Posts

Should You Allow Pets at the Workplace?

As a business owner, there are a lot of decisions you need to make about the best policies for your office. You may offer your employees unlimited vacation, the option to telecommute to work, or free lunch. Another benefit to consider offering your staff members is a pet-friendly office environment. Although this may seem counterproductive to running a successful operation, it’s becoming more common for business owners to allow staff members to bring their pets to work. Is a pet-friendly office right for your business? Consider the benefits that pets can offer to your team members, such as:

dog_blogLower Stress Levels

The workplace is a fast-paced, demanding environment, which creates stress for working professionals. Forty percent of workers stated that they were very or extremely stressed out on the job, and 25 percent said that their work was the number one cause of stress in their lives. The effects of stress on the body are well-known: high blood pressure, sleep problems, weight issues, diabetes and heart attacks.

One effective way to fight stress is to create a pet-friendly office where employees are allowed to bring in their cats and dogs. A 2012 study found that employees who brought their pets to work reported being less stressed out throughout the day.

Dogs have been proven to reduce levels of cortisol, which is a hormone that is responsible for stress, while raising the levels of oxytocin, the “love hormone,” which causes happiness. A 2001 study found that pets can lower blood pressure levels that are caused by mental stress.

Improved Communication

Employees must be able to effectively communicate with each other, ask each other for help, and create a support system in the office. However, most professionals are too busy with their responsibilities to get to know their colleagues.

Bringing pets to work has been shown to increase interaction between employees. “When I first took the job, I often learned the names of the pets before employees, and it helped me build a bond with everyone,” stated Lisa Conklin, public relations manager for Replacements, a dinnerware retailer.

When a team is able to communicate effectively, they are more efficient, productive and happier. This benefits business owners with a better corporate culture, higher employee retention rates and additional profits due to increase productivity.

Work/ Life Balance

Employees are increasingly demanding a better work/ life balance amidst the longer work  hours common in the US. A pet-friendly office helps to improve that balance by allowing staff members to bring their beloved pets to work. A long day at the office does not seem so bad when your employee’s canine best friend is next to them. Additionally, it takes away the burden of hiring dog walkers or worrying about pets being alone for extended periods of time.

Set Policies When Allowing Pets at Work

If you believe that allowing pets at work could benefit your business, it is advantageous to create rules that all employees must abide by. First, the office should be pet-proofed, which means all loose wires must be hidden, small objects must be removed from lower surfaces and all doors must be closed at all times.

Second, a pet policy should be adopted that allows only well-behaved and friendly pets to be brought to work. For example, a dog that is prone to barking will only distract your workers instead of increasing productivity.

Third, find out if any of your staff members have allergies to pets. If this is the case, they may agree to take allergy medications; however, that must be discussed before pets are allowed on the premises.

If you could benefit from more advice on managing a business, click here to find seven tips to small business success.

Protecting Your Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) is a creative work, such as a design, invention or manuscript, whose rights are owned by your company. Those rights are established through a legal mechanism, such as a trademark, copyright or patent. IP is valuable – sometimes the most valuable asset a company can hold.

Here are the three major ways to protect your IP:ip-blog-image

  • Patents: You apply for a patent at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Patents provide 20 years of protection from the filing date. You can apply for a:
    • Utility patent: Available to anyone who discovers or invents a new, useful process, mechanism, product, or composition of matter. You can also patent a significant improvement to any of these.
    • Design patent: Used for new designs of manufactured items
    • Plant patent: For use when you discover or breed a new, asexually reproducible variety of plant
  • Trademarks: Protect symbols, names, phrases, logos, artwork, colors and sounds used to distinguish your goods and services from others. Registration is not required, but is available. Trademarks remain in effect indefinitely.
  • Copyrights: Provide protection for original works of authorship, including musical, literary, dramatic, and artistic, whether published or unpublished. Copyrights automatically attach to original works, but you can also register them at the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyrights last from 70 to 120 years.

A startup company might, in its rush to get a product or service to market, not fully protect its IP. After all, it takes some time and money to register a patent. However, failure to protect IP can ultimately be very expensive and dangerous to a company. You have to worry about a partner, executive or employee stealing your IP, not to mention the threat of corporate spying. Here are some tips for protecting your IP:

  • Educate yourself and your team on the topic of IP. Learn the differences among trade secrets, patents, copyrights and trademarks. The time you spend up front understanding IP will pay big dividends later on.
  • If you have a novel idea, make sure it isn’t already patented. Do a Google search to see if it makes sense to spend your money on a protected idea.
  • Patent your valuable ideas, even if you don’t necessarily plan to develop them on your own. Someone else may want to buy a patent from you.
  • Use an expert attorney to file your patent. Always insist on a fixed fee.
  • Do not delay filing your patent application. It’s like taking a number at the deli counter – it holds your place in line. After initial submission, you have 12 months to augment your application and fill in any missing details. The approval process requires patience, since it takes up to five years. That’s why you often encounter the term “patent pending.”
  • Identify through an audit your non-patented IP, such as copyrights and trademarks, whether registered or unregistered.
  • You may need to file for international patents, because a U.S. patent won’t protect you from international competition.
  • Use non-disclosure agreements with all employees and consultants to prevent them from stealing your IP.

To research and file patents may cost you tens of thousands of dollars. A commercial loan from IOU Financial is an easy, fast and low-cost way to finance the protection of your IP. We can provide funds within 24 hours of approval, so contact us today.

iouad-banner

Small Business Finances 101: Understanding Income

Income is the life source of your business. All your planning and strategies aren’t going to mean much unless you generate enough income to eventually make a profit. There are two types of income your business needs to track. Gross income is the money you receive from selling your products or services minus the costs of goods or services sold. Net income is your profit after you subtract all your expenses and losses.

As a small business owner, you need to know the most reliable ways to collect the income you owed, and how to properly report the income you receive.

Collecting Payments

  • Extending credit: While it’s nice to extend credit to customers, it can also be a money-losing proposition. People who pay with cash or payment card (debit, credit or gift) are your best customers. The only risk they pose is counterfeited bills or cards, which is a pretty small risk. When you get into checks and merchant accounts, you have to be more careful.
  • Credit cards: Many small businesses (55 percent in 2013) do not accept credit cards because of the steep fees and the possibility of disputes. If you sell online, you have no choice but to accept credit cards and pay the fees. Remember that if you don’t accept chip-embedded (EMV) credit cards, you are liable for the costs of fraud, a source of friction between merchants and card issuers.
  • Merchant accounts are business-to-business (B2B) credit arrangements with clients and suppliers. A 2014 U.S. study of B2B invoices found that a troubling 42.5 percent were paid late and that 5.6 percent were still uncollected after 90 days, which is the usual definition of a default.
  • Checks are not desirable, as too many things can go wrong. This is especially true if you have customers living abroad. It can take forever for a mailed check to reach you. Then there are the problems of stolen or overdrawn checks. Unless you have a long relationship with a customer, it’s best to avoid being paid by check.
  • Direct deposits via automated clearing house, transfers and electronic transfers are quick and safe for domestic payments. International transfers take longer. The only problem is getting your client to agree to make direct deposits.
  • Collections: If you are owed money, you can try to collect it yourself, hand debt collection off to an agency, or write-off the debt. In any event, late payments have a negative effect on your income.

Accounting for Income

Accounting is essential knowledge for your business. Keep your books up to date because delays can cause mistakes that might end up hurting your business and getting you audited by the IRS. You can hire a bookkeeper if you have enough activity to make it worthwhile. Many small businesses use software such as QuickBooks to perform bookkeeping. It’s up to you to evaluate the time you need to spend on using software versus paying a professional to do the work for you.

If you operate on a cash basis, you acknowledge income when it is collected. However, if you use accrual accounting, you report income when it is earned, which is usually before it is collected. Whether you use cash or accrual accounting, you need to keep accurate and timely records. This is especially important for figuring net income, which is the amount you are taxed on. To calculate net income, you must account for all expenses, costs and losses. If you miss some deductions, you’ll pay more tax than necessary.

If you need to stabilize your cash flow, hire a bookkeeper, or expand your inventory to bring in more income, IOU Financial offers convenient, low-interest rate commercial loans to help your business grow. Visit our loan calculator to get started!

How Small Business Owners Can Learn From US Olympians

When you hear the words Olympics and Team USA, the pure dominance at the Rio games from athletes such as Michael Phelps, the women’s gymnastic team, and the women’s beach volleyball team come to mind. But when you hear the words Olympics and business owner, you may not see a connection. Competing in the Olympics and being a savvy small business owner may have more similarities than you think.

When you’re a business owner in today’s competitive market, it can be hard to stay on top each day, quarter, and year. However, by learning from how Team USA trained their way to an amazing showing at the Olympics, your business may be better prepared for market dominance.  Here are 5 ways that business owners can learn from the USA Olympians’ success in the Rio games.

 

  1. Teamwork

When you watch the communication between beach volleyball athletes Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross, it is pure magic. Their understanding of their respective roles and how they fit together makes it easier to find the correct location when it’s their moment to strike, and their approach to teamwork has translated into domination of most matches by large margins. Follow their lead. Work as a team, communicate with each other, and be clear in your team’s objectives. Working as a team will only make your business more dominant.

 

  1. Know the talents of each person

Many small businesses fail because they force employees to do tasks they lack the skillset to execute well. The women’s gymnastic team is a clear demonstration of getting it right. Their coaches know the skillset of each gymnast, and they allow those athletes to execute their specific events.  Putting the brash employee at the helm of sales calls or putting your best communicator behind the scene helping new hires fill out their time card is not a good use of your talent pool. Sometimes making a change and switching the person you’re paying to do a task with the person who is the right fit is a smart logistical move. The women’s gymnastics team changed their rotations and identified the right talent for each event. Play to your strengths and let those talents rise!

 

  1. Preparation

Have you seen the preparation that goes into a single event at the Olympics? If you haven’t, you should watch any athlete’s story and see where they started in their event preparation. Winners are not built overnight; they put in work for years before they can aim for gold. Your business should follow the same path.

By bringing on the right talent for the future, your business can prepare for the road ahead. Sure, you have immediate needs, but you should also look to bring on and train a team for the future. Prepare for growth and hire visionaries. Anticipate rough times, so hire great problem solvers. Look for the talents you need to weather storms and when the rain comes you’ll be ready to find good use of the extra water.

 

  1. Know your focus and focus on what you know.

It’s not a question that Michael Phelps knows swimming. He knows the events he is good at and the ones he is not, and he uses this knowledge to direct his focus. Do you know your business model? What product does your business excel at providing consumers? Knowing what your business is and how to develop that product or service in a focused and exact way will only add success. Trying to do too much or expand too fast may give you excitement, but it could also leave you watching other competitors take home gold.

 

  1. Adaptability

Structure is good, but failure to adapt is business suicide. Times change, interests change, and your business should adjust. This is no different than when Olympians get to the games. They size up who is in the lane next to them and push a little harder down the stretch. Relay teams see if they are ahead or behind and adjust to the difference, and when setbacks happen, the U.S. has found ways to get back up, refocus, and go after it even harder. Your small business should focus on its niche but also be ready to re-focus and adapt to the changing environment around your company and its customers.

 

 

It is no question the United States Olympic teams have dominated in Rio. Domination has come with preparation, focus, and other skills needed to rise above the crowd and take these games by storm. Running a business is no different. Watching the ways of Team USA can be a lesson in how to not only make it to the top tier in your field, but also walk away with gold to show for your hard work.

Tips to Make Your Dental Office Remodel a Success

Being a dentist involves more than medical expertise – you also need to have business savvy when you’re faced with key decisions, such as when to invest in new equipment and remodel your office. A dental office remodel can be expensive and disruptive in the short term, but it can give your practice the technology and layout it needs to keep both your staff and customers happy. To make the most of your redesign, you’ll want to take into account the impacts of your timing and the overall design. dentist

Timing is Everything

An article in the professional journal Dental Economics gives some insights into which seasons make the most sense for major business changes like a remodel. The data suggests that May and September are the slowest months for dentistry, whereas business peaks in August, October, November and April. If you were planning to temporarily close your office in order to modernize and refurbish it, the early summer would impact the fewest patients.

Envisioning the Final Product

Wells Fargo bank published a thoughtful article about dental office trends that points out the importance of making the office look professional without appearing unapproachable. Two key design concepts stand out: using all of your office’s square footage to its fullest potential and sticking to classic design principles.

The article also suggests the following design guidelines:

  • Never let treatment zones be on public display.
  • Lay out your business area so the receptionist can easily swivel to greet patients and then swivel back away from them to take care of other tasks. This way, transactions and conversations with patients who are checking out can be kept private and separate from the waiting area.
  • Plan for a space where patients can discuss fees with your staff privately.
  • Break rooms and private offices should be isolated from the practice’s patient-activity areas.
  • All treatment rooms should have identical equipment and similar layouts to avoid staff having favorite rooms.
  • Make sure you budget for and lay out all the technology you need in the treatment areas for patient education, practice management, treatment co-diagnosis and even entertainment.
  • Leave some room for expansion over time.
  • Choose a classic, timeless color scheme. Reserve bold colors for walls and other paintable surfaces.
  • Use quality, durable finish materials for countertops and cabinetry. It might be a little more expensive up front but will last over the life of the current office design.
  • Work with your interior decorator to plan inexpensive seasonal updates so you can keep your décor fresh over the next 10 years.

Financing Your Project

A key component to project success is lining up the right kind of financing. A small business loan is from the right lender can mean the difference between staying on schedule or delays that impact your bottom line.  Online lenders like IOU Financial offer quick turnaround and flexibility that a traditional bank loan can’t match. Want to figure out your costs for financing your dental office remodel? Visit our loan calculator to learn about our financing and how to make sure you qualify for a loan.

 

accomplish-more-with-IOU-Financial

4 Ways to Get the Best Deals from Your Vendors

Your vendors are your partners. Without them, you would not be able to stock your shelves or get the supplies your staff needs. Having good vendor relationships means less stress and better deals so you can focus on managing your business.

When working with vendors, you want to make sure that you’re getting a good deal, especially if you are just starting out. Fortunately, getting the most for your money when working with a vendor can be as simple as asking the right questions and being courteous. Here are four vendor management tips that can help you keep costs down while growing your business and keeping your vendor happy, too.

Do Your Research

The first way to make sure you get a good deal is to shop around before you sign on the dotted line. Researching and comparing vendors will give you a good sense of current offerings and prices. If you already have an ongoing relationship with a vendor, dedicating some time annually to researching current prices and offers will keep you informed. If needed, you can use that research to negotiate a better deal than what you currently have.

Negotiate

Many business owners believe that the prices quoted by vendors are set in stone. While that may be the case sometimes, it is not always so. Use the research you have done to inform your discussion with your vendor if it’s time to negotiate a better deal. You may surprise yourself by the savings you can earn just by asking. Even if the price is non-negotiable, you may be able work out favorable payment terms and give yourself more time to pay off a balance by negotiating the terms of the deal.

Form Relationships

You make it a priority to wine and dine your clients, but don’t forget that forming strong relationships with your vendors can prove to be just as important. By making a personal connection with your vendors, they will be more willing to be your advocate. A good vendor relationship can benefit you in many ways, including discounted pricing, personalized service, expedited delivery, and faster and better support.
To maintain a good relationship, remember to be courteous if an issue or a mistake occurs and give your vendor a chance to make it right before escalating the issue. Show your gratitude for consistently good service so the vendor knows you appreciate their work.

Plan Ahead

Any vendor appreciates a consistent client, which requires you to plan ahead. While emergencies occur where you may suddenly need an influx of product overnight, generally, you should keep careful inventory and monitor your sales or usage history to create a schedule with your vendor. Once you develop a history and your vendor knows they can rely on you to be consistent, you may be able to negotiate a discount if you prepay for an entire order or order in bulk.

 

Need funds to pay off a big order or start expanding your inventory? Consider a small business loan so you can pay up front and get the most bang for your buck when negotiating with vendors. Contact IOU Financial for more information about how you can secure a small business loan in as little as 24 hours so you can have what you need on hand without stretching resources too thin.

5 Costly Mistakes Every Business Owner Can Make

When you run your own business you are working day and night to ensure it continues to grow, but you could be throwing money away without knowing it!
Here are the top five mistakes a small business owner will make that cost them BIG:

  1. Picking the Wrong Partner: The right partner is one who can complement your areas of expertise in order to form a well-rounded management team. Often, entrepreneurs reach out to spouses or other family members to serve as partners, an idea that can be deadly if bickering results. In 2003, U-Haul went bankrupt for just this reason. To play it safe, don’t blur the line between your business and personal relationships.
  2. Becoming Distracted: If you are spread too thin, you might have trouble maintaining a high level of attention to any one area of your small business. With too much attention to operations, your sales will suffer. Too much attention to sales, and your operations becomes inefficient and riddled with mistakes! A solution may be to delegate some control to trusted partners or associates. Have a team you can trust to report back to you on important updates and issues, so you can still handle them personally, while running the other areas of your business.
  3. Mismanagement of Inventory: At first glance, when you are running low on inventory, you may think it is great and that products are so good that they are bought right away! WRONG. When you are low or out of inventory your small business is losing money from the potential sales. However, on the flip side, too much inventory can mean you are giving it away when you are trying to clear shelves. Inventory management can make or break your business, so it is important to start collecting data and put the time into understanding this area of your business. Keep track of sales so you can analyze your data from year to year and understand trends.
  4. Not Trusting your Team: You have some secrets you’d rather not share with your partners, associates or consultants? Not the best idea. When you hold your cards too tightly, you fail to get important advice that can help you succeed. Instead, use non-disclosure agreements so you can talk freely with those you’ve trusted to help grow your small business. When you are able to discuss the obstacles you are facing, you never know what partner or consultant may be able to offer the advice that saves you hundreds or thousands!
  5. Running Short on Working Capital: It’s like running out of oxygen – terrifying and deadly. Without sufficient working capital, you can’t pay your vendors, buy inventory or pay yourself a living wage. If you don’t have sufficient funds to buy inventory, update equipment, or continue marketing campaigns, these are all going to have big effects on your revenue. Consider a small business loan from an alternative lender to ease any variance in cash flow. This ensures you have the funds to continue running your business smoothly.

When it comes to any mistake a small business owner can make, the common denominator is always money. Today, money should never be an excuse for a dip in sales. You can have up to $150,000 in your bank account in as little as 24 hours from IOU Financial.

IOU Financial is the modern way to secure business loans quickly and inexpensively. Let us help you ensure the success of your business through affordable working capital.

5 Things You Should Have Done by Your 2nd Year in Business

Congratulations. You’ve made it past the first year in business. That’s no small feat, as the Small Business Administration points out that 20 percent of small businesses fail in their first year. Sure, there are no guarantees when you open a business, and things can always change, often due to forces beyond your control. Nonetheless, you’re on your way. If you haven’t done the following 5 things by now, get moving!

  1. Stabilized Your Cash Flow: By now you’ve learned how much money you need to have come in every week to make sure you can pay your bills, buy your inventory, earn some money to live on, and so forth. If your cash flow seems wildly unpredictable, workout a revised sales and marketing plan so that you have decent estimates of your revenues if you haven’t already. You should also have a fair idea from your books and records of how much you have to spend each week, how much money you can keep in the bank, and what kind of profit margins you should expect. You need to tweak your strategy, tactics and/or operations to get your margins to where they can sustain themselves. Remember, without sufficient cash, your small business is fried.
  2. Made Plans to Expand/Optimize Your Business: You have probably learned quite a few lessons about your small business during the first year. For example, you may have realized that your original plans were overambitious or too timid relative to the market conditions and to the availability of capital. You might have uncovered underserved elements in your market that you can capture by expanding your product /service line, your geographic locations, and/or your operating hours.
  3. Secured Adequate Working Capital: Based on your performance so far and your plans for change, you need to establish an adequate amount of working capital to fund your operations, including inventory purchase. Your best bet after one year in business is to contact IOU Financial to borrow up to $150K effortlessly and at an affordable APR. If you own at least 80 percent of your business, have an average credit score, have a positive daily cash flow that lets you keep on average at least $3,000 in your business account, and you clear $100,000 a year in revenue, you have an 85 percent chance of getting the loan you want from IOU Financial. Forget about bank loans, they are really hard to get.
  4. Hired the Proper Staff: You might have started off as a one-person operation, or maybe you began with a small staff. After a year, you have a better idea of how many and what kind of people you need. If you haven’t done so already, dismiss any unproductive staff  and find the best people you can afford.
  5. Developed Your Social Media Strategy: Your website should be search-engine optimized, bug free, contain perfect content (if not, hire a good freelance writer), and include, if appropriate, a bullet-proof online checkout facility. You should have set up your accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so forth, and made sure you continually add new material onto your social media sites.

Enjoy your second year – with sufficient know-how and capital, you’ve got a good shot at long-term success.

Get more important tips from IOU Financial as you grow your small business by subscribing to our blog.

 

1200x100-budgetsmartsheetad

Get Your Spring Cleaning Done for Your Business

Your small business, and more importantly your employees, have survived yet another long and dreary winter.  It’s time to capitalize on these extra hours of daylight, and get some much needed spring cleaning done for your business.

Sure, you need to organize files, disposing of unneeded paperwork, and straightening your desk, but spring cleaning can mean so much more.

The birds are singing; we have more daylight. There’s just something about the spring that gives us a more positive feeling. Take this energy boost to take a fresh look at your inventory, equipment and staff before the Summer hits!

Inventory

Whether you are about to head into your busy season, or your slow season, now is a great time to evaluate what you have in stock.  Do you need to run a clearance to start making way for more summer items? Maybe you need to stock up on more inventory to meet demand? Now is a great time to evaluate where you were a year ago and make decisions based on your sales data from previous seasons. Inventory can make or break your small business, and past seasons can help tell you what products you will need more of on hand.

Equipment

Your equipment may have been over or under used in the past couple of months, so take the time to ensure everything is working properly.  This is a great time to get any repairs done, or purchase new.  Yes, I am talking to you too web based businesses! Your website is your most important piece of equipment you have, so be sure to update your content and design.  Take the time to sit down with someone who is using your website for the first time and watch them use your site.  This will give you great insight into improvements you can make to increase conversions through easier usability!

Staff

Spring can be a great time for boosting morale around the office.  Set up a happy hour after work, sign up for a softball league, or even just have a meeting outside!  The little things to ensure your staff enjoys working together (along with the added Vitamin D) can really increase productivity around the office.

Take time to look at what you are doing to grow your business. Do you have new ideas you’ve been wanting to implement, but the winter put you in a stagnant mood? Now is the time to go for it!  It’s about moving your business forward in the direction you want it to go, and if money is the only thing holding you back, see what a small business loan from IOU Financial could do for you!