Posts

How to Build and Keep Your Business’ Good Credit Score

More than likely, you depended on your personal credit when you launched your small business. However, a growing business must tap higher amounts of capital, and a good business credit score will prove helpful in this regard.

Business Credit Score

Your business credit, also known as trade or commercial credit, is based on the likelihood that your enterprise will repay its debts. Like personal scores, your business credit score is calculated using several inputs, including your payment history, bankruptcies, collections and your credit utilization ratio – your outstanding credit balance divided by your available credit. In addition, your business credit score might include considerations about your company’s size and your industry. Keep in mind that your business credit report can be requested without your permission, and you’ll have to pay to get a copy of your business credit report.

Creating a Good Credit Score

It makes sense to establish your business credit score as soon as possible, because you don’t want to look desperate if you suddenly need credit. You’ll find many lenders require a company to operate for two years, although an IOU Financial loan needs only one year of history. If you’re operating, you should be building your business score. Here’s how to do it:

Obtain Federal Employer Identification Number:

This will help separate your business from your personal finances. You should also get a business checking account and a business phone number. For optimal protection of your personal assets, consider establishing your business as a limited liability company or a corporation.

Get a DUNS number:

Dun & Bradstreet is a corporate credit reporting agency that issues a universal identification number, the DUNS number, that is recognized around the globe. A DUNS number opens doors to some corporate and government contracts, as well as loans from the Small Business Administration. More to the point, D&B will create and track your business credit profile when you get a DUNS number, leading to an accurate credit score.

Establish credit accounts:

Obtain one or more business credit/debit/charge cards, including a gas card if your business has vehicles. Also, open credit accounts with your suppliers, including office supply stores.

Use your credit responsibly:

Pay your bills on time, and even ahead of schedule. Nothing helps your credit score like an unblemished repayment record. If money is tight, you can get a commercial loan and pay off your other debts. One of the biggest challenges a small business faces is making the monthly loan payment. IOU Financial has a better idea – daily or weekly automatic payments that you’ll barely notice.

Don’t be delinquent, renegotiate:

If you’re having trouble paying your credit accounts, don’t miss payments. Instead, reach out to your suppliers for looser terms. Many will agree rather than risk default.

Mind your credit utilization ratio:

A ratio below 20 percent is great. It means that you have the means to handle a sudden need for money without scrambling to obtain additional credit. It also indicates you are operating your business well. Make it a priority: Calculate your CRU and get it down below 20 percent.

Check your credit report:

Get an updated business credit report every three months and check for mistakes. One derogatory mistake can sink you credit score, so clean them up as soon as you identify them.

It’s wonderful to have a good credit score, but bear in mind that IOU Financial doesn’t require it to lend you money. If you’ve owned and operated your own business for at least a year, clear $100,000 in annual revenue, average a daily bank balance of at least $3,000, and make at least 10 bank deposits a month (for retail/e-tail companies), IOU Financial will do everything possible to approve your loan request, even if your credit score is less than good.

Why Your Accountant (CPA) or Capital Adviser Should Work with an Online Lender to Help your Business Access Capital

As a small business owner, you may have witnessed how much harder it has become for you to access capital in the form of small non-collateral loans. After your bank says no, you may be looking for help to identify a competitive and disciplined online business lender that you can get funding from.

The banks have completely exited the “lending small” space as regulation has made it unprofitable and has forced them to seek higher loan amounts they can underwrite for a profit.  The government response to the credit crisis, essentially Dodd-Frank, has tightened reserve requirements on banks and added new layers of regulation over U.S. financial firms.

For all the good that Dodd-Frank did to protect consumers, it also facilitated the demise of thousands of small banks. In 1984, the U.S. had 14,400 banks, but that number shrank to 5,083 by 2016. Most of the lost banks were small, and many had to merge with bigger competitors. The result is that it is harder for your small business to get modest loans of up to $300,000, because many banks nowadays focus on larger and more profitable business loans above $500,000 – high overhead costs tied to regulatory costs, limited human resources, make small loans unprofitable for most banks.

Despite, or rather because of, the retrenchment in conventional business lending since 2008, online business lenders have been trying to fill the void. And many CPAs and tax advisers should be able to help, and even be excited to save you time in looking for a small non-collateral loan that works for your small business.

 Think of it from their point of view:

  • The loan application and documentation burden imposed by conventional banks requires a fair amount of work. Financial statements, projections, multiple year tax returns, and the myriad other forms that banks require to underwrite a business loan can consume a lot of a CPA’s time and energy.
  • By contrast, your CPA or capital adviser can help you apply for an online loan quickly and with minimum effort. All that is really needed is a minimum of 3 months’ worth of your business bank statements (easily downloaded from most banks), most recent tax returns, a copy of your driver’s license and a voided check. None of the audited financials, or fancy business plans so precious to banks are needed by IOU Financial. If you mention to your accountant a need for short term working capital, all s/he has to screen for is monthly bank deposits of at least $10,000, an average daily bank account balance of $3,000, 10 or more deposits per month, and 80% ownership in the business with at least one year in operation.
  • Banks have high loan-rejection rates, due to constraints placed on them by regulations, unprofitable nature of smaller loans, timid loan committees and over-reliance on credit scores. Online business loans, like those offered by IOU Financial, sidestep these problems because they welcome smaller loans and value cash flows as much as credit scores. In other words, online lenders don’t waste your CPA’s or their clients’ time… your time.
  • Speaking of time, online lenders can approve a loan request in a few hours and fund the borrower within 24 hours. A CPA or capital adviser who is helping a business owner respond to rapidly shifting cash flows knows that waiting weeks for a bank to decide a loan is completely unresponsive to the business’ needs.
  • Bank loans don’t tend to be flexible, but your CPA knows that a small business relies on flexible funding to survive and prosper. IOU Financial allows a borrower to re-borrow once 40 percent of the original loan is repaid.
  • CPAs are paid, among other reasons, to keep a sharp eye on expenses. They are therefore gratified to learn that IOU Financial loans costs much less than merchant cash advances.
  • CPAs help owners manage cash flow so that the business never gets caught short. The fixed, daily or weekly, automatic repayments of IOU Financial loans means that cash outflow is spread equally over the month instead of accumulating into a large monthly payback that can weaken the business’ cash reserves. Budgeting is easier and impact upon inventory purchasing is minimal.
  • Your CPA can work with IOU Financial to ensure the request loan does not put unnecessary strain on the business cash-flow. Sometimes, borrowing less is a good idea as it gives time to the business owner to work through debt repayment and get used to the loan; your CPA and IOU Financial can work together to find the right loan for your business.

Unless owners have special skills and plenty of time on their hands to deal with fastidious bank loan procedures, a business’ accounting and tax prep are best left to professionals like CPAs. Don’t make them bill you for the extra hours it takes to get a bank loan. Save money through a business loan of up to $300,000 from IOU Financial.

Ask your CPA or Capital Adviser to give us a call and will be happy to answer questions and make sure our capital can help your business grow. Call Christophe Choquart at  678 809 6685 to discuss how an IOU Financial loan may be right for your business.

How to Budget for Your Business Despite Your Irregular Cash Flow

Uncertainty is the name of the game for many small businesses. You might not know how your orders will flow next month, whether demand for your product or service will change, or whether you’ll be hit by some unanticipated expense. Your business might be highly seasonal or might depend on external factors beyond your control. These contingencies can make for volatile cash flows that demand attention lest they deplete your working capital and possibly drive you out of business.

Budgeting for irregular cash flows is therefore a task at the heart of keeping your business alive and growing. Your suppliers will have only limited patience if you are forced to delay payments. The inability to purchase the planned amount of raw goods or inventory directly affects revenues, simply because you’ll have less product to sell. If you need to lay off workers and managers, you can expect a steep drop in morale and holes in your operations.

With stakes like these, it’s good to know that there are several steps you can take to smooth over irregular cash flows:

Prepare three budgets:

You’ll want to budget for the most likely scenario, but also for better-than-expected and worst-case ones. Unless you have reason for optimism, pay the most attention to the worst-case scenario and make sure you budget anticipates a drastic cut in sales or rise in expenses. Should events prove more benevolent, you’ll be fine. If things turn considerably worse than you choose to imagine, you might be more willing to pull the plug and cut your losses.

Line up sources of capital:

Establish business relationships with lenders. Don’t rely on banks, because they are famously fair-weather friends – when it rains, the bankers confiscate the umbrellas. Instead, work with a commercial lender that will stand by you through good times and bad. You will need a source of cash that can move quickly and provide friendly repayment terms. For instance, IOU Financial offers daily repayment instead of monthly, which means you don’t have to fear a mountainous outflow every 30 days.

Structure your company for flexibility:

If you operate in a volatile environment, it probably makes sense to use contractors and consultants rather than employees. This gives you the ability to quickly change staffing levels without disrupting peoples’ lives. You also sidestep issues concerning unemployment insurance, tax withholding, employee health insurance, retirement plans, etc. Choose suppliers and vendors who are willing to commit up front to extended repayment terms.

Share information:

The best practice today is to share your production data with your suppliers, who can then react faster to your changing needs. To the extent that you can make your suppliers your partners, you have the best chance of weathering bad times without facing lawsuits for nonpayment.

Factor in factoring:

When facing a cash crunch, consider factoring your accounts receivables. This will provide a fast cash infusion, but will cut your net income. Factoring can be useful, but is often more expensive in the long run than is simply borrowing at a fixed interest rate. You can also raise money by wholesaling inventory and selling off equipment, as long as this doesn’t permanently damage your revenues.

Find investors:

It’s not easy for small businesses to find outside investors, but if you can identify a willing angel investor or venture capitalist, you might be able to arrange a sale of equity. While this will bring in fresh money, it will also dilute your ownership. You might not be thrilled by having new partners in a business you created from scratch.

These options are useful, but the fastest and most convenient method to ride out volatile cash flows is to arrange a business loan with a reasonable interest rate and convenient repayment terms. If you agree, contact IOU Financial today and have funds deposited into your bank account in as quickly as one day.

When Should I Hire a Virtual Assistant For My Small Business?

Your business is growing and that once small start up has turned into a solid, reputable, and stable small business. While you grow your business, you may also find yourself considering the idea of hiring a virtual assistant: someone to tackle the day-to-day scheduling of work tasks or business meetings, and handling administrative duties to help you take your business to the next level.  You may even ask yourself where, when, or how to go about hiring a virtual assistant. In this post we will tackle the 4 key factors to consider when you’re considering bringing on a virtual assistant. Let’s jump in!

You’re ready to hire a virtual assistant:

When you lose track of keeping track

One of the simplest yet most important factors to consider when hiring a virtual assistant is knowing the right timing. If you find it hard to stay on top of simple day-to-day tasks, and you find your attention is being pulled away from the important roles you have, it may be time to bring an assistant on board. When your systems such as Evernote, Slack, Trello Boards and beyond start becoming overwhelming to keep organized by yourself, an assistant may be the solution. When you see it’s hard to keep track of things, don’t lose track anymore-bring on an assistant. 

When you have the business down to a science

When your business starts becoming a well-oiled machine and the products, services, and business model you run can be set to “cruise control,” you may be able to bring on an assistant. Your business is now solid, so bringing on an assistant may free up some of your mental energy and allow you to tackle the next steps for growth. Think about building a house: If your foundation is solid and in place, you can start tackling the framing of the walls. Allow an assistant to keep things running while you move on to framing up your next big project.

When finances make sense

Before you dive into hiring an assistant, be sure to consider the cost to do so. Virtual assistants are not minimum wage jobs, they can be costly if you’re hiring top talent. Make sure your business can justify and support an assistant. The intention is to bring in more business by hiring an assistant, so ensure the financial pros/cons are considered. You may not be able to pay a full year salary today, but can you justify the initial cost by allowing it to add revenue elsewhere?

When it feels right

There is something to be said for “trusting your gut” when you run a small business. It was that very gut that lead you to start the business in the first place right? Do not leave out the internal thought process for bringing on an assistant. Ask yourself if it feels like the right time, seems like the moment to enter that phase, and do “the cards just fall in place” leading to the perfect fit for your company? If your gut is saying go for it, then it should be worth the thought.

By now you have considered hiring a virtual assistant for your company and ruling out the various pros/cons for when and if that moment is right. Hiring a virtual assistant can be a vital asset to any small business, however the timing, need, and role in your company all need to be considered. By reflecting on the top 4 factors when hiring a virtual assistant, one can better prepare themselves for striking at the right place and the right time.

Need a little extra working capital to hire a virtual assistant?  IOU Financial is here to fuel the growth of small business. We can provide a small business loan of up to $150,000 in as little as 48 hours. Contact us today!

Best Apps to Use to Better Manage Your Business Finances

Whatever small business you run, there is a core set of financial and related functions that just about every business must perform. In 2017, that means choosing apps that meet your requirements and are easy to use on your computer and smartphone without breaking the bank. Here are some of the top apps that fit the bill:

1. QuickBooks:

From tiny to midsize, your company needs a program like Quicken to manage its books and records. This is an easy to use accounting package with cash management capabilities. You can manage invoices, expenditures and revenue, generate financial statements, pay bills and salaries, and track your bank/credit card accounts. QuickBooks works with Square and PayPal, and lets you mark the tax status of transaction to facilitate. It’s a snap to set up recurring payment notifications, as is autopay and financial reminders, that automatically update your bank account balances. You can also set up alerts if your bank account is running low. Runners up: Wave and FreshBooks.

2. TurboTax:

From the makers of QuickBooks, TurboTax is an electronic tax preparer at an insanely low price compared to hiring a bookkeeper or tax accountant. Filing taxes couldn’t be simpler, even if you have complex transactions. When teamed up with QuickBooks, your company’s tax returns basically generate themselves. Runners up: Tax Act, H&R Block, TaxSlayer.

3. PayPal:

The granddaddy of payment systems, PayPal links to your credit cards, debit cards and bank accounts to move money around and make payments hassle-free. You can use PayPal in conjunction with a card-reading device to create a portable point-of-sales terminal for online checkout. PayPal charges 2.7 percent per card read (swipe or insert), 2.9 percent plus $0.30 for online invoicing and payments, and 3.5 percent plus $0.15 for sales entered manually. You can get standard merchant services for free, but the professional plan, at $30/month, adds features and flexibility.

4. Square:

A great alternative or adjunct to PayPal, Square is a convenient mobile card reading device and payment service that is a favorite among street vendors, food trucks, and farmers’ markets. It works just as well at your retail shop or beauty salon. Simply attach the Square reader to your phone or tablet and you have your own point-of-sale terminal. Square charges 2.75 percent for each card read. For a one-time charge of $49, you can add contactless collections via mobile wallets (like Apple Pay and Google Pay). The cost for a manually entered transaction is 3.5 percent plus $0.15. The app is free.

5. Skype:

You don’t need fancy equipment to have a video conversation or conference with Skype. You can also share files and text messages conveniently. Skype helps with your finances by allowing you to hold meetings with anyone, anywhere, without having to spend money on travel or fancy conference rooms. You can get basic Skype for free or spend as little $5/month for Skype for Business, and you can integrate Skype to run Microsoft Office for word processing, spreadsheet generation, and slick presentations. Runners up: Pushover for message distribution; Slack for instant messaging; Fuze for videoconferencing; and Addappt for remote control of calendars and address books.

6. Tripit:

If you are a businessperson on the go, Tripit lets you consolidate your travel plans into a single itinerary accessible from any device. All you have to do is forward your travel-related emails to Tripit and it takes care of the rest. Who needs a travel department anyway? Alternative: Expensify lets you track your business travel expenses and place them on your expense report. You can also photograph your receipts and let Expensify extract the expenses automagically. It costs $9 a month for each corporate user.

7. MailChimp:

Control you email advertising campaigns with MailChimp in a very cost-effective way. You can create mailing lists, newsletters, response emails and reports that track how recipients react to your emails. These reports can help you craft more effective email strategies and improve marketing performance while saving a lot of money.

How To Tweak Your Small Business for Success

Small-business owners usually don’t have the time or money to routinely make big changes to their businesses. However, you can consider easy changes that have the potential to make a big difference to your company’s bottom line. Here are four tweaks you can make to help ensure you spend your money wisely and increase your success:

Use financial tools:

It’s hard to optimize your business if you don’t perform proper financial management for critical areas such as revenue, taxes and payroll. You can cut this seemingly daunting task down to size by using relatively inexpensive financial tools like these:

  1. QuickBooks: A mobile, cloud-based accounting system that provides real-time insights into your business and accomplish tasks, such as banking and invoicing, via your computer, tablet or smartphone.
  2. Cyfe: A dashboard program that consolidates information from multiple websites you use, such as PayPal, Shopify, QuickBooks and social networks, to save you time and help give you the big picture.
  3. Mint MyBusiness: A business version of the popular financial tracking software that keeps tabs on your spending habits and even suggests budgets.
  4. Couponbox: A coupon calculator that shows the cost-effectiveness of your coupon-based marketing programs, so that you don’t hurt the bottom line with overly generous discounts.
  5. Trigger: Track part-time employees, freelancers, and contractors as they work on projects and tasks, a great way to measure productivity.
  6. TurboTax: The business version helps you prepare your taxes, maximize your deductions, and handle all the forms you need to file.

Streamline operations:

Businesses require more time to manage as they grow. Here are some ways to streamline your business and save yourself precious time and money:

  1. Cut back on email: Set a time limit on the amount of time you spend each day responding to email. Only spend time on urgent messages, and consider programs like Slack to handle internal communications.
  2. Outsource: Use accounting and HR services instead of tying up your own time doing tax prep, payroll, benefits administration, etc. It’s less expensive than you think and frees you up for more important tasks.
  3. Throttle meetings: Some meetings just suck the soul out of your business by being non-productive and boring. Don’t schedule meetings unless they directly contribute to your monthly or quarterly goals.
  4. Hire expertise: It’s easy to begin a company by hiring friends and family rather than expert talent. Fight this urge and hire great people from the outset. It might cost a little more, but it will help you avoid mistakes, wasted time and bruised feelings down the line.

Build company morale:

Happy employees are productive employees. There are many inexpensive ways to build morale, including company picnics, birthday parties, relaxation breaks, good medical benefits, employee discount programs, and allowing pets in the workplace. You might even organize a nearby child care center if you have several employees with young children.

Revamp your image:

Does your marketing image provide the best return on investment. Perhaps you can tweak it to give your brand(s) more oomph. First, conduct an image audit to find out what customers (and demographics) think of your branding. Pick a new logo, font, colors and designs that are more relevant to your target audience. Update your website and employ the latest SEO techniques. Get involved in the community and listen to customer suggestions.

There are many other ways to tweak your business, but these are a good start. If you need extra help organizing your business budget, be sure to check out our smart sheet. 

 

Is Keeping a Debt Tracker Beneficial to Your Business?

If you run a small business, especially one in which you’ve empowered others to spend company money, you know how important it is to manage your cash flow. It comes down to a question of solvency: Does your business have enough short term cash to meet its obligations, including debt payments due throughout the next several months. One of the unfortunate things about most debts is the big monthly repayment that always seems to threaten your cash balance. We say most debts, because as we’ll explain below, some loans, like the ones offered by IOU Financial, avoid mammoth monthly payments altogether.

A debt tracking tool, which centralizes information about debts and debt payments, is therefore an excellent idea for the busy owner on the go. The tool can take the form of a downloaded computer program, online software, or a mobile app:

  1. Computer program: You can purchase or rent financial management software, such as QuickBooks, that provides debt tracking functionality, along with a host of other features. If you use a computer-based accounting system, you should be able to generate reports about cash and debt, but they might be less timely.
  2. Online software: A program like Mint provides information about your upcoming bills and warns you if your cash is running low.
  3. Mobile apps: Several apps exist for tracking debt, including Debt Tracker, LearnVest, Unbury.me and others. These have the advantage of always being available, even if you aren’t at your computer. Mobile wallets not only include debt information, but also provide mechanisms to make payments.

Functionality

So, what should a debt tracker do for you?

  • Accounts: The program should have full information about each debt account, including account number, method of payment, payment calendar, interest rate, outstanding balance and so forth. It should be able to sort the account display by various criteria, such as date, amount of next payment, interest rate and more.
  • Payments: Debt trackers should be prepared to give you full information about each payment you make, including penalty fees and interest. Comprehensive trackers also serve as a means to schedule and make payments, by generating online checks or performing real-time bill payment.
  • Cash management: Trackers should be able to report your available cash and near-cash reserves, and alert you whenever a payment will create a low-balance or overdraw situation. You would like a tracker to suggest the order in which to pay off debts, according to criteria that you set, such as remaining balance or interest rate. A nice feature is to have an earmarking function, in which you allocate a portion of cash inflows to specific objectives, such as building up a fund to act as equity for a property purchase. Naturally, part of cash management is to report who owes you money and when to expect it.
  • Usability: A debt tracker, whether standalone or a function of a larger system, should meet certain usability standards. It should be easy to operate, secure (using encryption, PINs, etc.), offer flexible reporting, and, if you choose, a method to make payments. Ideally, the tracker will be integrated with the rest of your company’s financial data, including all payables and receivables.

The Joy of Daily Repayments

We mentioned earlier how monthly debt payments require you to ensure you have sufficient cash when the payments come due. That’s a major benefit of debt trackers. IOU Financial takes a different, and better, tack. Instead of hitting you with a monthly lump-sum repayment, we evenly spread your payments over all the business days within the month, and we automatically debit your bank account so that you don’t have to take any special steps. Your debt tracker will show you how your balance goes down gently each day. IOU Financial can lend your business up to $150,000 in as little as 24 hours, so contact us today to experience the joy of daily repayments.

How to Get Your Finances Ready for Your Slow Season

Many small businesses experience one or more slow seasons each year. For a B2B business, the year-end holidays might be a slack time, while tourist-related businesses might have little to do during the coldest (or hottest) months. Although challenging, a slow season is at least predictable, which means you can make preparations to see your business through the lean months. Here are some suggestions:

Assess your cash needs:

Most businesses have a mixture of fixed and variable costs. You’ll need enough cash to cover your fixed costs and that portion of your variable costs that you can’t avoid. Your monthly and quarterly budgets should give you a good indication of an impending cash crunch and thus how much money you must have on hand.

Husband your cash:

In the months just prior to the slow season, accumulate excess cash, if any, in a bank account. If you have a lot of money tied up in unpaid invoices, consider factoring them for immediate cash. Cut your expenses and purchases during the slow season. If you hire contractors, it’s easy enough to reduce staffing. That’s a little harder to do with employees, but many places do furlough workers or give them unpaid extra vacation time. In the worst case, you can let go of some employees, but that may cause more problems in the long term. A better idea is to hire only the number of employees you need all year round, and then hire seasonal workers during the busy months.

Take a vacation:

If you run a mom and pop store, schedule your vacations for the slow season(s) and shut down the store during those times. For example, if you own a frozen yogurt store in Washington DC, the three coldest winter months might be an excellent time to take an extended holiday. This will cut your variable costs to the bone.

Make credit arrangements:

A short-term loan or line of credit can be just the ticket for smoothing out a choppy selling year. IOU Financial can lend you up to $150,000 on short notice and favorable terms, without all the hassles associated with a bank loan. Since the loan is short term – the length of the slow season – the total interest paid will be relatively modest.

Negotiate better terms with suppliers:

If your slow season is well defined, you should be able to work with your suppliers to loosen their terms during the slack period. It’s reasonable to ask for due dates to be extended from 10 to 90 days, especially if your payment record with the vendor is good. A good supplier will understand your business cycles and offer you flexible terms when you need them. It’s important to reach these agreements well in advance of the start of the slow season, so that you can adjust your budget accordingly.

Increase your social presence:

Use your extra time during the slow season to increase your social media footprint. It’s an excellent time to publish articles and send out newsletters or emails containing useful information. Update your entries in LinkedIn, Facebook and other outlets. You can even advertise over the web by buying ads from Google, LinkedIn and other social sites.

Plan sales events:

If you can’t close up shop during the slow season, why not schedule major markdown events for the period? Lower prices, suitably advertised, should draw in customers. You can also plan fun events, like raffles and free donut days, as well as instituting a buyer loyalty program.

IOU Financial is your source for affordable small business loans of up to $150,000, funded in as little as 24 hours. There are no upfront costs, and daily fixed repayments avoids large monthly payments. Let us see you get through your slow period and help you grow your business year-round.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Business Finances Secure in the Age of the Internet

The Internet has its tenterhooks into everything. Large businesses have IT Departments that use sophisticated techniques to keep their data safe, but if you run a small business, you probably have limited technical resources. Still, there is a lot you can do to secure your financial data, and it’s a really good idea to do just that. Hackers can steal your data or drop malware into your website. In some cases, you may have to pay ransom to get your website working again. Here are five tips to help keep your business data secure:

Secure your network:

You need to be able to discourage hackers while maintaining the functionality you need to do your business. Your WiFi must be encrypted and password protected. Hackers often do mischief by packaging malware within comments or email they send to your website.  You need a physical or site-level firewall to control access, and a continually executing malware identification and removal program to keep out Trojan horses, spam links and so forth. If you use a commercial webhost like GoDaddy, review your security status and upgrade it where necessary.

Control your online purchases:

If you purchase from an insecure site, there is a chance the data will be intercepted or otherwise misused. You might not have a fancy purchasing department, but you can set some rules regarding who you purchase from. Only purchase from trusted sites – ones you’ve dealt with in the past, or, if a new site, one that uses a reputable payment processor, like Google Checkout or PayPal. Always ensure you see the padlock icon on your browser to verify you are looking at a safe page.

Monitor your credit report:

Your business’ credit report will tip you off right away to fishy transactions. You should make arrangements to get fresh copies of your credit reports at least once a month. It’s worth the money. When you receive them, check them over for hinky items that may indicate identity theft. If you find these, contact your bank, the credit card issuer (if applicable) and the credit bureau right ways. You might also need to change account numbers and passwords.

Be careful with your email:

Phishing is big business and the crooks are getting better at it all the time. Your email provider is your first line of defense, alerting you to suspicious email and quarantining it in a spam inbox. Beware emails that ask you to click a link to fix some problem or claim a reward – it’s probably a ruse to load malware onto your computer or direct you to a malicious website. Never include private information, such as account numbers or tax ids, in your emails. If you get an email from a supposedly trusted source asking you to take some action, do not respond to the email. Instead, contact the company by phone or separate email to verify the situation.

Set banking alerts:

You should closely monitor your business checking account for suspicious activity. If you use a program like QuickBooks, download and review your transactions daily. Use a bank that offers account alerts, such as when a withdrawal or payment exceeds a certain amount, of if your balance falls below a given figure.

If you take suitable precautions, you can take advantage of all the efficiencies the Internet provides without undertaking undue risk. When you deal with IOU Financial, know that we follow the highest standards of data protection so that you can borrow money in confidence.

Tax Season is Here: How to Properly Get Your Finances in Order Before You File

The new year is also the start of tax season, so it’s time for your small business to get organized, file business expenses correctly, and ensure you are getting the correct refund. The details of how to accomplish this depend, in part, on how your business is organized: sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC or corporation. Yet the ways you go about calculating your taxable business income are pretty much the same however you’re organized. Here are the basic steps you’ll need to file your taxes properly.

Collect your business records: Hopefully, you have a computer and/or file drawer that is carefully organized to maintain all your raw paperwork, such as invoices, receipts, tax documents, bank statements, business diaries, etc. But we know that some folks are in the habit of piling all their papers into a heap on a desk. Well, now is the time to attack those records, get them sorted and entered onto a spreadsheet or accounting package. If you use software like Quicken or QuickBooks, you can go through your transactions, flag tax-related items and associate them with the appropriate IRS tax forms and lines. Once complete, you can then import the data into tax preparation software and it will automatically prefill many of your forms and schedules. 

Resurrect missing information: If you are somewhat disorganized, you may not have done a 100 percent perfect job of preserving your receipts. For example, you know you went on a business trip last year, but can’t seem to locate any of the receipts for travel, lodging, meals, taxis and so forth. Unless you paid for everything in cash, you can resurrect the missing information by combing through your credit card and bank statements. In fact, it’s a good idea to scour the entire 12 months of these statements to make sure you haven’t missed any deductible expenses. If you operate on a cash basis, remember that tax-related events occur when money is collected or disbursed. Accrual-based businesses must instead use the dates on which income is earned and expenses are incurred.

Find the correct forms: The IRS is pretty picky on which forms you use to file your taxes – they want you to use the right If you are a sole proprietor or run a one-person LLC, this means you’ll be getting intimate with Schedule C of Form 1040. A corporation must instead file Form 1120 separately from your personal return. Partnerships have separate forms as well. Your tax software can quickly ascertain which forms it will use to collect and report your information.

Make 401(k) payment: Your tax software will keep a running total of your refund or taxes due as you fill in the required data. If it turns out you owe the IRS money and you file on Schedule C, remember that you can fund your personal 401(k) up until the tax filing deadline and deduct the contribution from last year’s income. For 2016, that contribution can be as much as $59,000, depending on your age and income.

File on time: If you need an extension, remember that only buys you time for filing, not for paying. You still must pay what you think you owe by the April 15 deadline. Note that if you file Form 1120S as a Subchapter S corporation, the deadline is March 15. If your fiscal year doesn’t coincide with the calendar year, adjust your dates accordingly.

Should you find yourself short of cash at tax filing time, it’s good to know that IOU Financial can lend you up to $150,000 in as little as 24 hours.