Best Resources for Small Businesses

Being a successful small business is not easy. The five core challenges most small business face are time management, pricing, cash flow, managing growth and marketing / client acquisition. In order to succeed, you must arm yourself against these challenges. The good news is that there are a number of fabulous resources to help you with these issues.

Actively seek out the right small business information.
Many small business owners are so over-extended that they neglect staying informed about business trends. This is a fatal error. In today’s modern marketplace, you simply cannot succeed if you run your business on intuition alone. You may stay afloat in the short run, but you will eventually lose out to better informed competitors.

There are a number of incredible online resources that are both free and invaluable. Sites like Inc.com and Entrepreneur.com provide tips on just about everything from starting your business to navigating advanced legal issues. They feature in depth information on running your business, leadership / management techniques, sales & marketing tips, small business technology and finances.

Helpful Tip: Set aside at least 1 hour each week to review these sites. If you find that you prefer to read in bed, consider subscribing to a few of these magazines. This information will make you and your business stronger.

Know your industry and target market in real time.
In our modern age, trends shift at break-neck speed. It is important to stay abreast of developments in both your industry and your target market’s microcosm. After all, more often than not, what concerned your target market 3 months ago is now ancient history.

Subscribe to industry related publications and consume the same media as your target market. If you sell jewelry for eco-friendly women in their thirties and forties, spend an hour each week reading news and publications that are relevant to that market. Likewise, be sure to check industry news every week. For example, using the same eco-friendly jewelry analogy, you might read up on green product developments, new fashion trends or even ecological political issues.

Helpful Tip: Set two separate Google Alerts – one on your industry and one for your target market – to send you period updates on relevant news. Google will send these news stories to you automatically, making it easy to skim over the headlines and read through the meaningful stories.

Find the right on-line partnerships.
The proliferation of online office supply stores makes economically and efficiently stocking your office a lot easier than it was 10 years ago. Buying office supplies online takes less time and makes price comparison easy. Because of online competition, online suppliers are eager to earn your business. The good ones will provide a wealth of free information on their site and happily take your calls to field questions and offer advice. For example, if you are looking for discounted printer ink cartridges but are a little confused about toner versus regular stores like compandsave not only provide free yet invaluable printer cartridge information resource center but they also eagerly accept calls and offer advice on how to save on office supplies.

Helpful Tip: When you find a supplier with great prices and customer service, hold onto them for the long-haul. A good supplier relationship can save you thousands, streamline your operations and free up your time so you can focus on growing your business.

Bank on It – Why Having a Business Bank Account is Essential

There are many reasons why a new business owner may forgo opening a business bank account and struggle on using their own personal account for their business transactions. Sometimes they simply run out of time, having focused on everything else and forgotten to open a business bank account, they suddenly realise that it cannot be done instantly and so opt to carry on using their personal account. Other times it is through lack of conviction, fear of business failure leads them to bulk at putting the business finances into black and white. Most often, though, it is in the mistaken belief that it will save them a little money if they do not have to fork out for business banking fees.

Not paying to have a separate business account can often prove something of a false economy, as, for the small amount that most business accounts might cost, a business can gain so much more than just a bank account.

The way that customers and other businesses with which you do business view you is very valuable; image is everything in business and having your business transactions move through a personal rather than a business account smacks of small time; your business is far less likely to be taken seriously and plenty of customers will be put-off by the impression of paucity it creates.

Trying to do business accounts when using the same account for personal and business finances has the potential for absolute disaster; even allowing for not making any important fiscal errors, the sheer time consuming nature of fussing around separating everything out will be very trying for most new business owners.

Make no mistake, HMRC will be watching you; there will of course be times when you will have to have contact with them, provide them with information etc. and other times when they will just be watching. Mixing personal and business bank accounts may cause them to look a little harder at you and your business, as it makes financial transparency more difficult to demonstrate at a glance. If the Tax Man wants to see that you are declaring everything you should, having to fight through hundreds of domestic transactions to locate those of the business will not endear you to them.

Business accounts can provide your business with more than just banking facilities; many banks will throw-in added extras, such as accounting software, deals on insurance and even offer the actual banking services free for the first year or more of business. They are also a great source of financial advice for the new business owner.

So, rather than viewing a business bank account as an extra overhead on your new business, perhaps you could look at it in terms of what it can provide in benefits for your venture. If a business bank account can help your business profile or simplify its record keeping maybe it is worth the effort of setting it up, if it can also help the authorities to look favourably on you and throw-in a bit of guidance and some cheap insurance to boot, well then maybe it becomes an essential to add to your list.

Tips on Setting Up Your Small Business Bank Account

One of the first things you will need to set up is a bank account. We recommend a large bank because:

They have locations everywhere

They have longer hours

They will probably buy out your local community bank anyway

If you are an owner/operator of a small business, you will appreciate having a Debit or ATM card for your business. They also have easy to read statements for merchant accounts, little or low fee checking accounts, locations in the grocery store, weekend banking, business credit cards (VISA or MC), small business loans, auto loans and leases, etc. If you run a lot of locations and are expanding your business you might even ask the local manager to fax you weekly confirmation of daily deposits made during the week.

When opening an account always ask about checking account fees, primarily deposits per check charges. Try to have these reduced or eliminated. If you wish to shop banks and fees, don’t forget to shop service. We recommend these ten tips when selecting a bank.

Make an honest list of the services you want and those services you really need and then interview banks to see which services they provide on your ‘shopping list’. Be careful at big banks. Ask for the branch manager and not the new accounts sales girl. Chances are she’s just out of college and doesn’t even understand real world banking relations or hand-shaking deals at the Rotary Club or golf course. She’ll be too ‘By-The-Book’ to answer any real questions.

Start seeking referrals from long standing community and business leaders. Perhaps a local CPA, home based business consultant or small business owner. Make sure you get advice from people you respect.

Geography is important, but it should not in all cases be the deciding factor. You should start with nearby banks.

Visit the bank. Are there long teller lines? Is the staff courteous? Do they smile, etc.?

Sit down with a bank officer and don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions: Do you really want our small company’s business? Are you interested in long-term relationships? Will I be able to work with a certain specific person on a continuing basis? Will you treat me like a number? What is your turn around time on loan applications? How many layers of management are there until I get to the president? What’s his or her name? Have you ever met them? May I?

Make clear exactly what you want and need from a banking relationship. Will you be looking for a loan soon? Like any other relationship, communication is the key to a good banking relationship.

Don’t fall for flashy ads that promise you stuff and they forget your name next week. You might even come back the next day and ask “Do you remember my name? If they don’t, smile and walk out.

Try not to be misled by free toasters or mouse pads if you open an account. These free items won’t help your car wash business thrive, but a good banking relationship can.

Remember, that a bank’s service is gauged by the service it provides, not it’s brochures, gimmicks, signage or billboard ads.

Evaluate the relationship when you have been with a new bank for six months. Honestly evaluate how things are going and share your conclusions with your banker. The best banking relationship is one where both parties are open and forthright and where issues can be discussed that will lead to a long-term mutually beneficial partnership for the expansion and betterment of your car wash franchise.

Check Ordering For Business Account

Why does ordering checks and replacement checks cost so much?

Because banks make a profit on the checks you order. For a little less than one-half the cost you can order your own checks and eliminate the middleman – that’s the bank. Call:

Current Check 1-800-426-0822;

Checks In The Mail 1-800-733-4443;

Deluxe Checks 1-800-4DELUXE

All three firms guarantee that their checks meet industry standards. We’ve ordered from all three. Deluxe is faster if you’re out of checks, but still have money left. They do cost an average of $4.00 more per box.

Interest Bearing Accounts

If you choose an interest bearing checking account, be sure to take a close look at the other associated fees. It may say it’s a free account with no fees and that it’s interest bearing, but if you fall below a pre-determined balance you may pay exorbitant fees or if you have high activity such as lots of checks written or deposited, you may be charged a fee anyway. If it’s a per check fee it will undoubtedly be higher than a normal basic account.

You should not pay fees on a business savings account if fees are charged for your checking account you may seriously want to consider switching banks.

Choosing a good bank for your small business is very important, please take this initial step in your business seriously, you’ll be glad you did.

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