Five Small Business Finance Tips

Owning a small business involves much more than coming up with and implementing a business idea. Small business owners quickly learn that a huge part of their role as the owner of a business means learning how to take care of the financials. Here are several tips for small business owners who want to learn the best practices for managing their business’ finances:

1) Bookkeeping

To the dismay of many business owners, the ancient art of bookkeeping isn’t going anywhere. Fortunately, bookkeeping has become much easier. Bookkeeping programs can make the process much easier, but there are still certain fundamental rules that business owners must take into account. Firstly, business owners must always keep a record of all of the invoices processed by their business as well as the expenses they have incurred, such as raw materials, salaries, and operating expenses. While there is no solid rule for how to keep track of earnings and expenses, what matters most is that you keep track of your finances in a consistent fashion and that everything is written down. This is arguably the most important part of owning a small business.

2) Don’t Over-Exaggerate Your Earnings

When working with investors, banks, or other financial lenders, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to exaggerate your business’ earnings. These lenders need to know how likely you are to repay the money they have lent you when making their decision about whether or not to lend it in the first place. Lying or exaggerating about your earnings will only harm you and the lender in the long run.

3) Make Sure All Of Your Funding is Backed by a Legal Contract

Regardless of where you are going to receive funding, you need to ensure that the terms of your financial agreements are written down on a contract. Unfortunately, things can become troublesome during the repayment process and it is therefore urgent that you and your lender lay out terms in the beginning that you must adhere to later on. This keeps both sides accountable and also ensures that both sides know exactly what they are getting into before the money starts circulating.

4) Cash Flow

A successful small business always maintains a sufficient amount of cash on hand to take care of daily operations and unexpected expenses. However, many businesses that have been successful in receiving funding find that the money they are lent covers already-existing expenses but doesn’t quite leave enough cash left over to keep on hand. This is why small business owners are familiar with the feeling of being stuck somewhere between outstanding invoices and bills that are past-due. One option for small business owners is to use a merchant cash advance. These types of business cash advances can provide small businesses with additional cash flow to meet these expenses or to grow their business, and they are repaid through future credit card receivables. This is an important option to consider for many small business owners who have been denied other forms of funding.

5) When to Process Credit Cards

The short answer: Now! Being cash-only is extremely inconvenient for most customers. While setting up a credit card processing system can be costly, your customers may find it more convenient to go to your competitor’s business once they learn that your business doesn’t process credit cards. Furthermore, using credit cards at your business functions as an instant line of credit and means less hassle and paperwork for your business. This can cut down on lengthy credit approval processes. Also, there are additional types of funding available for businesses who process credit card transactions as opposed to those who don’t.

Small Business Ideas For Women – Some Most Affordable and Practical Ideas

Women nowadays face what we all agree is a constellation of problems. And as such are in dire need of incentives which could help them attain a platform for making daily revenue to support their lives. What women need are small business ideas for them. These ideas generally mean some incentives which will be easy and viable to maneuver. Most important is how possible is it to start up the business idea.

Small business ideas for women include:

Merchandising and other practices like counseling small children
Baby sitting and even cooking
Hair salons
Mail delivery
Bills paying bureau

By investing small amount of $200 one can turn this into a profit by engaging in a baby sitting class program. I have seen so many of my neighbors start up schools after starting small through such an incentive. Neighbors who face a challenge in their day t day lives like tight work schedules need their children to be in safe hands. This could provide a great platform for establishing a tiny school for the business owner.

The best smart incentives for women would be in the service industry since there are no stocks required. All what is required is consultancy space to offer these services. This is where you need just a few dollars to go into a start-up successfully. These form the best platforms for small business ideas for women. The aspect of what the woman deems as her most valuable skill and what she feels it’s her passion will be quite well implemented through such an incentive.

15 Ways To Find The Next Winning Business Idea

In the last post I talked about what makes a great, profitable idea: for you. Now let’s talk about how to actually find that idea. I’ll also follow this up with how to get inspiration for your ideas. Even if you don’t have a creative bone in your body, that’s fine-read on.

1. Take an existing business model and introduce it in a new location or industry. Instead of coming up with a brand new idea, why not take something that already works and implement it somewhere else? One American entrepreneur I talked to recently introduced the “agency” method of finding and managing professional baseball players to Japan. Before him, a large barrier separated talented players and professional ball clubs. Without inventing anything new, he took a successful business model and implemented it in Japan.

2. Take an existing idea to a related market. Likewise, you can take something that works in one market and introduce it to another.

3. Make an improvement to an existing product. You’re a consumer and have the opportunity to try all sorts of new products. See if you can make them better for yourself or others. Often a good resource for this is looking at customer reviews on such sites as Amazon.com. A useful tip: often times, simply making a better product is not the answer-try to see if you can make a cheaper product with less features to satisfy demand from a customer base that isn’t willing to spend as much and doesn’t need a top quality product (big companies often overlook this area). Read The Innovator’s Dilemma for more detail on this topic.

4. Create a brand new solution to a pain point in an industry. People love to complain. Go to forum boards in your business area of interest, read blog comments, and peruse Amazon.com product reviews. Listen to what people hate and develop a solution to their problems.

5. Pay attention to new trends. Don’t try to create something really cool that no one cares about. Go to where the buzz is and you’ll likely land more customers and investors. “Green technology,” “social networking,” “cloud computing…”- these are the areas that are growing the fastest and the companies within these industries need new solutions to their problems as they grow- just pay attention.

6. Figure out what the government is throwing money at. Governments (at least in the U.S. and Europe) are notorious for throwing away money at concepts they deem important but have no clue about (“climate change mitigation, anyone?”). All it takes is reading the newspaper to find out what kind of hot issues are prevailing so that you can find your niche.

7. Take something existing and put your own spin on it. What does Southwest Airlines do that U.S. Airways can’t? Nothing. If it weren’t for slight differences in service, airlines would be as similar and commoditized as coal. But Southwest chose to brand themselves as an airline that cared about customers, could make their lives less stressful by targeting less congested airports, and allowed them to choose their own seats. If they didn’t do this, they would be competing on price alone, and as a small entrant, they would get smashed by the big airlines.

8. Find out how to do something cheaper. If you can convince a CEO that her company’s spending $X thousand per month on a certain service but you can do the same thing for 50% of that with the same level of quality or better, you’ve got a business.

9. Talk to professors and read academic research on hot topics. Academics are infamous for coming up with brilliant ideas without recognizing or having the time to implement them into practical solutions. Visit some labs and interview some experts on an area of interest to you. Universities are often more than happy to supply you with the people you need to make the business happen (lawyers, VCs, experts).

10. Hobbies and passions. Need I say more? If you enjoy something enough, you probably know exactly what fellow hobbyists want.

11. Buy a business in an area of your expertise/passions. If you want to be in business but can’t come up with an idea, why not acquire an existing business in your area of expertise? You would presumably invest in something that is already proven and generating a cash flow. This offers a few benefits: it teaches you quickly how to operate one (although I would recommend having an industry mentor along the way) and it’s easier to finance because lending banks feel secure that it’s already proven.

12. Find untapped distribution networks. Distribution networks are ways for a company to get its products to its customers. A restaurant, for example, is a way for a wine company to distribute its bottles to paying customers. If you find distribution networks that may be good avenues for a product, however the product isn’t there, you may have found an opportunity to distribute a similar product, especially if demand is high.

13. Identify lazy incumbents. Incumbents are large companies that have sustaining, rather than accelerated growth in a market. Although they seem to set up insurmountable barriers to entry, their large size makes them inflexible and often lazy. They may forgo many new technologies, ignore customers, sacrifice quality, or be slow to capture social and fashion trends. If you can catch on faster and satisfy your customers’ hunger, you win.

14. Identify an existing idea/business that could use better branding, content, or service. It’s a sad thing that many great ideas die because people don’t like them or simply don’t get the opportunity to see them. If your talent is in branding products and making them more attractive, undervalued opportunities abound.

15. Add value to a process. A furniture manufacturer could use the help of a sawmill to take the chopped wood from lumberjacks and turn it into chairs and tables. Sure it could grow and cut its own trees and save money, but they may be better off paying a slight premium for the wood from the sawmill so that it can focus on what it does best-making furniture. Think about ways that you can add value in an industry’s value chain.

Inspiration for your idea

So these are some initial types of ideas, but you may want to brainstorm and drill down to what’s right for you. For that you’re going to need to be in the right state-one that gets you inspired and feeling creative. When are you at your most creative state? I want you to think about what type of setting you need to be in to have positive thought. Is it having water run down your back in a shower? Or are you like me and need the rumbling white-noise in a transatlantic flight to free your mind? Here are some more things/environments that may motivate you and allow the free flow of ideas: reading business books or autobiographies of successful entrepreneurs, brainstorming with other MBAs or entrepreneurs, attending conferences/seminars, taking baths, skiing, driving, free writing, drawing…and the list goes on. Good luck and get inspired!

Business Casual Outfits – 5 Business Casual Ideas That Work

Are finding business casual outfits causing you to tear your hair out in the morning? Do you stand in your closet, looking for business casual ideas?

Business casual is the merging of two types of attire – business dress and casual clothing. The challenge is that when people try to combine these styles, the clothing choices are almost limitless.

So how can you put together business casual outfits that make you look good? Here are 5 tips for success.

1. Don’t think that anything goes. The biggest mistake in creating a business casual wardrobe is to think that you can just throw on anything you like. That may work for a few days. But you’ll soon find that you are running out of things to wear.

2. Plan your wardrobe. You have to plan your business casual wardrobe in the same way you plan a business formal wardrobe. You have to think about your needs, your body shape and personality, and your work environment. Then you have to shop carefully to put together a wardrobe that won’t cause you grief every morning as you wonder what to wear.

3. Capsule Wardrobe: The best way to do this is to create a capsule wardrobe based on a neutral pallet of navy, grey or black. Put together a few basic such as a jacket and pants or skirt that fit you well. Now you are all set to add color and accessories to suit your work style. This way you always have something to wear, and you’ll know that all the parts of your outfits work well together.

4. Keep a separate wardrobe. Don’t mix your weekend wear with your business casual wear. You’ll end up wearing clothes that you wore to walk your dog or buy groceries on the weekend. Then if you don’t have time to clean and press them, you’ll look less than polished and professional at work.

5. Keep your outfits simple. Pair a crisp shirt or blouse, or a nice sweater, with pants or a skirt that fit you well, in a neutral color. Add some accessories, such as a good watch, classic necklace or earring for women, a good leather briefcase or handbag, and you’re set for the workplace.