you direct your dollars toward different channels and media.

Create a review routine:

If you don’t already have one, set up a monthly budget review process that can allow you to make course corrections as soon as possible. For instance, if your fixed costs are higher than anticipated, you might have to cut variable expenses until you can find a way to lower your fixed costs.

IOU Financial offers our Business Budget Smart Sheet to help you get a grip on your business budget. With it, you have a sophisticated yet easy-to-use tool that will help you plan and analyze your cash flows. If your budget forecasts shortfalls in the next 12 months, turn to IOU Financial for a convenient business loan that can put money into your bank account quickly. In many ways, IOU Financial is an important resource to help your business succeed.

When a Loan Is the Right Move for Your Business

Every business needs adequate funding to survive and grow. Ideally, your operations provide enough cash flow to handle all your funding needs. But for many a small business, cash flow isn’t always enough to satisfy the need for working capital. That’s when it’s time to consider a business loan. Let’s look at a few scenarios in which a business loan is the prudent decision.

Purchasing Equipment

Your business may require expensive or specialized equipment. In addition, you may already own equipment that no longer provides the performance you require. If you feel you are losing sales or profit margin because you lack the right equipment, you owe your business the opportunity to compete using the most appropriate gear. Sometimes, equipment manufacturers or commercial suppliers will offer financing, sometimes not. A business loan used to finance much-needed equipment is a terrific idea.

Expansion

Your product or service is selling like hotcakes, and you know you could grow the business by expanding operations and/or enlarging your selling floor. If you need more or better space, it’s going to cost money. For example, you might benefit by making leasehold improvements to your brick-and-mortar store. Or you might want to open additional stores or move from your current location to something larger and more upscale. You are looking at a number of one-time costs, which is the type of challenge that a business loan can solve. The extra profits you earn through expansion will help you accelerate your loan repayment.

Unexpected Opportunities

It really hurts when a rare opportunity comes your way but you don’t have the capital to take advantage of it. For example, one of your suppliers might have cash flow problems that causes it to offer you inventory at a sharply marked-down price. You need money to purchase the inventory, and perhaps to pay for additional storage space. You know that this will pay off handsomely, so you arrange a business loan to grab the deal before someone else gets it. That’s a smart move.

Fresh Talent

Perhaps you run the type of business where the caliber of your top employees is critical to your success. If you’ve been the typical owner, you’ve had to wear many hats to launch your business and keep it running. You and your staff are overworked, and you can’t afford anyone to burn out, including yourself. In other words, you need to recruit some fresh talent because you know it will increase your revenues and/or reduce your expenses. A business loan can help pay for incentives to hire the right employees. Remember, if you don’t hire the person, your competitor might.

Acquisitions

If you’ve been successful running your business, it’s possible you’ve taken some market share away from the competition. Or perhaps you’ve been eyeing an operating business that complements your own. In many circumstances, a business merger/acquisition is the right way to go. It makes sense to fund an acquisition with debt if it will lead to increased market penetration, greater geographic scope, obtaining key assets, or expanding your business to related markets. You’ll need funding not only to buy the target company, but also to make changes to your own operations to accommodate your revised environment. You may need to increase your marketing budget or add management talent. A business loan is completely justified under these circumstances.

Seasonality

If your business suffers from uneven cash flows due to seasonality, a business loan can provide cash to help you withstand slow business periods. You should be able to repay your loan once the busy season returns. For example, you might need to furlough some employees, but want to continue to offer them health insurance. Or you want to buy inventory during the slow season because it’s cheapest then. Use a business loan to smooth out the seasonal revenue ebbs and flows that would otherwise threaten your company’s survival.

Conclusion

There are many circumstances that justify a loan for your small business. What is never justified is settling for a slow, overpriced loan. IOU Financial offers fast loans with convenient repayment options that won’t disrupt your operations. Our loan rates are extremely competitive, and we can say yes when banks say no. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you fund your business quickly and efficiently.

7 Ways to Avoid Financial Stress When Running a Business

Running your own business requires careful thought and planning. But even with all that, it’s hard to avoid feeling financially stressed from time to time. Handling the stress productively can help your business succeed. But avoiding it in the first place can also make your job far more enjoyable. Here are seven ways to sidestep financial stress before it appears:

  1. Establish good accounting habits:

    You can avoid much financial stress by knowing your exact financial condition every day and tracking your cash flows against your budget. You should purchase either a good accounting system in-house, subscribe to an online accounting package, or hire an accounting service to do your books. You should stay on top of your accounting entries and generate reports frequently to see where you stand. Using this information, you can respond to upcoming cash crunches early and take actions, such as delayed spending, to reduce the problem.

  2. Invoice promptly:

    Always invoice immediately when providing a service or sending goods. Encourage prompt payment with terms like 2/10 net 30. That is, you’ll grant them a 2% discount if they pay in 10 days, but in any event, the full amount is due in 30 days. After sending out invoices, remember to follow up promptly. You can automate your email and SMS service to help you maintain contact with the people who owe you money.

  3. Adopt money-saving ideas:

    For example, consider renting equipment rather than buying it. This can avoid an enormous outlay of cash that you can instead deploy elsewhere. Also, renting equipment relieves you of repair costs should it break down. You can rent office space, or better yet, work from home if possible. If you have staff, see if they are interested in working remotely, as this too can save you (and them) money. Put on your thinking cap and we’re sure you’ll discover dozens of smart ways to spend less money.

  4. Keep it legal:

    One temptation some business owners succumb to when finances get tough is to cut corners and adopt shady practices. Besides being unethical, it will surely elevate your stress level rather than reduce it, and in the long run can lend you in hot water. Keep it honest, and whether you succeed or fail, you’ll know you did so legitimately.

  5. Use an LLC:

    A limited liability company can reduce stress by protecting your personal assets from your business creditors. If you run a sole proprietorship, a creditor or legal opponent can sue you in court and if they win, seize your home, car and other assets to collect the money due them. An LLC shields you from personal liability for your business debts without having to set up a corporation.

  6. Do your own marketing:

    It’s become much easier to manage our own public relations, thanks to the internet and social media. You have the opportunity to effectively engage with people on a personal basis. Social media accounts are free, and you can do online advertising in any amount that is comfortable. Build up your website with good content to improve your position in web searches. Learn the ways of the SEO masters to help build website traffic, increase prospects and convert them to customers.

  7. Use debt wisely:

    Cash flows in a small business are often uneven. This is compounded by any seasonal aspects to your business. The wise use of debt can mitigate these problems by providing injections of cash when you need it. Moreover, a short-term loan can let you take advantage of opportunities that pop up from time to time. For example, you might have a supplier who offers you a great deal on inventory. A loan could allow you to buy up the extra inventory and then use the increased profits to easily repay the loan.

Conclusion

The key to reducing financial stress is to spend less, earn more, husband your cash and rely on credit when you need it. If you are interested in a low cost, convenient business loan, contact us at IOU Financial — we’d love to hear from you.

4 Things Small Businesses Must Include in Their Budgets

Budgeting is to business as oxygen is to life: Without it, you die. The reason budgeting is vital to the health of a small business is that it is your GPS device for telling you where you are supposed to go and where you are actually heading. You use the budget to track business expenses, cash on hand, revenue needed and received, and other items to know whether your business is succeeding. The differences between your projected and actual budget numbers are your early warning system when things start to go wrong — or your confirmation that you are on the right track. Those differences are also a call to address problems by changing what you are doing.

Bottom line, your budget tells you how much money you have, how much you must earn and how much money you will have to spend. Importantly, it also tells you how much you might need to borrow to plug any cash shortfalls and to finance your growth. To know these things, you should include in your budget the items listed below.

Required Budget Items

Your budget might have dozens of line items, but they can all be organized into four groups of items that every budget must track: Sales, costs, profits and cash flows.

Sales and Other Revenues

These figures are the foundation of your budget. You can’t spend money unless you make it, and you don’t want to overestimate how much you’ll make by donning rose-colored glasses. Your estimates should be conservative but realistic — if they turn out to be too conservative, well, that’s a good thing. On the other hand, bloated estimates could leave your business floating belly up.

Estimating your revenues is hardest if you are just starting up your business, because you don’t have any prior-year data. That’s why you did extensive research by talking to other owners in your same field, undertaking market research, and relying on your knowledge from previous jobs.

Be sure to include, if appropriate, estimates for sales allowances and returns, which you subtract from gross sales to calculate net sales.

Total Costs and Expenses

To make money, you must spend money– those are your costs and expenses. You should categorize your costs by type:

  1. Fixed costs: These are costs that remain the same independent of your sales numbers. They include rent, insurance, property taxes, leased furniture and so forth. While these costs are called fixed, they are not carved in granite. “Fixed” just means that it will take a while (up to a year and maybe longer) to change these costs.
  2. Variable costs: These are costs that vary directly with sales volume. They include the costs of merchandise, raw materials, labor, utilities, freight, inventory and alike.
  3. Semi-variable costs: These are costs that can slowly vary with the volume of business. For instance, they include the costs of salaries, marketing, communications and various elements of overhead.

Profits

Profits, or net income, are revenues minus all expenses. Ultimately, your business won’t succeed unless it can generate profits. Your budget should include estimated  interest and income tax expenses when projecting profits. If your budget tells you that it will take years before you might begin making profits, you should re-evaluate your business model and see if you can operate until the profits begin rolling in.

Projected Cash Flows

Lack of profits can slowly poison your business. Lack of cash can stab it in the heart. Your cash flows revolve around collections and disbursements. The timing of both will reveal whether your cash inflows and outflows align. To some extent, you can try to accelerate collections and delay disbursements when revenues fall short or unexpected expenses arise. Your budget will indicate when you might have to inject more cash into your business, either by contributing additional capital or taking out a loan. If the latter is required, contact us at IOU Financial for a quick working capital loan on easy terms and convenient daily repayments.

Budget Templates

You don’t have to build your budget from scratch. We recommend our Business Budget Smart Sheet, which will help you analyze your spending patterns, streamline areas of overspending, gauge the cash flow impact of fixed and variable costs, and much more.

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.

Printing Marketing Collateral on a Budget: Tips, Tricks & More

You own a small business and you need printed marketing collateral. You have some great ideas for your business cards, flyers, brochures, and other materials, but there is just one problem: You are working with a very limited budget. Many business owners have faced this dilemma, so you certainly are not alone. The good news? You don’t have to have a million-dollar budget to create printed marketing materials that are both eye-catching and effective.

Whether you are a restaurant owner in need of new menus, a boutique owner in need of new signs for your displays, or a photographer in need of new postcards for your direct mail marketing campaign, you can save yourself a lot of money on the materials you need by printing them yourself.

Today’s printers—even many of the budget-friendly models—are capable of producing an impressive output. Whether you are working with a top-of-the-line laser printer or you have a simple desktop inkjet printer, you can make your own marketing materials at a fraction of the cost of hiring a pro. Here are a few tips and tricks for printing your own marketing collateral on a budget.

Keep It Simple

When you plan on printing your own marketing materials, it is best to keep them simple. This is especially true when you are designing your own materials without past design experience. If you use too many fonts, colors, or images, you risk creating collateral that is confusing or has a negative impact on your marketing strategy.

Keeping your design simple is the best way to ensure that your marketing collateral will look great and convey a clear message. If you are not confident in your ability to create an eye-catching design, there are plenty of affordable graphic designers on sites like Fiverr. Hiring a freelancer who is just starting out is a great way to get an amazing logo or a design for your marketing materials without spending a fortune.

Use the Right Paper

There are several different types of paper, and it is important to choose something that is well-suited to your project. You should also purchase high-quality paper stock to ensure that your collateral both looks and feels good. The quality of the paper you choose can create a lasting impression. The higher the quality, the better the impression you will make. If you use low-quality paper, you could create a negative perception of your brand, and that is the last thing you want your marketing materials to do.

Buy the Right Printer

The printer you use is just as important as the paper you are printing on if not more important. While you probably already have a printer, it may not be the best one for printing your own marketing collateral. Even if you are working with an extremely limited budget, purchasing a good printer is a worthwhile investment. Keep in mind that some printers do a great job of printing high-resolution photographs and graphics while others are perfect for producing text documents. Think carefully about what your marketing collateral looks like and what you need your printer to do.

For most businesses, an inkjet printer is a must-have when printing marketing collateral. They do a much better job of printing in color than laser printers, and they require a much smaller upfront investment. You may want to consider choosing a printer that uses pigment-based ink rather than dye-based ink. While cheaper, dye-based ink tends to fade faster, so it is not the best choice for creating marketing materials that last. Canon inkjet printers offer exceptional quality at reasonable prices.

Use the Right Ink

Purchasing ink that is designed to fit in your printer is, of course, vital. You may not have realized, though, that there are different types of ink that are intended for different projects. When you are printing marketing materials, your primary goal should be ensuring that each piece comes out looking crisp and perfect. To achieve this goal, you need to use the right ink. For starters, use OEM ink cartridges or remanufactured ink cartridges from a reputable manufacturer. Compatible ink cartridges are often acceptable, too, but you need to be careful when purchasing them. Read reviews and make sure the ones you purchase are sold by a third-party company that you can trust.

Adjust Your Printer Settings

Most printers have several settings that can be adjusted to ensure the best possible quality. Many devices allow you to quickly select between low-quality and high-quality output. While this is a good place to start, there are other settings that you need to pay attention to.

Select the type of paper you are using. This enables your printer to create the best quality output whether you are using plain printer paper, glossy paper, matte paper, etc. Also, select the correct size for the paper you are using. By doing this, you are ensuring that your printer can properly scale your design to fit on the paper you are using.

Do Test Prints

Before you set your printer to print a few hundred flyers, postcards, or any other type of marketing material, be sure to do a test print. While your design may look great on your computer screen, it may look totally different when your printer spits it out. Doing a test print provides an opportunity to find and correct any issues prior to running an entire stack of high-quality paper through your printer and wasting it. When you are working on a limited budget, the last thing you want to do is waste your materials.

Conclusion

Printing your own marketing collateral is a good way to save yourself a bundle and, thanks to the quality of today’s printers, it’s a project that anyone can tackle. With the right ink, printer, and paper, you can create business cards, postcards, flyers, brochures, and other materials that rival the quality of professionally printed documents at a fraction of the cost.

Guest Post: About the Author

Tania Longeau serves as the Head of Services for InkJet Superstore. Tania oversees a team of Operations and Customer Service Reps from the Los Angeles headquarters. Before joining InkJet Superstore, Tania was a team leader and supervisor working for one of the biggest mortgage and real estate companies in the country. She is a happily married mother of one who enjoys spending time with her family and reading in her leisure hours.

Seasonal Business? How to Prep for Your Slow Times

Seasonality is both a blessing and a curse for a small business. The blessing is that you have a great opportunity to capture the bulk of your annual revenues during the busy times. However, the prospect of one or more slack months in which revenue is punk but bills still have to be paid can truly seem like a curse. The saving grace is that seasonality is, by definition, predictable, which gives you a chance to prepare for the slow months. Here are some tips to shepherd your business through the lean times:

Understand your fixed and variable costs:

Naturally, you’ll need to cover your fixed costs, although it might be possible to postpone some of them. Variable costs seldom go to zero during slow seasons, but you do have the opportunity to slash them significantly. Adjust your monthly budget to reflect your reduced spending. If you find your cash won’t cover your expenses, contact IOU Financial for a quick business loan, often is as little as 48 hours. Our loans are easy to pay back without putting an undue strain on your cash flow. Because these loans are short-term, your total interest costs are tightly constrained.

Conserve your cash:

Build up your cash reserves during the busy season so that you can enter the slow months with a cushion. Once the slack season begins, execute your budget imperatives, including labor reductions and furloughs. A good strategy for seasonal businesses is to maintain only a minimal employee count and fill with hourly temps during the busy seasons. You can postpone inventory purchases until the end of the slow months and consider factoring your accounts receivable to speed up cash collections.

See the world:

Your vacation schedule will no doubt coincide with your slow season. This is especially feasible for mom-and-pop businesses. If you own an ice-cream store in Maine, then it makes sense to shutter the store during the winter and head off to warm climes. Your variable costs will be reduced to the greatest extent with this strategy.

Renegotiate with your suppliers:

Speak to your suppliers about your seasonal requirements and work out better credit terms during the slow period. For example, if your normal terms are 2/10 net 30, see about extending the payment due date to 60 or 90 days. If you’ve been a good customer, your suppliers will be more likely to accommodate your request. After all, suppliers want you to succeed, and it makes no sense for them to force you out of business and thereby lose a customer.

Adjust your marketing plans:

If you don’t have the ability to shut your business during the slow season, try bringing in more customers through sales events and promotions. You can program special events like raffles, classes, and bonus loyalty points for the slack periods.

Shore up your social media footprint:

If you have extra time during the slow period, put it to good use by increasing your social presence. Exploit your accounts on Facebook and Twitter to push out information about your special promotions. Start up or re-engage a newsletter and/or email campaign with useful and timely content that elicits readership.

IOU Financial provides affordable small business loans of up to $300,000, funded in as little as 48 hours. You won’t ever be charged upfront fees, and fixed daily or weekly repayments rids you of large, scary monthly payments. If seasonality is your business’ problem, then IOU Financial is your solution. Contact us today to learn more about how we can get you through the slow season in good shape.