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3 Must-Haves for Smooth Running Operations

This is an exciting time to manage a business—technological advances and new opportunities due to increased globalization lead to greater profits, innovative business models and new customer bases. However, increased competition and higher demands from customers create new challenges for managers and business owners that leave some unsure as to what goals are right for them.

One of the most vital answers to running a successful business in current times is streamlined operations. When staff is properly trained and motivated, smart systems are in place and customer demands are met—the company is headed on a positive path. To keep your operations running smoothly, make sure you focus on the following three must haves:

No Single Point of Failure

One of the most common pitfalls that stagnate growth is a single point of failure in any aspect of operations. Most companies train specific employees in different areas of the business; however, when an unforeseen emergency arises preventing them from their duties, no one else is able to take over their responsibilities.

To prevent this from occurring at your workplace, work with Human Resources to cross train your workers. Additionally, it may be advantageous to switch teams within your organization, thus allowing different team members to handle various aspects of the operations.

This practice would prevent a single point of failure and would make certain that there is always someone at the workplace that can take over for a colleague should they be unavailable for work.

Automation

Operations are always at risk for human failure, which is why automating processes with the latest technological offerings is a beneficial way to streamline this area of your business. Although automating processes usually involves a high upfront cost to purchase software, integrate it into your routines and train staff, the return on your investment (ROI) is usually significant.

Automation leads to higher productivity, reduced costs, better customer service and reduction in errors. It is important to note that even artificial intelligence and machine make errors, so designating a team to review these operations on a regular basis is imperative to running a tight ship.

Motivate Employees

Your business is nothing without its employees, and successful operations result from motivated and empowered staff. An employee who comes to work daily and gets away with minimal effort is one that is failed by management.

Create incentives to encourage your employees to work hard, be proactive and creative instead of those that are satisfied with the status quo. Maintain that with constant feedback, recognition and rewards for your highers performers—the more invested your employees are in the success of your company, the smoother your operations will be!

It’s always a good idea to invest financially into projects and strategies that will streamline your operations. IOU Financial is ready to offer financial help into your endeavour. Contact us today to inquire about our quick and easy business loans.

 

Five Tips for More Productive Meetings

Meetings are necessary at the office, but the truth is that everyone dreads them. They tend to get a bad rep for being overly long, boring and often unnecessary. You don’t have to follow the same status quo when it comes to having meetings, you can implement ways to make them more productive with these tips:

Time Meetings

It’s been found that “64% of meetings last more than an hour, with 39% of all meetings exceeding 90 minutes. With the length of these meetings, it’s no wonder that most of us cringe when we get a meeting request.

The duration of meetings don’t match with scientific evidence about our ability to concentrate before getting bored or distracted, which is anywhere between 10 and 18 minutes (fun fact, this is why Ted Talks are 18 minutes or less).

Many modern managers are limiting meetings at 15 minutes, which increases productivity as employees are more alert and able to follow along.

Create an Agenda

Some teams are so used to holding weekly meetings that they forget that it is not a necessity. To make the meeting more productive, require that the organizer create an agenda, which is distributed a few days prior to the meeting. No agenda = no meeting!

This is imperative so that everyone understands the relevancy of the meeting, and only the required employees attend instead of everyone in the department. This also lets the attendees prepare instead of being surprised during the meeting.

Stick to the Agenda

There are a lot of moving parts in an office, and it’s easy to get sidetracked. However, to optimize the meeting in the time you have, stick only to the items on the agenda.

This will structure the meeting and sidestep any unnecessary conversations, which will simply waste time. Designate a person who will be responsible for monitoring chatter, and cut off those that go off topic.

Stand Up During the Meeting

A meeting doesn’t have to be confined to a conference room with chairs. To make the meeting more efficient, require that the attendees stand up. This has several benefits—the first being that we sit too long during the day, which leads to physical and health-related issues.

The second benefit is that after a while, we get tired of standing, and we try our best to end the meeting so we can get back to our comfortable chairs.

The third advantage, and perhaps the biggest one, is that standing allows us to be more creative, energetic and collaborative than sitting.

Create an Action Plan

It’s important to discuss topics during the meeting, but don’t dismiss your employees without creating a game plan on what happens next. Otherwise, you’ll just meet next time without any progress having been made.

In addition to creating goals, distribute a follow up email after every meeting to summarize what was discuss and outline objectives with due dates so everyone is on the same page.

If you are invested in making positive changes within your company and could benefit from a small business loan, IOU Financial can help. We offer quick and hassle-free loans of up to $300,000 in 24-48 hours.

How to Choose the Right POS System

It’s safe to say that we’ve finally reached a point where hard cash and cash registers have become rather obsolete. Even credit card processing systems and hardware don’t do the trick anymore and, considering how technology has progressed over the years, and it’s not surprising in the slightest.

Making the correct choice when it comes to new and state-of-the-art POS systems requires some knowledge and skill. The big issue people have here is that there are many different, yet effective platforms that offer POS solutions. So, which one is the best one? In this review, we’ll be talking about what to look out for when choosing your first POS system. Here’s what you need to do:

Define the Needs of your Business

First thing’s first – you’ll need to openly define what you want with your business and what it needs. This includes functions, features, services, inventory, the checkout process, and even customer management and relationship. The thing is, not all POS systems can support what you’re looking for, so this should hopefully sift all the incompatible ones right away and leave you with the ones that are capable of fulfilling the needs of your business.

Additionally, have a chat with your employees – their opinion and happiness (as well as efficiency and productivity) matter as well.

Set a Budget

It’s no surprise that you won’t have unlimited resources to deal with so setting a budget is crucial. It all depends on the size of your business and what you need from a POS system. Your usual desktop-based programs and software require between $1,200 and $2,500 for a license (for a single user).

There are also cloud-based POS systems that are vastly superior to traditional ones and can range from being free to around $50-$200 a month (again, depends on the complexity and size of the business).

Audit and Compare POS Systems

Try to find some industry feedback and reviews on POS systems to get a feel for what is good and what isn’t. Experiences also matter (as for everything in life) so be sure to talk to other retailers that have opted for a POS system. There are many ways to do this, and it’s up to you – ask up front, search LinkedIn, check on forums, and even call vendors to see how they’ve chosen the correct POS system.

Get the Set-up Right

When you’ve finally reached a decision on which POS system you want, it’s time to set it up as best as possible. This means getting all the crucial software and equipment. The set-up itself depends on what kind of POS you’ve chosen (alongside the requirements and size of the business). The POS vendor should give you instructions on how to set it up but, if you run into any issues, make sure to contact them for help. It’s better to get it right from the start than trying to figure out what’s wrong and fixing it.

Make the Most of your POS System

Once the system is in place and ready to start working, you’ll want to maximize its efficiency and use. This comes down to picking and getting apps, extra POS-enhancing hardware, and various add-ons. A great idea that you should practice is to establish a warm relationship with your POS vendor as, not only will they help you with servicing the POS system, they’ll also be there for you to give a hand in expanding your expertise and business.

Conclusion

The truth of the matter is, choosing and setting up a POS system isn’t easy, and you probably won’t be able to do it yourself. You’ll need all the help you can get, but once it’s up and running, it gets easier. Remember – keep your POS vendor close for the reasons we already mentioned. You don’t want to be left alone with a faulty POS system that might be very easy to fix if only you contact the vendor. If you need help – ask; there’s nothing wrong with having someone else give you a hand!

 

Guest post: About the Author

With over 10 years in the financial vertical, focusing mainly on debt, Kevin Tomlinson is an experienced writer with the best tips and tricks for dealing with debt of any sort.

Finance 101: Keeping Your Business Finances Organized

Managing your company’s finances is the most important part of running a business. Surprisingly, some business owners don’t know the first thing about organizing their finances. This is not only a problem because they can’t pinpoint exactly how much loss or profit they generate in a year, but for other, more serious concerns.

Companies often experience negative cash flows, especially during the startup phase. Some businesses are seasonal, and need a cash reserve to carry them through the slower months. If your business thrives, it will need an investment of funds to sustain growth.

If there is no management of funds, financial planning and savings, it can be detrimental to a business. In this article, we present Finance 101: Keeping your business organized with these tips:

Separate Personal and Business Finances

This may seem like no brainer, but many small business owners don’t realize they must maintain their personal and business finances separately. They charge both types of expenses on the same credit card, finance their business goals with personal loans and transfer profits into their personal banking account.

This presents a major headache at tax time, when either the business owner or their tax accountant must separate every expense into different categories, causing confusion. Plus, fusing finances can raise a red flag and lead IRS to audit your business.

Invest into Accounting Software

If you cannot afford to hire a dedicated accountant to manage your business expenses, purchase accounting software. Although there is likely to be a small learning curve with every new program, this is an efficient way to enter all of your spending, sales, payroll information, etc.

If the software is cloud-based, it will securely maintain your records online, making them accessible anywhere at anytime. This will cut down on your paper usage and make it much more efficient to view and change your financial information at any time.

Register for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Just as you require a social security number (SSN) to open personal accounts or register for government issued documents, your business needs its own tax number, called an EIN. You can easily apply for an EIN on the IRS website for free by following this link. This will be required to open credit cards and financial accounts, as well as retirement plans.

Consult a Professional

Every state and some cities have different laws and regulations about running a business. To make sure you are in compliance with these rules, are filing your taxes properly and know the ins and outs of payroll law, it is advantageous to consult a professional about these matters at least once per year.

These can involve certified public accountants (CPA), labor law attorneys and Human Resource administrators. You are not required to hire these professionals on permanently, but can use their services on an as-needed basis.

Although you will need to pay for their expertise, making sure you are following the law will save you from paying penalties or risk ruining your brand image and losing your business.

IOU Financial is committed to helping small businesses become financially secure. We specialize in hassle-free, easy and secure small business loans of up to $300,000. Contact us today at www.ioufinancial.com to speak to us about qualifying for our loans.

Retirement Planning for Small Business Owners

It’s not uncommon for business owners to consider their businesses as their retirement plans. At retirement age, the plan is to sell the business for cash, or to give the business to a family member in return for a share of future wealth. It might work out, but it’s risky, because if your business fails, your retirement plans end up in shreds. Short of bankruptcy, a troubled business would be hard to sell and bring in less money than anticipated. Many owners might face the prospect of delaying retirement until the business “picks up.”

It need not be this way. An orderly approach to retirement planning will help you provide for your later years independent of the ups and downs of your business. Here are five steps to take to save money for retirement:

Do the math:

Figure out how much money you will need for your retirement lifestyle, especially if you don’t receive a lot of money from your business. This is frequently a wake-up call to get your retirement plan moving. Check out online retirement calculators from financial service companies such as Vanguard, TIAA and Fidelity and many others. Use these resources to help you nail down future spending.

Get help:

You are probably an expert on your business, but don’t assume that extends to retirement planning. If you don’t have a solid finance background, hire a financial adviser to organize your retirement planning. It’s a good idea to use one who charges a flat fee rather than one who takes commissions on your trading. The best ones usually have an accreditation, such as Certified Financial Planner.

Begin a diversified retirement plan:

You don’t need to spend a fortune on your retirement plan, but you should make a long-term commitment to it. It will cut your current taxes and allow your money to grow tax-deferred. Here are for options that make sense for small businesses, suitable for sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies and corporations:

  1. SEP-IRA: A good choice for one-employee companies, because you must fund the plan for all employees. Its works like a traditional IRA, but in 2018 you can contribute up to 25 percent of total compensation or $55,000, whichever is less.
  2. SIMPLE IRA: A plan for owners of companies with up to 100 employees. You and your employees make pre-tax contributions directly from your paycheck. The 2018 contribution limit is $12,500, or $15,500 if you’re 50 or older.
  3. Solo 401(k): Good for self-employed. You can contribute up to 25 percent of your compensation, plus up to $18,500 ($24,500 if 50 or older) in employee contributions, for a total maximum up to $54,000 in 2018.
  4. SIMPLE 401(k): For business with 100 or fewer employees. You and your employees can contribute up to $18,500 a year. You can borrow from your account and make no-penalty withdrawals under certain circumstancees.

Invest simply:

Index funds are simple and cheap, and you will always get average performance, year after year. If you know when you are going to retire, you can buy into a target-date fund that adjusts its investments based on your age. Consider also a REIT investment.

Pay yourself first:

When business gets slow, it’s tempting to cut back on your contributions, and that might occasionally make sense. But resist the temptation if you can, your retirement will thank you for it.

3 Steps to Creating a Strong Company Culture

Any time a group of people interact with one another on a regular basis, an individual culture forms. As such, each company has its own company culture, which can determine to a large extent the success of the organization and the satisfaction of the employees. While a culture can organically form, managers and business owners can take steps to shape a strong and positive company culture with the steps below.

The Importance of a Winning Company Culture

A company culture is “an intangible ecosystem” according to a source, which involves “the ideology of an organization.” When your company has a strong company culture, it influences a multitude of factors that can truly make or break the success of your business. Everything from more effective teamwork, productivity, employee loyalty, reduced turnover and help with attracting top talent.

Steps to Create a Strong Company Culture

The truth is that regardless of how talented and experienced your colleagues are, if you don’t have the culture to promote their attributes, they won’t be able to thrive. Follow these steps to create a company culture that develops winners:

1. Decide What Your Core Values are

A company culture should be based around the core values of the company, which are created by the business owners. Other than making a profit, what do you want to see from your employees and how do you want to shape their lives and overall society?

If you want to involve a philanthropic initiative, build your culture around that. Is your focus is more closely aligned with teamwork and productivity? Consider how to foster relationships between your staff members to promote collaboration. Do you want to be known as a company that offers the best customer experience? Put strategies into place that reflect that desire.

The fact is that a corporate culture develops best when it is based on certain beliefs and is focused on a specific course.

2. Choose the Right Colleagues

Every hiring decision needs to consider whether the candidate would make a good addition to your team. Would this person be able to fit in and uphold the values you deem important for your company?

Oftentimes, employers tend to hire the same type of person, who either resembles them or another star employee. However, a successful environment is one that contains diversity, and hiring employees who have different strengths and points of view can help foster creativity and innovation, which will drive a positive culture.

3. Promote Transparency

A thriving company is one where every single employee feels valued and appreciated. The old world model of a hierarchy that keeps information locked at the top is outdated, and transparency is the new normal in the professional world.

A healthy company culture is one that democratizes decision making and gives everyone a voice. Instead of shielding your employees from sensitive news, involve them in the process and witness how much more invested they will become in the success of your company.

If you would like access to more articles about managing a business, or would like to inquire about getting a small business loan, contact IOU Financial.

 

3 Steps to Hiring the Correct People for the Job

Do you feel like your company is a revolving door of employees? Is it difficult to retain top talent, and you constantly spend your time recruiting new candidates? If that is the case, you need to refresh your skills in hiring the correct people for the job from the get-go.  

The truth is, a high employee turnover is bad for the morale of the remaining employees, the overall corporate culture and the productivity of your team. When employees are constantly leaving, and new members are joining the team, the rest of the staff has to pick up the slack, leaving them stressed out and overtired.

Plus, employee turnover is expensive for the business. A source estimates that it could take up to 6 to 9 months of a staff member’s salary to transition between employees. That means if an employee who’s making $50,000 annually does not work out for any reason, you can spend anywhere between $25,000 to $37,500 during the transition. If you want to avoid this, follow the steps below to hire the correct people for the job and improve employee loyalty.

1. Create a Detailed Job Description

Most positions nowadays are complex, and with the hectic pace of working life, individuals are often tasked with responsibilities outside of their direct roles. As such, it is imperative to create a detailed job description that truly captures the essence of the position.

Take the time to really analyze the person’s working day, what they need to do, how they should do it, and how much percentage of time they are expected to spend on each task. Think about what success in this position looks like, and reiterate that in the job description.

The more detailed you are from the get go, the more candidates it will eliminate, saving you time during the recruitment process when interviewing individuals.

2. Implement Skill Tests

You can find an applicant with an outstanding resume who says the right things during the interview process, but can you verify that they are as competent as they say they are? Yes, you can! That is easily doable by implementing skill tests prior to making a hiring decision.

Utilizing skill assessments will take out the bias and uncertainty from the screening process. Tests take out any inherent biases and provide a transparent strategy to choose the best candidate for the job. You will be able to see for yourself each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and make an educated decision during the interview process.

3. Involve the Team in the Recruitment Process

Employees spend most of their day at the office, and personalities often clash, which causes a poor working environment. When there is unresolved conflict, tension and unhealthy competition, that is a major reason why your employees may not be lasting long in their positions.

In order to see if a potential candidate would make a good fit within your existing team, involve them in the recruitment process. When your search is narrowed down to the top few candidates, give each person some time to spend with your employees. Encourage them to talk and ask tough questions; they may find an issue that you have overlooked!

If you need cash to invest in a skills assessment test or want to hire an HR consultant to help you with the recruiting strategy, IOU Financial can help. Contact us today to learn more about our easy and affordable small business loans.

Better Manage Your Time: 13 Tips for Business Owners

As a business owner, you spend your time thinking, acting and communicating, punctuated by too many interruptions. Maybe you’ve taken a time management course without realizing any improvement. Here are 13 tips to help you get better control on how you spend your time:

  1. Track your time:

    Write down on a schedule what you do as you do it. Do it for a week, and find out how much of your time is spent on thinking, acting and communicating. It’s the first step into a larger world.

  2. Make appointments:

    An important activity or communication should be assigned a time. Try an appointment book, either the old-fashioned paper variety or an AI app with voice recognition. Then discipline yourself to keep your appointments without letting them run long.

  3. Direct your activities:

    Decide to spend at least half of your time engaged in communications, activities and thoughts. You’re more effective if you don’t waste time.

  4. Schedule time for interruptions:

    Set aside time every day to handle interruptions. You might set up special hours in which you are open to handling all the tasks that interrupt your work flow.

  5. Use the first half hour:

    When you first come into work, take the first half-hour to plan your day in detail, including when to handle interruptions.

  6. Know your desired outcomes:

    When you set aside time to perform a task or communicate with others, know beforehand what you want to achieve. By knowing what defines success, you can better achieve your goals and, if something is missing, identify what you aren’t doing right.

  7. Use automated note taker:

    Automated AI tools will transcribe, summarize and annotate meetings and phone calls so that you don’t have to. It’s a real time-saver and lets you better concentrate on what is being said.

  8. Buy a “Do Not Disturb” sign:

    Deploy it when you don’t want to be interrupted. A perfect accompaniment to a thinking cap.

  9. Postpone responses:

    Do you drop what you’re doing to respond to a phone call, email or text message? That’s not necessarily a good idea. Unless it’s an emergency, get back to people when it suits you, and schedule time for your replies.

  10. Block distractions:

    Social media sources might be vying for your attention, but unless you need these for your business, ignore them. They are interrupting your schedule and your train of thought. Some people don’t allow Facebook or Twitter on their business computers.

  11. Observe the 80/20 rule:

    Don’t feel bad that you can’t get everything done during the day. Remember that 20 percent of your activities, thoughts and communications will account for 80 percent of your results.

  12. Try the Pomodoro technique:

    Set a timer for 20 or 25 minutes when you start on a specific task. When time is up, take a 5-minute break before beginning your next task.

  13. Fill out your staff:

    If you’re an entrepreneur who’s accustomed to operating on a shoestring, consider hiring staff to take over some of your time-consuming tasks. If you’re short of working capital to enlarge your staff, consider a loan from IOU Financial. You can use it to get a bigger office, more desks and other items to support more employees. Remember, IOU Financial offers quick, affordable loans with an easy daily repayment process.

HR Trends for 2018

Human Resources is a vital department in any organization, working with both employers and employees to address concerns, implement standards and procedures and enforce an ethical working environment. The last few years have seen a major shift in the workplace. Millennials have entered the working world and are making demands for flexibility, decision-making power and a work/ life balance unprecedented to the previous generations. Coupled with technological advances, this has led to changes in 2017 and predicted certain HR trends for 2018. Stay up-to-date on the latest below!

Increased Attention on People Analytics

People analytics is a science that looks at various trends in a company, such as “measuring diversity, gender pay equity, skills gaps, labor utilization, retention rates, real-time feedback, and even organizational network analysis,” explains one source, which goes on to state that 69% of companies utilized this practice in 2017, compared to just 10-15% in previous years.

Needless to say, people analytics is reshaping the way Human Resources operates, and is bound to fully explode this year. This detailed information allows HR professionals to not have to guess about what employees need, but have a deep understanding of their needs, wants, concerns and so on.

This, in turn, allows HR managers to work with department heads to make appropriate changes and address employees’ issues in a timely and appropriate manner.

Wellness Apps

While the main goal of managers in the past has been managing output, nowadays, the focus is transferred away from the work and to the individual. With the understanding that employees must be emotionally and physically well in order to perform at their best levels, another key trend in the HR world is wellness apps. Seventy-eight percent of HR managers regarded employee wellness as a top concern, which means they are taking the steps to ensure that workers are monitored and empowered to take care of themselves.

Health and wellness apps measure individual performance,  activity and fitness levels, helps employees set goals, improve mental acuity with games and remind them to take breaks. This also helps companies save money from sick days and related expenses.

Changes in Recruitment Practices

In recent years, there has been a major shift in employment trends—while full time employees were always the norm, that is being phased out now. Instead, companies are increasingly hiring remote workers, those working on a flexible schedule, as well as part time employees and consultants. This type of strategy helps organizations save money on paying salaries and other benefits, and hiring employees on an as-needed basis.

These changes have transformed the way HR professionals recruit candidates. “Talent sourcing practices need to build speed and agility in order to quickly identify work/projects in need of attention, source employees with the required skills, and staff project teams that can quickly perform the necessary task,” a source explains.

These are just three of the changes the Human Resource industry is facing in 2018. HR managers need to be on the lookout for the latest trends, and adapt them quickly to keep their companies at the forefront of innovation. If your company requires financial assistance to incorporate a new technology or implement a new objective, consider applying for a small business loan. IOU Financial can help you secure up to $300,000 in 24-48 hours. Learn more here!

3 Ted Talks Small Business Owners Should Listen To

As a small business owner, would you appreciate the opportunity to get advice from accomplished and world-known leaders? Would you be especially interested if this advice was free and accessible from a computer, tablet or smartphone? If you answered yes to the two questions, you will love Ted Talks — videos from leadership experts that specialize in various industries.

Ted Talks originated in 1984 as a conference on Technology, Entertainment and Design, and has grown to a collection of  short videos (18 minutes or less) that are available in over 100 languages. The following three Ted Talks are particularly beneficial to small business owners as they can help them become better leaders:

How Great Leaders Inspire Action

This Ted Talk is hosted by Simon Sinek, a famous author, marketing consultant and motivational speaker. He is responsible for books such as Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last on the topics of inspirational leadership.

In this video, he tries to explore answers to how leaders can promote trust and cooperation and encourage and accept change in organizations. He utilizes real world examples that don’t only focus on the world of business, bringing to light successes from people such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and brands such as Apple. Sinek focuses on similarities between inspiring leaders in how they act and think, and shares them with his listeners.

The video has gotten over 34 million views, and is the third most successful Ted Talk of all time!

Why It’s Time to Forget the Pecking Order at Work

While many of the inspirational leadership Ted Talks are hosted by authors or motivational speakers, this video is hosted by someone who has actually walked the walk! Margaret Heffernan was the CEO in five businesses. Her experience is diverse – she worked as a television producer, headed IPPA, a trade organization that represents independent film and television producers in England, worked on public affair campaigns, ran Internet businesses and wrote a book.

Heffernan shares what she learned throughout this time, which is that company leaders should nix the “the superchicken model” that only values the highest-performing employees, and instead focus on cohesion and the empowerment of every single member of the team to truly create change and success within the organization.

Learning From Leadership’s Missing Manual

What do the leader of the Ashaninka Nation, a leader of an NGO from Bangalore and a Chinese businessman have in common? They all provide inspiration for motivational leadership skills to the presenter of this Ted Talk, Fields Wicker-Miurin.

This social entrepreneur looks for leaders in unique situations and places, and shares what knowledge she was able to get from their stories. She is a director of Savills, an international property advisory company and CDC group, a UK development finance institution, as well as the co-founder of Leader’s Quest, an organization that connects leaders and encourages them to not only analyze their positions and roles, but to seek inspiration from leaders around the world.

In this Ted Talks, Wicker-Miurin provides examples of non-traditional leaders in order to help business owners consider their own leadership roles and how they can help their teams in a better and more productive way.

IOU Financial is committed to helping small business owners become the best leaders they can be! If you want to attend leadership conferences or take business classes, we can help you finance that goal with a small business loan in under 48 hours! Contact us to learn more.