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Financing your small business

Small business financing has certainly taken a hit over the last couple of years. With banks, credit unions and other lending institutions limiting access to credit, or raising the cost of credit altogether, small businesses have been left to pick up the pieces. Faced with declining revenues, decreased customer demand and a client base taking longer and longer to pay its invoices, securing business financing has quickly become a going concern for today’s small business owner. However, what options are there for small businesses unable to secure the working capital their business needs? Surprisingly, there are a couple of simple, straightforward and easy-to-use strategies that improve a company’s cash flow position and expand its options on business financing. It involves going outside conventional lending options and adopting a more proactive stance to managing the company’s finances. So, what can small businesses do to resolve the financing issues facing them today?

1. Use the Liquidity Within the Company’s Assets

A number of small businesses have started to pursue Asset-Based Lending (ABL) options where they can tap into the value and liquidity of their existing assets in order to finance their day to day operations. These options have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years in response to the unwillingness of banks and credit unions to extend affordable business credit. ABL financing works because it allows small businesses to use the liquidity within their assets to secure a working credit limit with a financing firm. These assets include the company’s inventory, warehouse & real-estate holdings, receivables, machinery & equipment and even miscellaneous items such as its office furniture and computer equipment. Now, the intention is not to leverage these assets so much that the small business finds itself in a weakened position. Instead, the purpose is to use avenues like account receivables factoring to improve cash flow by not having to finance customer’s business waiting for them to pay their invoices.

2. Aggressively Manage the Company’s Finances

Improving the company’s finances means to be open to pursue new avenues and strategies. Those customers the competition has ignored because of poor credit means small businesses can tap into a relatively quick and easy sale. In addition, customers with poor credit are always required to prepay, which improves a company’s cash holdings. Pursuing discounts for early payment is also an option with vendors and creditors and should be pursued at those times when the company’s cash position is strong. In essence, it’s about being aggressive with the company’s finances and securing the long-term savings so vital to the company’s operations.

ABL financing options have increased in popularity over the years and have become a mainstay in business financing for all companies, regardless of size. Today’s economic climate only exacerbates the financing issues small businesses face, which ultimately makes enacting those plans for growth extremely difficult. Small business owners must be willing to pursue different financing options and be willing to work with vendors & creditors to lower the company’s cost of money. It’s about being aggressive with the company’s finances by becoming more proactive, instead of reactive.

May 5, 2011   No Comments

Put on Your Best Gloves

Wearing all the hats seems to be the fashion trend of many new business owners who are running a one-person business operation. You are busy marketing to, meeting with, or supplying clients with your goods or services. Sometimes wearing all those hats can be like wearing a concrete block. Your neck is tired from carrying the heavy load of all those hats. There comes a time when you need to take off all of the hats and put on your best gloves.

You need to decide what your best gloves are. And, since you only have two hands, you can only choose one pair of gloves. Take a careful inventory of the many tasks that you are doing. Choose only two that you really enjoy doing and give away some of those hats.

For example, should you be spending valuable time putting stamps on promotional material when you could be personally handshaking community members at local business event? Is it really beneficial for you to be spending hours on a computer trying to design a website when someone who is more qualified can take care of that for you?
Do you really need to make all of the telephone calls personally?

Many self- employed business persons confess that because they are independent thinkers, they cannot conform to a fixed corporate structure. They are accustomed to wanting to manage everything and find it difficult to delegate. Sometimes these excellent independent business people hide behind the word “expense”. While using the cost of assistance as an excuse, the final result is failure due to wearing too many hats. A former President called that being “penny-wise and pound foolish.”

The challenge for the small business owner is to find which two gloves he or she is going to wear. Some people are very talented and can do many things. If you are one of those persons, then perhaps the task of finding the best two gloves will be a bit more difficult.
Providing yourself with a time line of when one pair of gloves will be worn and then put away may be a solution. Changing your tasks on seasonal basis can provide you with a different approach of doing a former task.

There are many places that can help you succeed with your business and are willing to share the hat wearing. The Internet provides lists of sources that can assist you with advice about insurance, laws, advertising, and grant money. Community groups such as your local SBA can also provide a great source of ideas as well as networking opportunities. Contacting your alderman’s office, community association, alumni associations and librarian have also been helpful places for the one-person operated businesses.

Just remember, put on your best gloves, and then knock them out with your best product or service!

May 1, 2011   No Comments

How Are Your Internet Ethics?

If you’re doing business on the Internet, you have a whole new world of ethics to deal with. That means legal issues, copyright concerns, pricing guidelines, and linking to questionable sites. There aren’t any clearcut “rules” for dealing with many of these issues, but there are plenty of pitfalls, especially when you start dealing with social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

One big no-no is violating copyright laws. Just because something is on the Internet doesn’t mean you have permission to use it on your website. Let’s say you’re selling something, and the manufacturer of the product has some great information and photos on their website you’d like to have on your site.

Are you allowed to copy it? Most probably the manufacturer will be happy for you to use it, but you can’t make that assumption. Legally and ethically, you need the manufacturer’s permission, so ask first.

Or perhaps someone has interviewed you and written about your business in an on-line or print publication. If it’s a favorable article or a really great photo, you might want to reprint it on your website.

Stop! In most cases, either the author or the publication holds the copyright, and violating that copyright can lead to really big fines. Get permission, in writing, before you copy anything to your website, even something that someone has written about you.

If you write about a product or service on your website, be sure you can back up what you say. Consumer protection laws are clear: although you can put a marketing spin on what you write, whatever you say must be the truth.

Let’s say you’re promoting a new cleaning product. You can say something like, “We have the best product for getting your carpet clean.” But you can’t make a claim such as, “Guaranteed to remove 100% of harmful bacteria,” unless, of course, you have scientific evidence to back that up.

That’s a bit of an extreme example, but you get the idea: some “puffery” is acceptable and even expected, but don’t make a measurable claim unless you can prove it.

What about criticizing a competitor or competing product? The situation here is pretty much the same as with making a claim about a product. You can’t write anything that’s disparaging or dishonest about your competition. However, you can compare and contrast products, websites, or businesses, as long as you’re fair about it. Here again, don’t say anything that’s unfounded or that you can’t prove, because that can get you into trouble.

The important legal and ethical concept here centers on the word “deception.” Both legally and ethically, deception is when you purposefully misrepresent something in order to cause damage to someone else. Get permission before you use anything someone else has written, and be honest about what you write, and you’ll stay out of any ethical or legal trouble. It’s all about doing and saying the right thing.

April 29, 2011   No Comments

Brief Guide on the Anatomy of a Successful Business

Every day, more and more businesses are realizing the power of the world wide web as a means to find more customers. Setting up a web site takes little time and money, and in some cases, you can be online in a matter of minutes. Despite this, taking your business still requires planning in order to maximize its marketing value. Here are some key components you must incorporate to your small business website.

1. The Lead Capture Page

As the name implies, the lead capture page is the place where you attract potential customers to buy into your business. Often, a lead capture page will include a short sales copy that provides a detail of what your business does and how it can help your customers. Also, and more importantly, it should include a sign-up form asking for the name and e-mail address of the potential client. The purpose of the sign up sheet is for you to update clients on the latest news, tips, and other pertinent information related to your business. In online marketing lingo, this is called E-mail marketing. Many consider E-mail marketing as a powerful tool for businesses because of its ability to maintain clientele relationships.

2. Blog

Any business with an online presence will need a blog, regardless if its hosted on the mother website or on a separate server (i.e. Blogger.com blogs). Like e-mail marketing, blogs help businesses establish and maintain ties with their clients. In addition, it is considered cost-effective because it allows businesses to cut their expenses on some things, such as customer service. Businesses can use blogs to answer common queries about their products and services without having to pay too much on customer service representatives. The ability of blogs to capture comments and suggestions provide businesses with a good idea of what their client base needs.

3. Social Media Widgets

With millions of people wired to social networking accounts, it is no surprise that social media has taken on such a powerful role in the online marketing strategy of many businesses. Social media builds communities and provides businesses with a loyal base of customers. Often, social networking sites will have ready-made html codes that you can copy and paste onto the code structure of your website.

4. Mobile-Friendly About Page and Contact Information

Improvements in the integration of Internet technology with mobile devices has resulted in the increased influence of cellular phones in driving the engines of E-commerce. As a small business owner, you can capitalize on this trend by creating mobile-friendly webpages. Forget the fancy pictures and the elaborate designs on your contact page. Just stick with the basics. All you need are a few simple information such as your business, a phone number, email, and address.

The components listed above are just the basics. If you can, get creative. The web is filled with all kinds of tool tools which you can use at your disposal to create a more powerful and personalized online presence for your business.

April 28, 2011   No Comments

A Frugal Night on the Town, Anywhere U.S.A.

Spring is here and many people start to get the itch to do something; anything, but the poor economy has every-ones wallets screaming for mercy. Taking a trip, going out to dinner, even seeing a movie seems out of reach. Adopting a frugal living lifestyle may be just the ticket, no pun intended. All you need is a little pre-planning and good resources to have a night on the town the frugal living way.

Frugal living does not mean you have to compromise. Merely look for more inventive ways to stretch your dollar. Livingsocial.com is part of a growing number of Internet sites that offer deals at local restaurants, bars, spas, theaters and even entertainment for the kids. Many restaurant deals offer a forty-dollar voucher for fifty percent off the retail. Once purchased the buyer will receive a link on the next business day. The voucher can then be printed.

Groupon.com is another popular site that promises huge discounts for their customers. The Groupon sites offer a daily deal, where each day the site sends you one deeply discounted deal for a local business. Of course there is a time and quantity limit when purchasing vouchers. Some online sites offer something called “share for a free deal” in which the buyer is allowed to share the deal with others after purchase. In many cases the frugal person comes out cost-free concerning the item. Groupon sites involve no signup fees. This makes them a valuable resource for frugal living. Keep track of your coupons by using CityPockets.com

If you are not such a great planner, never fear, you too can find help. Many towns have a dollar theater with prices as lows as 50% below what the large chain cinemas are charging. For the frugal living lifestyle this is a dream come true. These theaters often show the same new release movies as the higher priced cinemas, and with competing sound and picture quality. An average family of four can purchase tickets, drinks, and even spring for large popcorn, all for around twenty bucks. This price pared with discounted concessions is a real find for the frugal living consumer.

Another form of entrainment on the comeback is the drive-in theater. To locate a hometown option, try Driveinmovie.com. For the cost of one admission per car, the typical frugal living patron gets to enjoy two movies for the price of one. Patrons are even permitted to bring a picnic dinner complete with candles. By providing a romantic, if not nostalgic, under the sky view, drive-in theaters offer an alternative to the normal entrainment world.

Join us in the advancement of a frugal lifestyle. Share your unique ideas and tips on family, life, relationships, and money saving ways to build better memories. Tells us about your experience at the dollar theater or a half price visit to the spa or even a family night at the local drive-in theater.

April 26, 2011   No Comments

Small Business Sales Down 64% Due to High Gas Prices

DollarDays.com Survey Poll Shows Small Business Owners Already Have Decreased Revenues and Say It’s Getting Harder to Stay in Business

Phoenix, AZ — 18 April, 2011 –

More than 64 percent of small business owners polled say revenue is down as a result of increased gas prices and more than a quarter of those polled say they will have to lay off employees, according to a survey conducted on DollarDays.com.

DollarDays International, a subsidiary of American Suppliers, Inc. (AASL.PK) is a premier Internet-based product wholesaler to small businesses and local distributors. The poll was featured on www.DollarDays.com. The company frequently polls its customers about topical issues as it relates to small businesses.

According to the results, 64 percent says revenue has decreased as gas prices have increased and 58 percent say their customers are driving less which means fewer shopping excursions and they say they expect it to worsen with the upcoming summer months.

“Unfortunately, this is what we expected from this poll,” says Marc Joseph, president and CEO of DollarDays. “With the recession and increasing fuel and food prices, being a successful small business owner is incredibly tough.”

However, according to Joseph, as fuel prices increase so does online shopping. As a result, one of DollarDays’ programs is helping their customers to create robust online stores to supplement their neighborhood stores.

“The Internet is a life line for small business,” says Joseph. “Just because a small business has a website, it doesn’t mean it has a shopping function or the right products. We offer our clients a one-stop-shop for opening an online store including the technology, products and consultants to help in both online and neighborhood stores. We want small business to succeed and if people aren’t driving to them, it’s imperative for small businesses to reach customers another way.”

Joseph suggests that a recent report from Reis Inc., a real estate research company emphasizes the desperation small businesses face. According to the report strip malls and other neighborhood shopping centers, typically home to small businesses, have a higher vacancy rate when compared to malls. In fact, Reid predicts the vacancy rate is expected to top 11.1 percent later this year, up from 10.9 percent making it the highest level since 1990.

“Gas prices are expected to continue to rise and we’re headed in to the summer and hurricane months where prices typically increase so it’s no wonder there’s not much optimism. It’s a scary time.”

  • Survey results include: Only 10 percent of small business owners are offering financial supplements to help their employees as a result of increased gas prices;
  • 57 percent of small business owners expect a decrease in tourism over the next three months; while 26 percent don’t expect a change and 15 percent expect an increase;
  • 67 percent of small business owners have changed their personal travel plans as a result of higher gas prices.

Joseph says online stores are a great way for small businesses to expand sales beyond their neighborhood and at this point he says, “the only loss is in not trying.”

About DollarDays International, LLC
DollarDays International is a Web-based virtual warehouse, where small business owners and charities can find great deals on small business-sized orders for more than 30,000 consumer products, from toys and household décor to wholesale clothing, electronics and seasonal merchandise. Due to its innovative business model, DollarDays prices are not only often far below those which most small business are accustomed to, but the offerings include many name-brand products as well as rock-bottom pricing on overstocked and closeout items. DollarDays International helps its customers to select those items, both seasonal and everyday, which sell quickly to promote both a higher inventory turn and better margins. In 2006, DollarDays made its debut at number 158 on Inc. Magazine 500 list of fastest growing private companies and recently was named one-of-50 second-stage Arizona “Companies to Watch” by the Arizona Small Business Association. DollarDays’ prices are among the lowest available to small businesses. Membership is free and any small business is eligible to shop at www.dollardays.com.

April 18, 2011   No Comments

Marketing your small business utilizing social media

Social media is now one of the primary platforms to get the word out about your business. Most social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter are free to set up and the target marketing campaign through Facebook is rather inexpensive. This is a great way to test your marketing message and get your marketing campaign rolling.

Often, small businesses are face with challenges in adequately marketing their business. We are inundated with information and distractions from our various media devices. We live in the days of spam and useless information so people crave valuable content. By educating people about your industry, rather than having a direct advertising angle, you will be set apart from the rest. If you blog, tweet and share information about topics relevant to your industry, you can attract viewers to your web page and establish credibility in your market.

Whether you are selling candles or computer applications, you more than likely have a great deal of information and expertise that can be shared with potential clients and customers. You can author how-to articles or create educational videos about your products or services and market them online. Keep in mind that each and every bit of content that you create and post online has the potential to create awareness about your brand and drive search engine results and traffic to your site at an unbelievably low cost, if any cost at all.

Sites like You Tube are often overlooked by small business owners. In reality, You Tube is an excellent platform for creating high impact content at a low cost. Typically the only investment that may be required is that of a quality camera and editing software. With proper preparation and time to learn the basics of video creation and editing, you can create a video that could lead to big time exposure.

Social media has changed the medium and message for small business owners. Years ago, the most common form of advertising a small business was print advertising. Unfortunately, this form of advertising is also costly. Unfortunately, many small businesses failed because they were unable to afford to get their message to their market. Now, you are able to not only get your message out, but can also use social media to maintain control of your company’s image. The key to getting the word out about your business is by cultivating super users and targeting your market. Super users are individuals who are already fans of your brand or product and are interested in sharing their positive beliefs on the web. It is possible, on Facebook to create a fan page, where you can attract potential super users. From your Facebook fan page, you can provide valuable information about your business and also add in a call to action to prompt all those interested to contact you or view your page for further instruction and information.

Before jumping into the social media scene, you must be sure you have an effective website for your business. Your website should describe your product or service. Once your website is complete, you will need to attract as much traffic as possible. In addition to sites like Facebook, Twitter and You Tube, you should also consider setting up a blog. Small business owners who blog have realized they can attract a new audience by writing in a style that exposes the human side of their business. Pod-casting is also new and simple technology that will help you build credibility and awareness of your brand. For some, a voice, rather than target words can convey the personality they need to become interested in your business.

As you can see, there are unlimited methods that can be used to market your small business. They key to success is having a well thought out marketing plan where your target market has been clearly identified. Once you have identified your market, you can use the many forms of social media to inexpensively and effectively build your business and obtain success you never imagined possible.

April 13, 2011   1 Comment

Interview with a Retail King

Marc Joseph is the CEO of Dollar Days, the largest business to business retail site on the Internet. And…Marc is one of our coveted Skill Experts!

Recently, Marc carved some time out for me and we talked for 45 minutes about the strategies that have made him a successful entrepreneur and retail marketer. It always amazes me how many of the core marketing strategies are not-industry specific.

In other words, the successful strategies that made Dollar Days and Marc Joseph so successful are much the same that have been responsible for my success, and scores of other legendary marketers that I know.

So sit back, get your notebook out and get ready to soak up all Marc has to learn!

Marc Joseph Interview

April 12, 2011   1 Comment

How to Live Luxuriously On a Budget

Just because you’ve decided to live frugally doesn’t mean you have to give up all of the luxuries you enjoy. Daily coffee runs, eating out, beauty salon visits, and watching movies are still within your budget as long as you follow these simple tips:

Change Your Coffee Order
Anyone who is watching what they spend is probably aware of how costly that daily stop at the coffee shop can be. A convenient, tasty, warm and cozy treat; coffee can be a difficult habit to give up. Swapping out what you’re ordering for much cheaper versions will pleasantly surprise your taste buds and your wallet. For instance, if you love Lattes, try a plain cup of coffee but request cream. Better yet, request they leave room for cream and doctor it up yourself to the consistency you like. Many coffee shops also provide flavored creams, sugars, and spices that you can add in to your cup free of charge. For a third of the price you’ll enjoy a hot brew that is equally delicious.

Dine With Discounts
Thanks to the Internet, finding coupons, discounts, and free meals is easier than ever. Many restaurant chains provide coupons or free meals when you sign up for their newsletter or provide your contact information. Simply check your email and you’ll be amazed to discover free entrée, appetizer, dessert, or drink coupons that you can print out and take on your next visit. Online discount sites, such as Groupon or Restaurant.com, are another incredible way to save money. These sites offer deeply discounted products that are similar to gift-certificates with some restrictions. Once purchased online, these can be printed out and taken to the restaurant and redeemed like a gift-certificate.

Pamper Yourself Frugally
Skipping hair appointments and forgoing manicures and pedicures may be easy for some, but for many people it’s a necessity. For those people, it’s reasonable to come up with cheaper alternatives, including going to a local beauty school for salon services. Costing about half the price of a normal salon, beauty schools offer an array of services. Trained students are supervised by educated professionals as they work, providing a safe and relaxing experience. If you still prefer going to a salon, many nail technicians, cosmetologists or hair stylists publish coupons online or in local papers and partake in Groupon deals as well.

Watching Movies the Cheap Way
Major movie theater chains are known for their ridiculously high prices but there are second-run movie theaters that can be found all over. Showing movies that have usually been out for longer or have a smaller crowd following, these theaters are able to charge much less at the box office and the concession stand. Even if your area does not have these cheaper theaters, it’s still possible to save money at the larger chains by going to a matinee showing and simply passing on the concession stand food and snacking before or after the show elsewhere.

April 11, 2011   1 Comment

Mobile Apps for Everyone

I’ve just spent thousands on my website, and now I need a mobile app? Small business owners once balked at the costs and necessity of developing a branded mobile application. Smartphones and mobile commerce pace the digital parade. And, until recently, bootstrappers weren’t invited to the party. The explosion of mobile apps have driven developers to level the playing field with an affordable solution – in some cases, free.

A simple strategy and a nominal investment can extend any business into the hands of today’s educated and discriminating buyer. Ideating, building, and growing an app is not cost prohibitive. And just like your website, mobile apps will soon become an integral part of all digital marketing plans.

Pick a Platform

Two options exist: open the vault and hire a developer, or side step sunk costs by using a shared platform. Your business can invest heavily – up to $100K – in original programming and support from a custom shop, or choose a “do-it-yourself” application, with less functionality, from a myriad of online software programs. Plan B’s speed-to-market and enormous cost savings gentrify the decision.

Simple programs requiring no coding experience reduce start-up costs and development windows. Scan the market and align your app needs with a worthy software partner. Some are free, while others charge a monthly fee. This do-it-yourself avenue represents a strategic approach for testing the mobile market, with minimal investment.

Find Your Functions

The best mobile apps adopt a “less is more” strategy. Focus on two key functions core to your business and maximize their impact. A simple, elegant interface screams “user-friendly” and is more likely to be adopted. Formulate and strategize your mobile app like a new product launch.

Canvass your customers and uncover pressing needs, wants, and desires for engaging you outside the office. Sketch a plan around your products, people, and vision, broadcasting your story to a wider audience. Isolate a customer service pain and fix it with a function. Then, strike a balance between fun and utility and you’ve got a stealthy marketing tool.

Techie Talk

This new model – easy and affordable – also packs a punch. Browser-based programs transfer web content and social media feeds, driving your message directly to the source, the smartphone. Some offer interactive media platforms capable of audio, video, and motion graphics. Mobile ad integration allows small business to quickly monetize their app. Pick your functions and OS options and then launch your app. Development is measured in hours, not months.

Three distinct OS platforms battle for supremacy: Apple, Android, and Blackberry. Apple pioneered the app world and gate-jumped the competition. Android, Google’s contribution, has swiftly closed the gap, using its industry leading smartphone to ignite mobile app sales and downloads. Blackberry’s RIM OS is losing the race, but not backing down. If possible, get your new app approved by all three.

Mobile apps are like a virtual street team, finding new customers, nurturing existing ones, and evangelizing your brand. Now you can afford one.

April 8, 2011   No Comments