Small Business Should Invest in Big Data and Analytics

Data

Big data refers to huge volumes of structured and unstructured information; however, processing such massive volumes of facts via traditional information management tools is inefficient and impossible. To understand big figures you have to realize the devices that are collecting it today e.g. bar code scanners, mobile cameras, CCTV cameras, motion sensors, smoke alarms, web analytical tools, CRMs, etc. From the examples, you can see that these devices collect a vast array of data types hence the structured and unstructured part in the definition. The sheer velocity at which the data is being produced cannot be controlled and processed using traditional methods and tools.

However, the use of big information and incorporation of big data analytical technology gives businesses the competitive edge over their competitors.

Big Data and Small Businesses

It is only a thing of the past when terms like big information and business intelligence were associated with large enterprises only. Today, small businesses have to leverage the facts they are collecting in order to remain a part of the competition. For years, cost has remained the main reason why small businesses did not adopt big data analytical technologies, but this has changed now. There are budget-friendly tools available for small businesses to take advantage of the data they are collecting today. According to some experts, small businesses can take better advantage of big information since they are able to make the necessary changes far more quickly than large enterprises i.e. real-time response to insights from available data.

According to an IDG study in 2016, 78% of the large enterprises agree that big data strategy has the power to change how businesses have always operated. This shows the acceptance of big data technology and strategies for large enterprises and strengthens the fact that small businesses could become irrelevant if they did not adopt the same strategies.

Benefits of Big Data Analytics

Big Data and Big Companies, a report by IIA Director of Research, Tom Davenport, reveals that businesses are benefitting greatly from big data analytics especially in improving their products, making business decisions faster and reducing costs. Here are some ways small businesses can benefit from big information.

·         Cost Savings

The upfront cost of implementing big information tools and strategies is high undoubtedly, but the long term benefits of doing so are matchless. The healthcare industry is a great example of how the use of big data can help businesses reduce their costs regardless of their size. Using predictive analytics, Medicare and Medicaid Services forestalled more than $210 million fraud in healthcare with just 2 years of utilizing the aforementioned technology.

In addition to preventing frauds, small businesses can also reduce their costs by steering clear of creating more inventory than needed, including better partners in the supply chain, etc.

·         Improved Decision Making

This is the biggest benefit of big data. It allows businesses to expedite decision making by processing the data fast and giving insights in timely manner. In the past, business decisions were reserved for future strategies in the light of available data and the trends that were observed in it. The amount of data that businesses are sitting on today is huge and thus more powerful insights are to be gained from it. This vast amount of information requires the use of modern big data hardware technologies. Once both the things are in place for a business, they can understand customers better, create products that are a closer reflection of what customers want and develop a brand based on most reverenced values.

·         Impenetrable Security

Businesses are more focused today on using big details to improve their core capabilities, but less attended to a more serious concerns i.e. cyber threats and security breaches. Almost every small, medium and large business is connected to the internet today. Moreover, the Internet of Things has broadened the attackable security surface for businesses making it easier for cyber criminals to attack networks and penetrate company databases.

The biggest concern for modern businesses is that they have to “respond” to cyber attacks that have already occurred rather than being able to prevent them from occurring. The use of big information and big data analytical tools can be a game changer in this area allowing businesses to prevent any security attacks way before they are executed.

Key Technologies Helping Businesses Make the Best of Big Data

As a small business, you will have to familiarize with various technologies that help you store, analyze and take action on big data. Here are some important ones:

·         Hadoop

It’s a framework supporting the storing of large amounts of information using an open-source approach. Once information is stored, Hadoop enables the use of a variety of applications using “clustered hardware” at its base. Due to the cluster of commodity hardware, it becomes possible and easy for businesses to process big data despite its increasing volume.

·         Data Mining

This is the technology that enables business owners to capture insights, patterns and trends from big information that otherwise cannot be obtained with a traditional approach. Data mining is what allows you to jump in a large sea of structured and unstructured data, make sense of it all and produce analytical insights that help businesses with real-time and future decisions.

·         Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics walk side by side with data mining. Artificial is at the heart of predictive analytics, enabling business owners to adjust their present strategies by giving predictions about what will transpire for the business based on existing details.

·         Text Analysis and Mining

One huge concern for modern business is to analyze the noise on various web platforms such as forums, blogs, social networks, etc. to understand what customers expect from a particular brand. Finding out about brand mentions and understanding customer’s impression of your brand can help you readjust your marketing approach to gain customer loyalty. Text mining helps small to large sized businesses go through text data from emails, blog posts, social networks, etc. and hear customers “voice”.

With the rise of smartphones, artificial intelligence and IoT (internet of things) it has become clearly visible that businesses will now have to handle mountains and mountains of data, and make use of big data analytical and processing technologies to have the competitive edge.

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Why the End of the Year Is the Perfect Time to Review Your Finances

Review

Whether you have a startup, a small business, or a large enterprise, chances are the year has passed at the speed of light for you. You were review and designing your marketing campaigns, availing growth opportunities, and looking through reports when the year-end arrived. While people dedicate this time of the year to holiday delights and festivities, this also happens to be the perfect time to do a review of your finances, whether you are just an individual with a 9 to 5 job or a small business.

Why should you spend your end of the year for a financial review? Here are the top reasons.

A Strong Visual of Your Financial Standing

The most important thing about a year-end financial review is that it gives you a complete visual of where your business is standing at the moment. Everything that has happened throughout the year is now on the reports before your eyes. You can look at the information and see what has performed and what has not performed. You must have put a lot of money into marketing your products, services, and the brand as a whole. You can now see which of those campaigns have yielded promising results and which of them have proved to be futile.

The same goes for your account receivables. Compare your account receivables with those from the previous years and see if there has been an increase or decrease. If there is an abnormal increase, it is a telltale sign that you might need to change your payment plan or push more to receive your pending payments faster. Every activity you have done in the past year has painted a picture now in front of you. Whether you grew as a business, stagnated, or receded is evident at the end of the year.

The Best Time to Set New Goals

Based on how you performed in the preceding year and whether you have achieved your set targets and goals, you can set goals for the coming year. Your previous year’s performance should clarify how you have to put your marks for the coming year. Keep them realistic yet motivating and challenging enough to leave room for hard work, struggle, and progress. Not only should you be looking at how successful you were in achieving the previous year’s goals, but you should also pay attention to your current financial standing.

Best Time to Apply for Loans and Credit Processing Services

Regardless of how long you have been in business, when you apply for certain services, the service providers look at your previous year’s performance. For example, let’s say that you want to apply for a merchant account (maybe a high-risk one), so you can start processing credit card requests for your customers. When you approach a merchant account provider, they will ask for some history of your business activities—at least three months. By the end of the year, you have enough data to show to lenders and credit processing services to convince them to do business with you.

Of course, a financial review will give you a good look at whether you have done enough to impress these service providers or not. You can apply for these services with a quarterly credit history, but it will not be considered sufficient in most cases.

Best Time to Get Your Tax Files in Sync

Yes, you have been extra careful about your tax filing and preparation the whole year, but the overall integrity of your records still has a question mark on it. You need to prepare your tax files at the end of the year and calculate your liability with utmost accuracy. While tax preparation software has made the job much more manageable, complex tax files still need your accountants’ attention to get everything in sync. The important thing here is that a review not only helps you escape penalties that you might attract by putting wrong information on your file. You want to update your information at the end of the year because you want to calculate your benefits too accurately, e.g., tax credits, exemptions, standard deductions, itemized deductions, etc.

Time to Start Afresh

Your business might not have been a very successful venture. Many companies don’t make the best start, and it seems in the beginning that it would be difficult for the business to survive. However, small changes in strategies and cuts in costs can prove to be incredibly beneficial for companies. The best time to start afresh and renew all your reports and files is the end of the year. While you can change your strategies and plans midway, too, it is natural for most humans to feel the need for a new start at the start of a new year. For example, people can decide to lose weight at any time of the year, but it seems it makes the most sense to them when they do it at the start of a new year.

If you think your business has not performed well, but you still want to give it a shot, the end of year financial review can clear the path for you by telling you if you can afford to give it another try or not.

Bottom Line

There is no restriction on when you want to make changes to your business plans and strategies. However, people find it natural and more motivating to set new goals, learn from past mistakes, and make new moves when a new year starts. Throughout the year, your main goal is to keep the ball rolling.

However, at the end of the year, you have enough data collected from all your business operations and activities to know how fruitful your efforts were, which actions you should consider in the future, and the expenses that have kept you from progressing. In short, a financial review at the end of the year helps you make new and important decisions for your business.

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What the Right Team Means for a Business

Business

Just because you have a small business today does not mean it is going to remain small forever. Of course, you have to work to expand your business and turn it into a company that serves a worldwide audience. Whenever it comes to the expansion of a project, the first few things that you mostly think about are costs, taxes, cash flow, etc. What many small business owners often ignore is the right team that is crucial not only during the process of expansion but to keep the business afloat for many years to come.

The Need for a Team

The first thing that one wants to understand is why they need a team in the first place. If you have a small business and you never want to grow it, you might never need a team. However, for any businessman who has the mission of expanding with the passage of time, they need a team. First of all, you cannot act as the one-man-army. As you expand your operations, add more branches to your business and get more clients to work with, you will have to distribute those responsibilities. You can manage some of them with great efficiency, but if you think you can manage them all perfectly, you might be wrong.

You might not have paid attention to this particular piece of detail but when you try to manage everything on your own, you turn your own employees against you. They feel as though you do not trust them with the responsibilities of your business. Furthermore, they don’t see any chances of growth and this is why they do not plan to stay with you for a long time. This reduces the retention rate at your company to a low level.

Not just that, your core team is even more important when you are in a startup stage. When you present your business idea to the potential investors, they will consider several metrics to find out how successful their investments will be with you. One of the indicators for them to identify a successful startup is its core team. If your idea is unique, you have everything else in place, but your team seems to lack confidence or is missing important persons, there is a big chance you will not get any investments.

What to Consider When Building a Team

There are quite a few things that you have to consider when building your core team. Here are some of the most important ones.

  • Be Personally Involved

The first and foremost requirement of building the right team is for you to involve yourself in the process personally. No one knows your business better than you, and the many requirements to run it successfully. You can talk to an individual and know if he/she is the right person for your team. You will have to talk to everyone in person to know how they will fit or not fit. Convince yourself that this is an important process and manage enough time from your schedule to interview the potential candidates.

  • Consider Vision Alignment

When it comes to adding people to your core business team, it will be wrong to focus solely on their qualification and experience. The most important factor to look at is their vision. Do you think they are comfortable with your vision of your business? Do you think they are not just comfortable but also passionate about the same vision? It did not matter how talented, qualified and experienced they are because if their thoughts do not align with yours, they will always remain a misfit. Hiring the person who does not agree with your scope of the business is a huge mistake. Your and their position in the company will be like two people pushing a vehicle from the opposite sides.

  • Look for Leaders

You must realize that you are building a core team for your business; not hiring employees to fill certain positions at the company. Do not think of your team members as tires in a vehicle which you can replace when one goes flat. Every individual you make a part of your team should have leadership qualities—the qualities to lead the team in your absence or the absence of the appointed leader. What’s even more important is that these are the individuals who will act as your right hand. You cannot expect your business to keep on elevating and not experience any hiccups.

It is the people with leadership qualities that help you pull the business out of hard times with their will to lead and the undying attitude.

  • Involve Other Team Members

If you already have a small team, but you are looking for more people, you will have to make the existing members a part of the hiring process. When you do this, it will make them feel like a valuable part of the company. Secondly, it will also show you whether you and your existing partners are on the same page or not. They should also know what type of talent is lacking in the team just like you do. On the flip side, it will also show the potential candidates how unified your approach is. They will know they are becoming a part of a strong team and prepare mentally to fit in.

  • Consider All the Options

You have to wait before you can make the hiring decision just like consumer surveys the market before making a purchase. Some candidate might seem like a perfect fit, but you can’t reach a final decision unless you have talked to all the remaining candidates.

Creating the perfect team is only one step in the right direction. The more important part is to keep the team united and in unison. Do not forget that a melody only sounds good when all the instruments are playing in harmony. So, if you are a startup or a small business, be sure to start delegating responsibilities to the right people and hiring the ones that are missing.

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Common Spending Mistakes in Small Businesses

easy way

There is no denying that running a business is not always easy. There are plenty of challenges that reverse growth or halt progress. Precisely, if these challenges have a direct impact on business finances, it may cause several other risks that your business needs to face. In other words, managing finances is pivotal to stay on top. And if you’re a startup, finance management becomes as important as serving existing customers or finding new leads.

But, if you are like business owners who find managing money or bookkeeping a daunting task, you must know your common spending mistakes to stay ahead in the business domain. This is one way you can mitigate not only financial risks but also monitor the cash flow of your business. In other words, by controlling your spending and cash flows, you improve success chances and your profitability also.

We have enumerated a few common spending mistakes to help you steer clear of the financial management of your business.

Common Spending Mistakes in Small Business

1.     Failure in Keeping Personal and Business Expenses Separate

This might sound trivial to you, but many business owners when entering the business world make this mistake. Remember that you are in the early phases of your business, it is vital to keep the expenses separate. Although sometimes you need to rely on the personal finances to support business expenditures, you need to ensure that you h have a separate budget for your business.  Also, relying on the personal expense to fund business may cause problems in the long-term.

Once your business is operational and starts serving the customers, separate finances by making a separate business credit card. Make sure you have a separate bank account for your business. Doing so can be extremely helpful in managing tax problems and avoiding bookkeeping confusion subsequently.   It will also empower you to evaluate potential or existing cash flow issues and overall business finances before they turn into a major problem.

2.     Not Creating a Budget

You might find easy budgeting, but you cannot deny its long-term value that outweighs all initial stress and effort.

Creating a budget means analyzing how much have you earned and how much you can invest. An organized budget helps you make informed decisions about all business matters that include everything from supplies purchasing, staffing, and training to inventory. Conversely, when you work without a budget, all these tasks become challenging and may cause you significant cash flow problems. This particularly affects your business if it works with seasonal shifts, and you need this cash flow to maintain business operations during the slow months.

Fortunately, there is a wide variety of apps such as Scoro, Centage, and Adaptive insights that can help entrepreneurs not only create but also maintain a budget. Not to mention how these budgeting apps keep track of your business expenses and send you a handy report at the end of the month or year. This allows you to do preparations for tax seasons and review performance.

3.     Failure to do Financing at the Right Time

All business owners know that working capital is an essential thing to operate the business and increase its growth. If working capital runs low, your business might face a lot of issues that not easy to resolve it right away, and that may vary from unpaid bills, mounting fees to lower credit scores.  Not only that but making payrolls also become a challenge while tackling such issues. The situation may create problems when it comes to retaining your potential employees. The problems like staff shortage, inventory, and supply management lead to decreased revenues and unsatisfactory customer services.

Ultimately, the failure to meet your business financial obligations can impact different areas of business. That is why it is important not only to identify but also address the cash flow issues and to prevent poor working capital in a easy way. It is better if you seek assistance about taking control of financial matters before they become problematic for your business.

4.     Ignoring Poor Credit Scores

Recognizing the right time to consider alternative financing options like a line of credit or loan is important. However, your due diligence will not benefit you if you fail to qualify as a borrower. That means, it is essential to be vigilant about both your personal and business credit scores.

It is also important because your credit scores impact your ability to use financing solutions with suppliers or vendors. The arrangements often help business owners easy fill the gaps in their cash flow.  Moreover, with a good business score, you can reduce the insurance premium and interest rate on your loan.

Sometimes, your credit scores contribute to secure many affordable financing terms; particularly when you opt for loans, credit cards, and line of credit.  The phenomenon is confusing for many people since they are advised to keep their personal and business financing separate as an ideal practice.  

However, it is important to understand that when you sign a lending agreement as a primary applicant,  banks use your credits to determine your eligibility, repayment terms, and interest rates.  Customers are sent an annual credit report, and it is good to use it for your advantage.  Although the business credit report is hard to obtain, you can get them through various platforms.

5.     Overspending on Startup

When starting a startup, you are naturally optimistic that your business will produce good revenues if you invest a large amount in it. This optimism sometimes leads to overspending, which is another common spending mistake. To avoid overspending, research carefully about how much inventory or staff you need to take a good start.

Final Thoughts

When running a business, you may face many financial issues, and to plan for all potential scenarios is not easy. However, when it comes to cash flow, various things can be done to avoid cash flow issues. The most important thing is to be proactive in whatever approach you use to manage your business finance.  Besides this, budgeting and healthy credit scores play an important role in keeping business finance issues at bay.

Thus, the given spending mistakes are very common when a business is in establishing phase. However, you can avoid them by planning and evaluating everything in advance.

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Debt Is Not the Death of Your Business

Business Debt

“Debt” and “business” are two words you don’t want to see in the same sentence. Unfortunately, it is not always a smooth ride for every business owner. High hopes can often make business owners get carried away. That’s why experts want you to be realistic with your expectations as a business owner. It does not matter how unique your product is or how differently you have planned to serve your target audience. You cannot expect too much unless you have tested the waters beforehand. Perhaps, you set your hopes too high at some point and dug your way into the debt trap.

Good news is that debt is not the death of your business – at least not always. Some proper planning, persevere attitude, and calculated strategies can help you dig your way out of debt too.

Free up the Money That belongs to You

The first thing you ever want to do is free up the money that belongs to you. Perhaps, you are in a business where credit transactions are common. The problem with this format is that customers can delay your payments more than the specified period quite often. They have received the product, and they have consumed it too. Not clearing your invoices does not really hurt them as much as it hurts you. Consequently, you will have to get in touch with these customers and remind them of the pending invoices.

You can ask these customers to pay you sooner. Set a deadline and ask every customer to pay by that time. It won’t be easy but do not forget that you are fighting for the survival of your business. You can boost your cash flow significantly even if half of the customers agree to pay you on your set deadline.

Boost Your Revenue

This is an area where business owners have an advantage over people who do nine to five jobs. Salaried individuals don’t have any control over their salaries. It is a fixed amount that they will receive at the end of the month. On the other hand, you as a business owner have your revenues under your control. You can decide what your business earns at the end of the month. You can change prices, launch promotions, and cut your costs significantly to increase your revenue and profit.

One of the ways to get your customers’ attention is to launch promotions. However, you have to design your promotions carefully. You don’t want to shrink your profit margins until you know your promotion will increase your customer count considerably. If you have a loyal and repeating customer base, take advantage of that. Increase the prices a little to generate more revenue.

Slash Your Costs

Cost-cutting can be a huge step for a business. You have a hundred different costs that you can cut down. First, talk to the vendors that supply you the materials for your products. Quit the marketing campaigns that are not generating any returns. Reduce your operational costs as well. If possible, ask your workers to work from home to save yourself some money on office space. In fact, you can cut down your computer, internet connection, utility, etc. costs if you can make your employees work from home. Reduce office hours if your calculation tells you that certain hours are not as productive as much as they cost you.

Pay Your Debts First

A common mistake that business owners often make is treating debts as a secondary concern. You might feel tempted to buy more inventory, fulfill some orders, and pay the overhead expenses first, and then worry about your debts. However, this strategy can go against you. You will never be able to pay your debts if you make other business expenses first. The thought of repaying the debt is stressful. You can’t make great decisions when you are stressed. You will see a huge improvement in how you tackle your business related matters once you have paid off your debt.

Consider Consolidation

You can consolidate your loans to make things easier for you. What makes debts scary and stressful for business owners is that there can be many of them. Even if you pay one debt, you then have another to worry about. This format can be mentally devastating for the business. Moreover, you might be paying different interest rates on different debts. Consolidation helps you simplify your debt repayments.

First, it combines all the debts that you have to pay into one. As a result, you have to make just one payment every month that serves as the repayment of all your debts. Secondly, it helps you take advantage of a more affordable interest rate. The fact that you don’t have a bunch of different credits knocking on your door every day can be quite relieving too.

Find a New Partner

You want to take this step only as a last resort. Of course, the sight of seeing your business shut down is more painful than anything else. That’s why you can make a new partner in business by offering some equity rather than letting your business sink to the bottom. You can ask your new partner to finance your business for the chunk of equity you are offering him/her. A crucial consideration here is not to offer too much equity. You don’t want to lose control of your business as a result of this deal. Offer only enough equity that keeps the new partner interested but does not make you lose your control over your company.

Concluding Thoughts

You must not forget that these are only the extreme measures to dig out of debt. The first cure for avoiding debt is care. Make sure you start with a solid business plan wherein you have sorted out your expenses and loans already. Sometimes, venture capitalists are not the best option to fund a business. In that case, you have crowdfunding options available. Using the latter option, you can fund your business amply without necessarily giving up equity too much equity, if any at all.

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5 Outside The Box Ideas For Marketing Your Small Business

small

Introduction

If you think you cannot market a product with a small budget, then you are mistaken. To run a successful business, whether it is small or big, you need to implement top-notch marketing strategies. So, it is essential to take the time and plan effective ways to market your product or service. Take note not that every marketing technique requires a hefty budget.

Therefore, you can find budget-friendly ways to target an audience. In the light of this, here are five outside of the box marketing ideas for your small business.

Develop a Loyalty Program

Loyalty programs are simple. They create interest based on top of a brand’s value. So, if you love buying a particular brand, and if you’re offered something extra, such as 30% on your next purchase, you will most likely take advantage of the opportunity. Hence, announcing 50% flat off, coupons or different consumer-friendly offers can provide the limelight to your business that it needs. Moreover, consumers love going to the same brand if it sells high-quality products. One of the best ways to develop a loyalty program is to provide better quality so that consumers come back for more. As a small business owner, you need to retain existing consumers along with attracting new customers. This step is crucial to growing your small business further. When you reward your existing consumers, they will likely return and purchase more.

Plus, if a customer returns to your store more often, it will increase sales, brand image, and brand loyalty at the same time. Therefore, opt for customer loyalty programs as they work as a marketing tool as well. If your existing and satisfied customers recommend your brand, it will help you reach a wide market, influence your customer base, and of course benefit your startup in an excellent way.

Promote Customer Engagement

Sometimes a simple tactic like talking to your customer casually can feel engaging to them. You might ask; ‘would you like to see more items in this range?’ A positive response to this is an open invitation to talk to them, ask for their feedback, their thoughts, and how you could probably make things better for them. You can also use social media to boost your customer engagement. Social media profiles allow you to interact with a wider audience in a short time.

You can always use social media profiles to ask for suggestion and answer queries using direct messaging. Moreover, asking your customers to review your official page on Facebook is another quick way to give your small business a boost.

Moreover, when launching a product go live on your Instagram and Facebook profiles and keep your audience engaged. When you stay active and interactive on public profiles, it will let people know about your business. Apart from this, using social media in the right way can benefit your business in numerous ways. For instance, you can engage the audience by starting a selfie campaign, which also encourages them to share or post more. You should customize hashtags and encourage the audience to use them in their post along with tagging. This is also an effective way to target a new audience.

Personalized Incentive

Customers love to be treated well, and this is for those customers that have value. For example, one valuable customer might be a regular one at your outlet, and another might buy bulk items from you periodically. Both types of customers could be justified recipients of personalized gifts from your brand. You can add complimentary items or products in their orders. It will show that you value and cherish your regular customers. Moreover, organizing a giveaway is another fun way to treat your consumers, especially if they are outside the country. You can arrange a giveaway in partnership with another small business to reach new people.

Host a Webinar

Hosting a webinar shows your expertise in your niche. Engaging experts in this webinar will show how connected you are. Also, the more people you successfully invite as participants will also demonstrate how much people already follow you and trust your expertise. Moreover, a webinar can do wonders for your business. According to a survey, 58% of marketers prefer to use webinars for promotion. Many successful marketing strategists even think that marketing on a webinar is great to reach a wider audience.

Data from different surveys have revealed that up to 40% people become qualified leads after attending a webinar as it provides the information they need. In fact, webinars retain 30-40% more attention so there is a chance that attendees will make a purchase.

Elevate content distribution        

Content production and distribution go hand-in-hand, and your content is only as good as your distribution mechanism. Leveraging major social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube is crucial. This technique is ideal to share valuable, relevant, and constant content on your social media.

It helps in two ways that are significant for any small business. First, it helps attract or target your audience. Second, it will help them turn into potential leads. Make sure your content provides information and resonates with the audience.

You should use blogs and social media posts to distribute your message. Also, the content you share should not be the typical advertisement that forces people to make a purchase. It should speak to them on personal level so they trust you and your brand.

Concluding Lines

Marketing a small business may seem a hassle at the beginning. But, if you opt for outside the box marketing strategies, you will get the desired outcome even on a shoe-string budget. For marketing, you only need to develop and leverage top-notch social media platforms and keep them updated. Other strategies like casual interaction are a smart way to identify your shortcomings and work on them to take your small business a step ahead. If you or are planning to launch a small business, try these ideas and make a difference.

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What Sets a Small Business Apart from a Large Business?

You probably hear terms like ‘small business’ and ‘large business’ quite commonly whether you are looking for software solutions, investment opportunities or something else. Sometimes, it can be difficult for business owners to figure out if what they own is a small business or a large one. The confusion is valid because you don’t often find clear definitions to help you distinguish one from the other. However, it is essential to know the difference so you can pick the right services. This is because most service providers design their service packages differently for small and large companies. There are also other reasons why you would want to know their differences.

Why Know the Difference

You need to know the size of your company because of the laws that apply to these entities. Large businesses have to follow a different set of rules and regulations than small businesses. In addition to that, several federal programs are available that are different for small businesses and large businesses. As an example, you won’t qualify for certain programs unless you are officially a small business and are entitled to the program. You can get into trouble if you think your business is small but the government deems it otherwise.

Also, keep in mind that when you operate as a small business, but spend like a big one, you can put your venture in trouble. So, what sets the two apart from each other?

The Differences between Small and Large Businesses

The Size

How do you determine the size? How do you know that the size of your business is small or large? The federal government has its ways of determining the size of a business. They will look at either the number of employees you have or your yearly receipts. However, the standards are not uniform across industries.

What this means is that a small business in one industry might not be small in some other industry. In most cases, your average yearly receipts have to be over $7 million for the federal government to treat your business as a large one. The number of your employees should be more than 500 for your business to be considered large.

However, this standard of 500 employees is more applicable to the manufacturing and mining industry. However, keep in mind the varying standards across industries. For instance, in some service industries, your yearly receipts could amount to over $21 million, but the federal government will still not consider your entity as a small business. The agriculture industry’s standards can be quite the opposite of that with the government treating businesses with average yearly receipts of more than $500,000 as large businesses.

The same rule applies to the number of employees as well. For example, if you are a part of the wholesale industry, and you have more than 100 employees, your business could be termed as a large business. On the other hand, if you are in the manufacturing industry, the government will write you down in its books as a small business even if you have 1,500 employees.

Internal Structure and Hierarchy

A large business will often have a more clearly defined structure and hierarchy. Almost every case in question will go through various departments before the company comes to a final decision. On the other hand, the structure is not fully defined or is not as detailed. The employees and the owner are not too far from each other. A complaint from a customer can reach from an agent to the owner pretty conveniently. On the other hand, there are several roles beneath the manager that can handle numerous tasks and take decisions.

Due to the hierarchy that normally exists in large businesses, they often delay their decisions. Contrary to that, small businesses take their decisions very quickly. The hierarchical structure also gives rise to a culture of workers performing their respective tasks only. In a small business, the same person could have multiple roles.

Financing Options

There is a stark difference between the financing options that small business and large business owners choose. Large business owners have good PR, a name in the market and some level of dominance in the industry. Such a position allows them to go for options like investment banks. They can naturally attract well-known investors of the country as well when they are in need of finance.

On the other hand, small business owners try to avoid bank loans because of the hardships they face when it comes to paying back debt. In most cases, small business owners rely more on their savings or funding from someone in their family.

Salaries and Perks

Since large businesses are financially more independent, they can offer their employees attractive packages and benefits. Health insurance, dental insurance, yearly bonuses, provident funds, etc. are just some incentives that employees at large companies enjoy.

On the other hand, people working at a small company do not get such benefits in most cases. They can have attractive salaries, but a small business owner cannot afford medical insurance and comprehensive benefits for employees. It is one of the reasons why most of the people working at a small company often look for opportunities at large companies.

Nowhere does it say that small businesses have less potential for growth and expansion than large businesses. For this reason, small business owners should be confident in their efforts to grow. While large businesses have access to big bank loans and broad markets, even a small mistake in their predictions and estimates can result in huge losses.

On the other hand, small business owners face smaller risks when you consider the volume of their loss. Be sure to identify your business size and take advantage of all the benefits that the federal government has made available for small businesses.

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What Normally Causes Banks to Reject Small Business Loans?

Whether you are a small or a large one, you will need a loan at the start to finance your marketing efforts and operations. It is not that difficult for large businesses to get loans from banks because most lending institutions are more than willing to invest in large corporations due to their dominant position in their market and industry. On the other hand, small businesses do not occupy a key position in the industry, and that’s why banks and other lending entities aren’t intrinsically interested in financing them. However, there can be several different reasons why banks rejecting small business loans. Here are the most common ones.

Reasons for Banks to Refuse Loans to Small Businesses

Short History of Operations

The period a business has been in operation is the number one factor banks consider when deciding on approving a loan or not. Small business owners have to finance their ventures right from the beginning. They might not have even completed six months before they start looking for loan options.

Bank want to see how well or poorly a business has been performing, and it can judge the performance based on the tax filing record for your business or maybe even the record of your sales. What if the loan amount you are asking for is much larger than what the bank deems is easily repayable for you?

The lenders will look at your cash flow reports and decide how much your business is capable of returning based on the amount you have asked for. The bank would often refuse to approve a loan after realizing that your demand is much bigger than your strength to repay the loan.

Loan Size

The bank is a business, and it has to find ways to maximize its profits. Bankers make most of their money from loans they approve for large corporations. Small businesses, on the other hand, are at a disadvantage in this area. They don’t require huge loans, and thus they are not the best prospects for a bank.

The underwriting process is quite costly for a bank, and it only makes sense for them to approve loans from which they can cover that cost. Most small business loans do not go above the $500,000 mark, and that amount is not what the banks will call “big.”

Personal Credit Score

Several online sources will tell you that your credit score will not have any impact when you ask a bank for a business loan. It makes sense from one perspective that the bank should not look into a person’s personal life while giving them a business loan. However, your credit score can affect your business loan application negatively. Yes, it is true that not all lenders will give the same weight to your credit score, but there are many that will.

For lenders that look into your credit score, they are doing this to know how good you are when it comes to managing money. If you can’t manage your finances, the chances of you mismanaging your business finances will be pretty high too.

Missing Collateral

Again, you have to remember that banks are businesses—giving money to people and getting it back with a profit is their business. Banks require collateral to motivate (or compel) a business owner to return the loan amount. In most cases, collateral is not a problem for large businesses.

The collateral serves as a security for the bank and a way to ensure that they get the loan amount back should the business owner default. On the other hand, small businesses don’t have enough assets to put down as collateral to secure a loan from a bank. The missing collateral is often the reason why banks reject loan applications for small businesses.

Reason for the Loan

The bank won’t approve your loan just because you need it. Lending institutions want you to give them solid reasons for why you need the loan. You would want to show them that your loan amount is going to be an investment in your business and not just an expense.

If you are going to buy new furniture for your office with the loan amount, the chances are that the bank will refuse to give you the loan. However, if you have a strong business plan and a pre-planned marketing campaign that you want to support the loan, a bank will be more than willing to help you out.

But Banks Aren’t the Only Option

The detail that’s crucial for small business owners here is that banks are not the only institutions that can lend to small businesses. You have other lending entities from which you can seek help. For instance, there are online platforms where small business and startup owners can get in touch with investors to get the investment they need.

Small business owners can use such a platform to showcase their idea, business plan, the marketing strategies and the team behind the project to get the attention of the investors. They can get the type of loan that best suits their needs.

If an investor likes your idea and is passionate about it, they might even forward the loan at extremely flexible terms. Keep in mind that such a network gives you access to angel investors—the type of investors that can help a startup turn into an established business without demanding too much equity share in the company. However, you have to be sure that you create a powerful business plan, have a strong team and a compelling pitch to win their trust.

Yes, there can be a variety of reasons why banks reject loan applications from small businesses, but that should not mean the end of everything. With online platforms helping business owners connect with investors, obtaining the right loan is not such a challenging task after all. If your business is in its starting phase, be sure to make obtaining the right loan a priority. Last but not least, it is how you manage your funds that decide the fate of your business, not just the loan itself.

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Here Is What Small Business Owners Should Know about Angel Investors

When you have a small business, and you are serious about its growth and expansion, you have to use every option available to you to get the funds you need. In some cases, venture capitalists are not really a good fit for funding the startup or small businesses. They focus a lot on the returns they get from their investments, and somewhere in that attempt, they forget to pay enough attention to the needs and limitations of small businesses. One of the best solutions for small businesses to get the required funds is angel investors.

What Is an Angel Investor?

The name angel investor should give away why the industry calls them that. Other names for angel investors include angel funders, informal investors, business angels, etc. An angel investor is mostly one person, but may also be a very small group of investors. They invest in startups and small businesses that most venture capitalists would consider too risky for investment. They try to be extra helpful for startup and small business owners by providing the required funding and also helping with advice on matters.

In many cases, the angel investor will put his/her own money on the line to help your business. The reason for their investment in the risky business is that they are independent in their decisions. They might find your product interesting even when others don’t see any scope in it. You would not expect them to invest huge funds compared to those from venture capitalists but with their popularity increasing with time on the internet, angel investors can also invest huge amounts now.

A Detailed View of Angel Investors for Small Business Owners

Types of Investments

The first thing to know about angel investors is the type of investments they are leaning towards usually. The interest and motivational factors are different for angel investors compared to those of venture capitalists.

An angel investor is willing to invest in startups. It is easier to convince an angel investor to invest in a startup than it is to convince a VC. However, even a VC will show interest in a small business in its early stages if they are 100% sure of its potential and future success.

One of the most important things to point out here is that angel investors are highly interested in local businesses. If you run a business in New York, you would want to find investors in New York. Angel investors like to support their local communities and economy. Furthermore, local businesses are easy for them to test for their validity. As for the market type, angels prefer to invest in businesses that are playing against small competitors. If your business is about to become a part of a contemporary market with several giants already monopolizing it, the angel might not show interest.

Their Favorite Places

When looking for investment for your business, you must know where you can possibly find angel investor. There is no specific place that you can say has the best angel investors. However, you can try fundraising advisors to help you find the investors that would be interested in investing in your business. You can search for angel investment groups in your area or on the internet. The good thing about such a group is that you have a higher chance of persuading someone to invest in your idea.

You will be glad to know that angel investors love to be a part of events where they get to see various business owners from around the country pitching their ideas. Their events are more common than VC events. In fact, it is much easy to attend their events because the entry is not expensive and you can find them even in small cities. You can also find angel investors online. There are websites that specifically put small business owners in touch with angel investors. All you have to do is create a compelling pitch, so investors can see how serious you are with your investment needs.

The Way to Compel and Persuade Them

It would be wrong to say that angel investors are interested in ideas alone. In fact, that’s where the angel investors differ entirely from venture capitalists. They don’t focus solely on the business idea and its scope in future. An important part of their decision-making process is to know the entrepreneur and his/her team. It does not matter how unique your business idea is because if you and your team are not convincing enough, they will not invest in you. They love people who like to get to the point, and that comes off as your strength.

For example, you would want your presentation to be not more than five or six slides. Don’t waste too much time trying to convince them that your idea is different. Get to the point, tell them what you want and how you are going to achieve the targets you have set, and that should be enough. When you sit down with angel investors, be sure to value your company reasonably and offer them a sensible share. A crucial thing to remember is that it takes you much more time to find the right angel investors than it takes to convince them. Miss one opportunity and you could end up spending months and years looking for another investor to listen to you. Don’t blow your opportunities away once you get them.

From the information above, it might sound angel investors are much more flexible than VCs, and that’s true to some extent. However, this should not give you the impression that angel investors are non-professional. They expect due diligence from you before finalizing a deal.

Make sure you have protected your unique ideas with patents and proper technology before you present them with your idea. Secondly, have the right permissions, certificates and other documentation on hand to show that you have everything in place. In the end, be on top of your security game, i.e., you must know how new security-related regulations around the world are going to affect your business and how you will tackle them.

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The Importance of Disaster Preparedness for a Small Business

Any business, whether small or big, faces many challenges and some of the biggest challenges are in the shape of disasters, especially the natural ones. It does not matter which part of the world your business operates in; natural disasters are possible in every part of the planet. Floods, storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. are among the most common types of natural disasters. This is why it is highly recommended that you have the right preparation for a natural disaster. According to Red Cross, major natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods are so damaging for small businesses that 40% of those that get hit by one of these shut down forever.

So, what is the importance of preparing for disasters for small businesses?

A Professional Impression

Disaster preparedness and disaster recovery plans are often associated with large enterprises and organizations. But are small businesses protected from disasters? Your small business needs a disaster plan just as much as any big business out there. Having a disaster plan integrated into your system and documented gives off a very professional impression of your business. When you become a big business, you can get audited for a hundred different things. Furthermore, your employees will also be happy that they are working with a company that thinks long-term.

Prevention of Various Disasters

While there is nothing much that can be done about natural disasters, you can do something about disasters caused by humans and their errors. A human can cause damage to your property on purpose as a result of jealousy, reaction to some unfair treatment or as a bad business tactic. When you have the right equipment and system in place, it is difficult to cause such damage to the business. In most cases, human-made disasters are in the form of a fire that can burn all the important documents for a company and any systems that store valuable customer information.

Safety of Employees

Preparing for a disaster does not always mean you have to maintain business continuity. In fact, another important part of disaster preparedness is the safety of your employees. At times, you can’t instantly tell what might go wrong. A storm or hurricane can cause damage to electric poles and wires. If not protected properly, this damage can result in the deaths of your employees. Furthermore, when you are not prepared to face a flood, you might end up calling your employees to work and getting their vehicles damaged.

Business Continuity

One of the reasons to be prepared for disasters is to maintain business continuity. If you reside in a region where certain types of natural disasters are common, you have to prepare for these first and then for other types of disasters. For example, a business in Japan will have to prepare for an earthquake and the Tsunami. In some parts of America, there are more tornadoes every year than there are storms in the entire country. When you have a plan for such disasters, you can ensure the continuity of your business even when the disaster strikes.

Continuing business operations can be as easy as asking your employees to work from home. To make this possible, you might want to have all your data and important business applications moved to cloud, so when your company servers are down, you can ask your employees to work. Another important aspect of continuing your business despite great disasters is backing up your data. When it comes to backup, you can’t back up the data in one location only. The idea is to back up your business data every day and move the backup to another location. If your budget allows, you can back up the data in even more locations than two.

Quick Response

An important aspect of disaster preparedness is to share this knowledge with your employees. You also have to update them with any changes you make to your disaster preparedness and recovery plan. For example, if a sudden fire breaks out inside your business premises, your employees must know what the first course of action has to be. You should also ask your employees to have all the important business applications, software tools, etc. installed on their devices if your response to a disaster is asking them to work from home. When your employees know exactly what to do in the case of a disaster, they can get a response to a bad situation instantly, so you face virtually no downtime.

Cost-efficiency

Disaster preparedness and recovery are not just about being ready to handle a disastrous situation. In fact, it is also about being able to operate the business and recover business operations after a disaster hits with as minimum resources as possible. A business without a disaster plan can also recover from a disaster. However, the huge difference here is that the unprepared business will have to spend a lot of money and resources to get back on its feet whereas a business with a plan will continue its operations with minimum efforts.

Improved B2B Relations

It is not just your customers but also your business partners that get affected when your business shuts down temporarily due to a disaster. They might be relying on you for their mission-critical processes, and your absence can cause them to either stop their operations or find another partner to make things work instantly. On the other hand, if your business is still running despite getting hit by a disaster, your business partners will take a very positive impression of you. This is going to help you retain your business partners as they can now trust your professionalism and seriousness with business.

Conclusion :

To prepare for disasters, the first thing you have to do is change your mind about the whole situation. Many small business owners think that things like disaster plans are better suited for large enterprises or when a business has grown big enough to have multiple branches. What they don’t realize is that it is much easier to recover from a disaster when you have multiple locations than it is when you have only one location. So, start assessing your risks today, create a sound communication plan and document your disaster preparation plan today.

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