Thursday, March 27, 2014

Video: Do Not Despair Like This Man! The Funding Is Out There



Partial Video Transcript (after business owner finishes speaking): 
Don’t despair! Yes, when you have difficulty obtaining business funding,  finding financing for your business can be frustrating, depressing and can lead to tears. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Funding Is Out There! Access the Cash You Need to Impact Your Business helps you identify the funding source that’s the right fit for you and your business by providing the what, where, and when to get the financing you need. It then tells you how to pursue it.

So how do you get an advance copy? The Funding Is Out There! Will be published by Morgan James Publishing and available later this year (August on Amazon, October everywhere else). But you can get your copies much sooner – ebooks at the end of April and soft copies at the end of May - by ordering now and contributing to this campaign. Funds generated from presales through this crowdfunding campaign will be used to cover marketing costs.

Please refer to the photo to see what you receive for your contribution level of $10 to $500. It’s not shown here but even $1 enters you into the contest to win a free 2-month advisory package. Join me in contributing and sharing this message with others online and offline.





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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Funding Is Out There! - Reserve Now!


Issues with Small Business Financing:
  1. Many business owners do not track their cash flow and so do not realize they need funding until they are in a money crunch.
  2. Business owners assume that because they bank at a particular bank, this "relationship" constituted a banking relationship. So they are often very surprised and extremely disappointed when their bank does not give them a loan.
  3. Many business owners are simply unaware of all the various sources of financing that exist, how to approach those financing sources or how to best leverage these sources to meet the business owner's goals. For example, some companies use factoring but wonder why they have too little cash. They do not do the math and therefore, do not realize they are essentially paying a 24 - 68% interest rate. So they remain on the factoring treadmill.
  4. Business owners think of "venture capital" when they think of investors. They don't realize there's a whole host of other investors who may be interested in their non-tech businesses. And owners rarely think of their business from an investor perspective.



The Funding Is Out There! Access the Cash You Need to Impact Your Business, takes business owners like yourself out of the woods and into the light. In the north, I say "auntie" and in the south, others say "annie," or that's what it sounds like to me! We’re saying the same things differently yet we can’t really understand each. In a similar way the approach to funding varies with business industry, size, stage of growth and ownership structure. The Funding Is Out There! explains the different types of financing available, who provides them, how to get it and why it is or is not a good fit for your business.
 

Click on the icon at the top of the page to watch the informative and somewhat entertaining video regarding, "The Funding Is Out There! Access the Cash You Need to Impact Your Business". You can get your pre-release version or learn more by visiting http://igg.me/at/thefundingisoutthere.  

Note: The Funding Is Out There! is being pre-sold as part of a crowdfunding campaign. If you like what you read, you can get the ebook, book, or more. Or you can contribute a small amount to be entered in a drawing for a free 2-month advisory package. Please join in in sharing the word. http://igg.me/at/thefundingisoutthereIt's much appreciated!
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Having Trouble Getting a Business Loan?


Discussion between a business owner and a business banker.
If you are encountering difficulty getting a business loan, alternative financing may be your best choice in the near term. By "encountering difficulty," I mean that you've been turned down by 2-3 banks that focus on small businesses. If you've been turned down by the large national banks because you just walked into a branch, then you need to view my youtube video on business bankers. (Click on the caption or picture to go to the video.) Regardless of your current true difficulty in obtaining a business loan, you will eventually need to build a relationship with one or more banks to take advantage of the lower interest rates banks provide.

http://theresourcefulceo.hs-sites.com/business-financing-mistakes




I highly recommend that, as a small business owner (with company revenues of a few hundred thousand to $20 million) you reach out to small, business-focused community banks in your city or geographical area. For community banks and other banks that cater to small businesses, your small business -- or businesses like yours -- are their bread and butter. Many of those who sit on the board of directors of these bank are entrepreneurs. So they understand and can, therefore, better manage the risks associated with small businesses.

When it comes to bank business loans, do not just apply willy nilly. Instead, focus on community banks and seek out an introduction to someone with the title of Vice President or higher. Branch managers have little signature authority (typically $25,000 to $50,000). Signature authority refers to the amount that a bank representative can approve without going up the food chain. Depending on the bank, VPs typically have signature authority of up to $250,000. Even if the bank operates on a committee approval system, the VP's recommendation carries much weight.


To meet bankers you can network through organizations and associations you belong to, LinkedIn, or your church. You want someone to make an initial introduction which leads to a meeting. When you get the meeting, bring a 2-5 page Executive Summary of your business. This shows the VP that you know your business and are prepared. If your business is young, cash-strapped or has poor financial reporting, you may not (probably will not!) get a loan immediately. However, you will lay the foundation for getting a loan within the next several months.

If you impress your soon-to-be business banker, then she (or he) will often tell you what they need from you or your business to get you a business loan. Or she will tell you where your business needs to be and what it needs to do to qualify for a loan. If the first bank relationship does not pan out quickly, pursue another one while cultivating the first one. Make your business banker a key component of your networking strategy and your business will get its business loan.
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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Three (Generally) Free Online Accounting Software Applications

First, let me state that I am a huge fan of Quickbooks. Quickbooks is very easy to use as a small business with no or few employees. It is scalable to a larger business with 50 to 100 employees or more, depending on the complexity of the business' operations. There are a number of larger financial platforms that easily migrate from a Quickbooks platform. Most small and medium business CPAs are familiar with Quickbooks and can often access your data remotely. Quickbooks produces nice, easy-to read income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements - the three financial statements you need to review regularly to monitor your business and financial performance.

http://theresourcefulceo.hs-sites.com/business-financing-mistakes

 Last, but not least, Intuit -- and many online entities and community colleges -- offer Quickbooks tutorials. With that said, some entrepreneurs and owners of smaller companies or start-ups want an online solution that requires minimal effort on their part. So here are five free online applications I've either used or been made aware of.

Photo of FreshBooks' website
FreshBooks - FreshBooks is an online software application that is considered one of the best simple small business applications available. It focuses on making accounting as minimally intimidating as possible to encourage small business owners to track their business activities / accounting. According to the company website, FreshBooks now has over 5 million users. FreshBooks is easy to use from your computer, tablet or mobile phone (Android or iPhone).  Although FreshBooks started off as a free service for small entities, it now charges everyone. However, you can check it out for free - no credit card input required! - for 30 days.

Photo of Zoho Invoice site
Zoho Invoice - Another service is Zoho Invoice. Zoho offers a number of software applications aimed at small business owners, including a CRM service which I used for a company I previously owned. (I liked it.) Zoho Invoice uses a clean, well-designed template that includes a number of custom fields and data import options. Zoho Invoice is free for really small businesses, also known as micro businesses. If you need additional functionality, you'll need to choose from one of their very reasonable pricing plans.

Photo of Sage One site
Sage One - Sage One is the lower end accounting software application offered by Sage Software, a highly regarded accounting software provider that continues to gain in popularity among larger small businesses and medium-sized businesses. Sage acquired Billing Boss and revamped that offering to better serve the smaller small business customer.  While Billing Boss previously offered a free version with limited functionality, Sage One now offers a free 15 day trial. After that, you can choose one of their inexpensive pricing plans, starting as low as $9 per month.

These online accounting software applications have improved over time since I first became aware of them 2-5 years (or more) ago. So, although most no longer offer a free version, these online applications offer greater functionality, ease of use and ease of access at a highly affordable price. These applications are perfect for those small business owners who outsource to a bookkeeper once or twice a month to start with and grow. You get the accounting basics cheaply and simply. As you grow or increase your knowledge, you can move to the higher versions offering more functionality...or you can jump over to Quickbooks!
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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Budgets Critical to Running a Business

Annual budgeting are critical to running a business.
I wholeheartedly agree that budgets are critical to running a business. Budgets are part of the goal setting and planning process, which I'm a huge advocate of. If you do not know where you're going, how do you know when you've arrived? Related to that, as an entrepreneur or small business owner, if you do not map out a plan to get your company there (wherever there is) and track against that plan, how do know when and where to make adjustments or what actions to take?

Creating an annual budget helps you think strategically and consider all of your company's operations from a higher perspective. When crafting an annual budget, you must look at sales, marketing, employees, rent, maintenance, computer, travel, etc. and consider the financial impact on your business in advance. When else do you do this? The process of crafting your business' annual budget helps you determine what your profits will be and where they will come from. The process also helps you determine if there is sufficient business cash flow and, if not, whether some type of business financing would help your company accomplish its objectives.

The annual budget also helps you consider major expenses, called capital expenditures, in advance. Many companies pull money to pay for capital expenditures out of their regular business cash flow (aka operating cash flow) only to find they later have a cash flow shortage. When you consider any large capital expenses in advance, you can plan accordingly. You can obtain some type of business financing to pay for the expenditures. For example, to purchase $25,000 in computer software you could obtain a bank loan, enter into an installment payment plan or seek other alternative business financing sources.

In addition, all businesses must depreciate capital expenditures over the useful life of the item(s). So if you were counting on your company taking a tax deduction that year for all the money it spent, think again. You'll only be able to claim a portion of the funds spent -- the depreciated amount -- in the first year! This obviously adversely impacts your business' cash flow. If you'd mapped out an annual budget which included capital expenditures, you'd have realized this.

Tracking the budget then helps you to stay on course. Tracking also helps you to quickly see where expenses may be rising too fast or when revenues are taking off. These changes alert you to potential changes you may need to make in your business.
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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Young Businesses: Targeted Marketing and Cash Flow

I recently answered a question regarding increasing revenue and cash flow through marketing. I'm much more of a strategy, operations and finance person than a marketer. However, I fully understand the huge importance marketing plays in driving revenue. Marketing is an investment. Unfortunately, many small business owners (and medium business owners) target marketing for their first cuts when business drops. Not good! But if you don't understand how your marketing impacts your sales, this makes sense. I mean, if your marketing has no impact, then perhaps you should cut it because the expenditures are reducing your business' profits and cash flow.
You can proclaim you business from the mountaintops but you must choose the right mountaintop or noone will here you!

 You must engage in targeted marketing and you must track your marketing efforts. Your marketing is an investment meaning it should have a favorable impact on your business' cash flow. Set goals and track those goals. Do you want to drive traffic to your website, phone lines or physical location? What's your goal here? Do you want people to come in ready to convert to a sale? What's your goal here? You must then ask a bunch of questions to determine the best marketing strategy and tools for your company.

If prospective customers come to you through your website, ask: How did the prospect find my business' website? Was it through search engine optimization (SEO)/a Google or Yahoo!, site referrals, social media referrals, advertising, or what? You can use Google Analytics (free or premium accounts available) or a similar tool to determine where your traffic comes from. If people can purchase through your business' website, you must include a question during the order process asking them how they found your company.

A walking billboard can be effective - in a high traffic area.

Use the information you obtain from this analysis and insight to direct your online marketing,  advertising and public relations efforts. For example, if your customers found your business through other related sites, then contact those sites and see if they allow some form of advertising on their sites. If no advertising is allowed, perhaps you can do a guest post for them, if they have a blog or provide useful articles. If your customers or prospects found you through Google places, then advertise on Google places. In addition, list your business with all the online business directories including Yelp, Superpages, Yahoo!,etc.

If your customers and prospect found your small business through SEO, then check and refine your keywords, make sure that you have enough keywords on your pages and consider blogging, article writing, etc. Or consider hiring a reputable firm that specializes in SEO. Do you see how your customers find you help you determine where your time, money and efforts should go?

In addition, you should make it part of all your procedures to inquire how any customer or prospect that calls, emails or visits your business found you. Where does your target customer go or hang out? These are the places you need to target. Does your target customer read trade publications or the local business press? Does your target customer gather at different locations to talk or engage in an activity? Do they belong to groups? If they do, you must engage in targeted marketing by funneling your marketing dollars to those publications, locations or groups. 

Don't know where your customers are because you've never tracked it or your firm is too young to have much data? Identify your key competitors and track their customers. Or track what marketing and advertising they're doing and target your marketing accordingly. In addition, consider co-marketing with companies that serve your customer base but do not behave as direct competitors to you.

Just ask yourself, "Where is my customer? Where does my customer go, do, read, hang out? How do I reach him/her/it?" Then adjust your marketing accordingly. If you don't have a lot of information on this now, try a few different marketing efforts. Track the response rate. Test, measure, adjust. Test, measure, adjust. This is how you engage in targeted marketing and make the best use of you and your business' limited time and money. You'll soon see the positive impact this procedural approach makes on your business cash flow.
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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Attracting Angel Investors - From Elevator Pitch On Up

An elevator pitch is just that. It is the 30 second to 1 minute synopsis of your business from an investor's perspective that you give in person to someone  to pique their interest while riding on an elevator with him. Or while standing in line to get coffee. Or any other scenario when your time with the person is extremely limited. You must be succinct. An elevator pitch is brief, hard hitting and leaves the person wanting to know more. It is part of the process of raising capital.

On an elevator, you have an extremely limited timeframe to interest someone. Hence the term "elevator pitch!"


I'm giving this from the viewpoint of someone what has crafted investor materials for her business and others' businesses that have helped pull in investors. I've also been (and am) an angel investor and am an author who has written about raising capital and obtaining business financing.

http://theresourcefulceo.hs-sites.com/business-financing-mistakes

For your elevator pitch (and with any early engagement with a potential or prospective angel investor) you must be compelling. You must assume that I don't know you from Adam. Of course, if you knew the person he or she would probably give you much more than 30 seconds, right! If you are approaching people or sending materials out to people who are not friends, family or acquaintances, then the "don't know from Adam (or Eve) probably applies! You must think from the viewpoint of the person you are reaching out to. You can think your product is awesome but if you didn't know you and someone approached you out the blue, what would you need to hear from that person?

Say you're targeting me. You only know of me from reading this blog. Ask yourself, "What would convince Tiffany to talk to me about my business? What will investing in my business do for her? She wants to make money. If she wanted to donate, I'm sure she'd donate to the charity of her choice. So how will my business make her money?" As an angel investor, how your business will make me money is my number one concern.

Angel investors are investors who help your business in return for increasing their net worth, NOT savior donor.

You must hone in on the need in your marketplace that's being served poorly or not being served at all. What is your target market's pain points? What is the market's size? The bigger the market, the more compelling, i.e., the better. Is the market size $1 billion? $3 billion? Less? More? What percentage of that market do you think your business could capture? 3% of $1 billion is $30 million, which is a lot more than 5% of $100 million, or $5 million. Then you must be able to state exactly how you will serve that need faster, better, cheaper, or some other way that makes you stand out from your competitors.

Distill this down to 30  to 60 seconds (2-3 minutes at most) to arrive at your elevator pitch. If you are emailing out to others instead of actually speaking to them, then use this one -two paragraph "grab me" statement as your introduction and attach a 1-page summary of your business. This one-page summary sheet provides much more detail on what's in your pitch, yet it is still concise. Click on the link to see an investor summary sheet example. The one-page investor summary sheet provides detail in a much more concise form than an executive summary and is therefore a critical component of business financing / raising capital.

Consequently, an angel investor is much more likely to read a one-pager summary sheet from someone he doesn't know than he is to read an executive summary. This one-pager also helps potential angel investors quickly decide if they want to go further. Furthermore, many angel investors restrict their investments to certain industries or types of businesses that they feel the most comfortable with. However, if a potential angel investor thinks your business sounds interesting, the investor will forward the one-pager on to another investor he thinks your company would be a better fit for.

Once a potential investor expresses interest in learning more, you send him an executive summary.

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