No More Excuses for Small Business Owners for Not Growing Their Businesses

When talking about business related issues, solutions, and technologies, you will almost always group businesses as small and large. While the separation is there, it won’t be wrong to say that in a modern where digital technologies prevail, it should not be a problem for small businesses to compete with large ones. The large corporations have the advantage of having more resources without a doubt. However, there was not a time in the past when growing and expanding was as easy for small businesses as it is today.

Digital Marketing for Everyone

Digital marketing starts with a website today. When it comes to website designs, more money does not always mean a better design. If you are working with the right people and are clear about your requirements, your website can be just as impressive as the website of a large business. In fact, internet users today are more in favor of simplistic websites with a focus on the information they are looking for rather than the glitter and sparkle.

As for social media marketing, there is no difference in the size of the market that small and large businesses have to target. They are both targeting global audiences and how good they are at it is not defined by how much money they put in their marketing efforts. Social media marketing is free marketing, so there is no excuse as to who has more resources.

And if you believe that the large corporations make it to the top of the search engine results, you always have a better and more effective niche to compete within – local. With local search engine optimization, small businesses can compete with the medium and large businesses head to head. In simple words, regardless of the size of the business, everyone has access to the same market and same people today. What matters is who does it better.

Digital Solutions Are Available Specifically for Small Businesses

When it comes to software solutions for businesses, the focus is not on large corporations anymore. Today, all types of software solutions have their versions built specifically for small businesses. These digital solutions allow small businesses to cut down their costs and make use of the same technologies that large companies are using.

Take the example of CRMs. At one point, there was a notion that customer relationship management software are only for large businesses, but the things have changed quite a bit today. Web-based CRM are a revelation for small businesses. First, these CRMs provide great marketing, database, customer service and sales solutions to the businesses. Second, they are unbelievably affordable. If you own a small business, you don’t even have to worry about software integration, hardware compatibility, updates, and upgrades, etc. Keep in mind that with in-house solutions, these are the costs that make it difficult for small businesses to grow financially.

With web-based solutions designed for small businesses, you can now have access to a world-class CRM at a fractional monthly or yearly cost. Other affordable digital solutions available include invoicing software, bookkeeping software, payroll software, etc.

Customers Have the Power in their Hands

The Internet has empowered customers like never before. You can’t say that just because a business is in multiple countries, it will be impressive enough for people to buy its products. The amazing thing about today’s economy is the power that customers have in their hands. Online reviewing websites, YouTube videos, blogs, etc. are among many platforms that allow customers to know more about businesses. In fact, even Google now puts business ratings and customer reviews right within its search results.

What this means is that when customers searches for a business today, They are sometimes able to see the reputation of the product they are going to buy. Furthermore, negative reviews from customers can affect business sales, giving other businesses a chance to make their name.

Furthermore, it’s not just the quality of products that matters today. In the modern world, businesses are competing for better customer experience. If your business can give customers the experience they are looking for, your growth is inevitable despite the small size of your business.

Funding Is No Issue for Startups

It is always the starting days that matter the most for business. When you are a startup, you are looking for ways to fund your business so you can materialize your idea and polish your product/service according to the requirements of the customers. Finding a platform where you could connect with angel investors was a challenge in the past. This is not an issue anymore.

It is now easier than ever for small businesses to get in touch with investors and get the right amount of investment that sets them on the path of growth. These are websites that act as a bridge between investors from all around the world and startups.

With online funding websites, all you have to do is create a convincing pitch that explains the viability of your startup to the investors and its scope. Your business plan along with all the necessary information that you think investors should see can be posted to the website and start getting the right kind of exposure. If you have done your homework and have a team of right professionals on board, getting the right investment can come sooner.

Final Words

You can see that a small business and startup business can overcome almost all of their challenges much more efficiently today. Starting a business has become so easy that even students can be entrepreneurs. They can lay the foundation for a business using just their pocket money. From connecting with the right investors to cutting down operational costs, all can be done from the comfort of a person’s home. The only thing that makes the difference today is if you are confident enough to take the first step.

 

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Funded.com If you need to access our network of angel investors or a business plan for start-up funding visit Funded.com

Setting Up A Small Business in 2018 – It’s Not all About How Much Money You Have

When you think of starting a business, the first thing that comes to mind is money/capital. Of course, you need money to start a business, even if it is very little considering the fact how easy it is to start a business in the digital age. However, there could be many other factors that affect a business in today’s digital economy—some you show serious concern to and some you don’t really pay attention to much.

Blockchain Is Affecting All Types of Businesses

One of the biggest concerns for today’s entrepreneurs before they start business is probably blockchain or crypto technology. The world is seeing the rise of crypto technology and how it is being integrated into the existing business ideas. A little more than a couple of years ago, you must have heard the term “bitcoin”. From bitcoin, people still believe that blockchain is all about digital currency i.e. money in the digital world. However, this is far from truth. Blockchain is expected to affect all types of businesses and industries in the world in the coming days.

It is a technology that redefines the security aspect of many businesses in 2018, introduced decentralization in modern business technologies and benefits the end consumers in multiple ways. For example, you could launch a gaming platform where no one needs the existing currencies. You could launch your own platform with your own money today. You don’t really have to start everything from the scratch; instead you could base your currency on the existing blockchain platforms like Ethereum. Through ICOs, you could have investors from around the world invest in your idea. So, blockchain is definitely a consideration for all businesses starting in 2018 and the coming years.

Physical Warehouses Are Not Necessary

A few years ago, only a certain types of business could be called truly online businesses. For businesses where products have to be stored for some time, a complete online presence was not the solution. Entrepreneurs who had such business ideas in mind had to have enough money to have their own warehouses. However, this has also changed quite a bit in the past couple of years. With the idea of drop shipping becoming common with time, it is becoming easier for businessmen to start their own businesses without much investment.

In a drop shipping model, all you have to do is collect orders from customers, forward those orders to the manufacturers or suppliers and have the goods shipped. You only act as a liaison in this particular model because it is the supplier that sends the products directly at the customers’ doorsteps. You will still need an online store with all the products listed for customers to see. However, you don’t need any warehouses because you don’t have to own, buy or store any products. The good thing is that this model now allows drop shippers to offer much more competitive rates so penetrating into the market is easier for them.

Big Data Is the Big Difference

Another technology that has been influencing business decisions and the way businesses operate is big data. While the term “big data” seems that you are referring to just large amounts of data but in reality, you are also referring to the methodologies and technologies that are in use to handle big data. You will be completely wrong to think that traditional software and hardware solutions can deal with big data in any way. Let’s take the example of a bank. A bank could have hundreds of branches located all around the country. In these hundreds of branches, the bank will have hundreds of thousands of customers.

The bank has account information of hundreds of thousands of these customers. In addition to that, the bank is constantly investing in stock and foreign markets, storing and utilizing that information. The same bank handles the data of all micro and macro loans it is forwarding to its customers. It is also storing information about customers through its mobile application to know what customers expect from the mobile website. On all of those hundreds of branches, the bank also has CCTV cameras collecting terabytes of footage on a daily basis.

Do you think all this data goes to waste? No, the data bank collected from banks is utilized in making bank branches securer. Data from mobile devices helps bank refine their mobile application. Data collected through financial softwares helps a bank improve its insurance, loan, mortgage, etc. offerings. It may seem on the surface that big data is a headache for big businesses only, but big data is just as important for small businesses as well. What this mean is that businesses starting in 2018 will have to have a big data approach right from day one.

Internet Security Is the Biggest Threat Now

It is unfortunate that rather than making the world a safer place, the new technology has led to greater internet threats. Cyber attacks are becoming more frequent with time, and much more sophisticated too. In the past few years, cyber attacks on some of the biggest companies of the world, including tech companies have proved that security has to be the major concern for every business—small, mid-scale or large. If you think starting a new business or having a small business gives you any advantage over large ones, here is something you would want to take a look at.

 

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Funded.com If you need to access our network of angel investors or a business plan for start-up funding visit Funded.com

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.

 

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Funded.com. If you need to access our network of angel investors or a business plan for start-up funding visit Funded.com.

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

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 designing your marketing campaigns, availing opportunities of growth 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 reports 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 good results and which of them have proved to be futile.

Same goes for your account receivables. Compare your account receivables with those from the previous years and see if there has been any 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, which is now in front of you. Whether you grew as a business, stagnated or receded is clear at the end of the year.

The Best Time to Set New Goals

Based on how you performed in the preceding year and whether or not 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 set your targets 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 previous year’s goals, 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 for, when you go and apply for certain services, the service providers take a look at your previous year’s performance. Let’s say, for example, 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 3 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 as well, but in most cases it will not be considered sufficient.

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. It is extremely important for you to prepare your tax files at the end of the year and calculate your liability with utmost accuracy. While tax preparation softwares have made the job much easier, complex tax files still need attention from your personal accountants to get everything in sync. Now, the important thing here is that a review does not only help 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 accurately calculate your own benefits too e.g. tax credits, exemptions, standard deductions, itemized deductions, etc.

Time to Start Afresh

Your business might not have been a very successful venture. In fact, many businesses 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 greatly benefitting for businesses. 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 most sense to them when they do it at the start of a new year.

If you think your business has not performed really 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 shot or not.

Bottom Line

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

 

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Funded.com If you need to access our network of angel investors or a business plan for start-up funding visit Funded.com

Expansion Pitfalls All Small Businesses Must Avoid

A great number of small business owners have a constant urge to expand. Of course, the mere idea of expanding and becoming a “big” business known to fthousands and millions of people is fascinating. However, expansion is not all about finding a new office space and hiring new employees to fill the vacant seats.

There is much more to expansion than most small business owners realize. It is unfortunate that a larger population of these business owners is only focused on the benefits of expanding while completely omitting the challenges that entail business expansion. Let’s take a look at some of the most common challenges, concerns and considerations before you expand your small business.

Major Pitfalls to Avoid before Expanding a Small Business

 

  • Outdated Information of Market Conditions

Too often, the decision to expand taken by most small business owners is based on information that is many months old. The important thing to consider here is continuous market research. An idea that seemed like it will lead the market a few months ago might be an average offering today.

For example, you might have landed in the market with a unique product, and its sudden popularity might make you think you should expand as soon as possible. What you don’t realize is that the acceptance and popularity rate of your product can diminish with time. The big reason behind that is the competitors who can imitate anything that you have created.

It does not matter if you have patented the technology, method or the product itself before launching it. Your competitors will always find some way to imitate and emulate your products. A great example of this is Apple, the tech giant that patented the touchscreen technology. You can see there are more non-Apple touchscreen smartphones in the world today than Apple’s own iPhone.

  • Regional Limitations

When you are expanding your business into new territories, you must know them well. You cannot expect people to react to your offerings, marketing methods, advertising tactics in the same way everywhere. In fact, cultural considerations are an extremely important consideration when businesses are expanding.

You don’t have to be expanding to a completely new country to consider culture. There are many things that people in one state might love and people in another state completely hate.

These considerations have to be made based on the type of business you have. If your business has some cultural dependencies, you have to be very careful with where you are thinking of expanding your business operations.

  • Cash Flow Challenges

You need to be on top of your cash flow before you expand. Cash flow is important for any business, but it is essential when it comes time for expansion. It does not matter how much money you are expecting to come into the business after making the expansion move; it is going to require a lot of money upfront too.

This is the time when you have to stop thinking about the revenue and start focusing on your income. Your revenue does not tell you how feasible it is for you to expand your business. It is the money that you can use without affecting your current operations that matter in the expansion.

Look at your profits and see how big they are. If your profits are small, don’t just assume that things will be fine and you should just make a move. You don’t want to create a situation where not only you fail with expansion but affect your existing operations as well.

  • Technological Issues

The way modern businesses operate, technology goes wherever your business goes. Many small business owners think of expansion only regarding new office space, furniture, and new employees, but that’s not the case. Today’s businesses rely heavily on technologies, both hardware, and software. When your business expands, you have to support it with better hardware but what’s more important is the software side.

Unless you are using a cloud solution for your database and other internal tasks and activities, you will have to spend a lot of time in arranging the right system. Syncing information across multiple locations and managing bigger databases with more accounts and information can be a challenge in the beginning.

  • Overestimating Business Popularity

Some businesses that start with a unique idea and get attention from media fast are able to reap great benefits from sudden demand spikes. This situation often makes business owners feel that they should expand as soon as possible. What they don’t realize is that this is only the “trial” period for customers in their minds.

Even if they like your product, in the beginning, it does not mean they have put full trust in your offerings. A onetime purchase does not translate to loyal customers and repetitive purchases. You might have received a great response from customers when you started the business but wait for some time to know if your customers have started to repeat.

It is only the number of repeat customers that can tell you if your product/service has been a success. It could be a nightmare for you if you start getting negative reviews from your first customers as soon as you expand into new markets and locations. You could end up creating too much inventory that no one is willing to buy.

  • Underestimating Growth of Employees

While a lot of things get overestimated by new business owners before expansion, there are some things that they underestimate. Sometimes, business owners are not able to fully foresee their growth regarding employees.

They arrange new space to continue business operations in a new location without realizing that the growing number of employees will force them to expand their office space again. Not only is it inefficient but it could lead to a lot of hassle for the working employees if the expansion of office space takes place while they are working there.

Final Words

The most important thing to keep in mind when you have your own business, and you are considering expansion regarding business operations or product/service offerings, is patience. Always take your time before making a move because when you are a small business, you don’t have a lot of support to recover from huge financial losses like large enterprises do.

 

More detailed information and useful advice can be  found at Funded.com If you need to access our network of angel investors or a business plan for
start-up funding visit Funded.com

Developing A Business Startup Success Strategies That Works

It can be easy to lose sight of the very reasons why you wanted to open your business startup. You can get wrapped up in the day-to-day operations, leaving little time to focus on what makes your business startup standout in the market. Having a strategy in place that allows you to keep you motivated can ensure your business stays on a path of success.

Fall In Love With Your Business

Any business that you invest your heart in soul in should be the great love of your life. You need to nurture it and watch it grow. Having a real passion for what you are doing and the products and services you sell can make your business startup a real labor of love. You should have a real hunger that drives you to do well. Making your business startup idea one that you can stand behind and love to eternity is the first step in achieving success.

If it seems that you are losing that connection with your company and not really feeling the love, take a step back and allow yourself to remember how it all started. This can spark your emotions for your business and allow you to fall back in love with what you are doing. Your passion for your business is often times enough to get you through the challenging times.

Surround Yourself With Good People

From your employees to your professional network, the people that you surround yourself with can have a strong influence on your business startup. These very people can give you new ideas and help educate you on your business’ operations.

Having positive people to lift you up can be a strong motivator and allow you to have someone to bounce thoughts off of when you feel uncertain about a decision. Use your network to gain valuable information and learn from your peers on what mistakes to avoid. They can prove to be a big part of helping you run your business and ensuring it is successful in its endeavors.

Don’t forget your employees; theycan be a big part of keeping your focused on your business startup on a daily basis. Good employees will drive your customer service and in turn your revenue. When your employees believe in your business and the vision you have set for it, it makes it that much more important that you deliver now and into the future.

Create A Marketing Strategy

Having a marketing strategy in place to promote your business is necessary to help achieve strong revenues. You should have prepped and planned a strategy that you want to adhere to market your business startup to your customers. It doesn’t have to be a large portion of your budget, but it should include some effort on your part.

Think about where your customers go for their information. Be visible to them and make sure you use every opportunity that is available to you to market your business with both new and existing customers. Try social media, check into local advertising, hold and an event, and use what is available to you to reach your customers and introduce your business’ products and services to the masses.

If you stay aggressive with your marketing plan, you are sure to garner the attention of your current customer base as well as a new group of potential clients. This can bring in more revenue and keep your business startup on a path of success.

Get To Know Your Customers

It is your responsibility as a business startup owner to know everything there is to know about your customers. You should have a strong idea of who they are, what their likes are, and where they are located. When you truly understand your customers, the more effectively you can serve them with your products and services.

While your attention may be turned toward gaining new customers, don’t lose sight of your current clients. They are the bread and butter of your business, and you want to make sure you are not replacing existing customers with new customers at a losing pace. Show your loyal customers how much you appreciate their business. Without them, your business will only see marginal success, and you want to make sure to grow your business startup rather than be stagnate in its approach.

Take Time For You

It may be difficult to imagine, but you need time away from your business startup. You may think that you can’t take time away or that your momentum will crumple without you, but taking a vacation every now and then is one of the best things you can do for your company. When you step away for a moment, you allow yourself the opportunity to recharge and refresh. You’ll be able to see your business in a new light and be surging with motivation when you return.

You’ll be surprised at how much a vacation from your business startup can do for you. You’ll be filled with new ideas and solutions to problems that you previously thought unsolvable. Being able to see your business from a new angle can be just what you need to take it in a new direction, move it forward, or reach to new heights. Your business startup will appreciate the time you took, and you will be ready to take on new challenges with a fury as your drive will be restored and you will feel anew.

Plus, you have good people surrounding you that you can trust to steer the ship when you are away. Rely on your employees and allow them to do what you hired them to do. You’ll be pleasantly pleased with how quick they are to pick up the slack when you are away and the positive results you’ll see upon your return.

Having a strategy in place can ensure your business stays on track and experiences great success now and into the future. It is important to stay focused, think about your customers, and take a break when you need it. By embracing your business startup and trusting in yourself, your business will reach the success that you deserve and have always envisioned.

 

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Funded.com If you need to access our network of angel investors or a business plan for  start-up funding visit Funded.com

Small Business Should Invest in Big Data and Analytics

Big data refers to huge volumes of structured and unstructured data; however, processing such massive volumes of data via traditional data management tools is inefficient and impossible. To understand big data 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 data 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 data and business intelligence were associated with large enterprises only. Today, small businesses have to leverage the data 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 data 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 data.

·         Cost Savings

The upfront cost of implementing big data 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 data 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 data 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 data 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 data using an open-source approach. Once data 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 data 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 data.

·         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.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Funded.com. If you need to access our network of angel investors or a business plan for start-up funding visit  Funded.com

The Growing Cyber Security Risks for Small Businesses and How to Counter Them

Interactivity and interdependence of devices are increasing with time as the concept of IoT (internet of things) strengthens with time. While IoT pursues maximum convenience for individuals and businesses, it has its associated challenges too. The more intertwined the modern devices become, the higher the risk of cybersecurity threats will be. Small, medium or large, your exposure to serious internet threats does not depend on the size of your business. If you are a small business, you are exposed to just as many dangers as large enterprises. In fact, the downside for small businesses is that they are not as prepared as large businesses against cyber threats.

So, how are cybersecurity risks are increasing with time and what kind of risks facing small businesses today? Take a look at the many ways cyber threats pose a danger to small businesses.

The Ever-increasing Count of Cyber Security Risks

  • The BYOD Issue

BYOD (bring your device) is an attribute of IT consumerization. To stay productive and efficient at the same time, more and more companies are allowing their employees to use their own devices to access and use corporate data. An example of this would be a worker using his tablet to open company’s employee-related document repository or an employee accessing work emails from his smartphone. Unless you have strict policies and standards set for your BYOD implementation, your business could be at risk of being infected by malware coming from users’ devices.

  • Software Update Delays

Do you ever wonder why companies are so adamant at making their users update to the newest software version? This is because of the older versions of the same software, application, plugin, etc. are open to risks of cyber attacks. With small businesses relying on various applications, web applications and plugins for smooth website operations, database works, on-premise security, etc. they have to be extra careful at updating them all. Any non-updated software or application is an open window for internet thieves to jump into your system.

  • Internal Threats

You have to be extra careful when authorizing access to any of your employees to your network and database. Many of the attacks on big companies in the past have been allegedly perpetrated by “inside men.” Sometimes the threats from your employees are not intentional but rather innocent. The authorized person might have access their account and forgot to log out while leaving the station. Some third person can then take advantage of the situation and cause damage to the system.

  • Sophisticated Phishing Scams

This is a common issue with small businesses as they don’t have strict protocols for employees to follow before opening emails or social media links. While phishing scam has been around for a time, the new form of this scam is called spear phishing. In this type of attack, the scammer sends email from an address that appears to the receiver as known and acquainted. This fools the person into clicking on the link and letting a dangerous malware (a ransomware at worst) enter the system.

  • Lack of Cyber Security Knowledge

Sometimes, the problem is not being prepared to face a problem. This is a common case with many small businesses where owners and caretakers are under the impressions that cybercriminals won’t attack them—why would they? They don’t realize the top aspect of cybercriminals, i.e., they don’t believe in discrimination. One of the common indicators of lack of cybersecurity knowledge at a workplace is when employees choose common, easy and predictable passwords for their entry points to the company’s system.

What Small Businesses Have to Do to Counter These Threats

  • Set Policies with a BYOD Approach

If you want to follow a BYOD approach at your workplace, you better document policies and regulations about it. Make your employees read these manuals carefully, so they know what standards and requirements they have to meet before they bring their own devices into the office. For employees that have to access your system from remote locations, set up a secure VPN.

  • Gives Employees Cyber Security Training

They won’t know unless you tell them, so make cybersecurity-related training a part of your hiring process. In fact, make internet security related questions a part of your interviews. Tell your employees to log out of their accounts and computers while leaving stations. Ask them to have strong passwords. Facilitate them with applications to not only remember those passwords but also generate random and difficult passwords. Explain to them why such measures matter and what the consequences of not complying with the regulations can be.

  • Take Professional IT Help

Go for outsourced managed services or hire your own IT professionals to take care of the security-related issues. An outsourced service or the internal IT team will set up a complete system consisting of policies, hardware and software technologies to not only protect your database from cyber threats but also respond in time if you get attacked nonetheless.

  • Give Authorized Accesses Wisely and Monitor Them

You can give access to sensitive company information and the system to only a select few employees. When you give them access to the system, grant them only the permissions according to their roles. Secondly, have a monitoring system to keep an eye on the activities of these employees. Furthermore, delete the accounts or change the passwords of accounts that are no longer in use because the employees they were created for have left the company.

  • Choose Third Party Services Wisely

Have proper meetings and consultations before you subscribe to any third party services. To run a business in today’s digital age, you have to subscribe to many platforms or applications as services, e.g., cloud CRM. You want to be sure that you are picking an industry-recognized and reliable partner. They must have the right security measures taken to protect not only their system but every bit of information that goes on their cloud platform from your databases.

Do not forget the security of your website among all this. In addition to your databases, internal software, applications used by employees, etc. you want to update your website plugins and applications in time too.

 

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Funded.com. If you need to access our network of angel investors or a business plan for start-up funding visit  Funded.com

All the Reasons Why Mixing Small Business with Personal Banking Isn’t a Great Idea

When starting a new business, you face hundreds of new challenges – many of which you have already assessed and many that you couldn’t have imagined. Once you have made up your mind to start your business, you need to set some rules. While there are many, today’s topic is mixing personal banking with business finances. A great number of new and small business owners make the mistake of mixing their finances with business finances. Here are the reasons why you should not do this when you start your business.

Reasons Why You Should Not Mix Personal Banking and Business

 

  •       To Make Loans Easier

If you want to make it easier for you to obtain loans, you would want to keep your bank account separate from your business account. The first rule one has to learn as a business owner is “business has its own identity.” Keeping that in mind, you have to open a separate account for your business. With time, your business will create its credit history making it much easier for you to obtain loans in future.

  •     To Know Business Expenses

When you have your personal and business account all mixed up, you don’t know which expenses are which. If you need to buy a new wristwatch for yourself, the money comes out of that account. If you have to buy new furniture for your business, the money still comes out of the same account. As the time passes, it will become nearly impossible for you to sift and sort through your expenses and business expenses. To know your business’ profit, you need to know its expenses.

  •       To Make Tax Filing Easy

Tax filing can become a nightmare for you with your personal and business income and expenses are intertwined. By mixing the two accounts, you are making the job difficult for yourself. As for the sole owners of a small business, it is best to put some percentage of your income in a separate account, so you don’t have to pay the taxes from your pocket at the end of the year.

  •      To Keep It Professional

So, you want your business to turn into a brand. You have had your visiting cards, letterheads, brochures, etc. printed. You want people to know the name of your business. Having done that, how does it feel when your customers and clients have to write a check in your name and your business’? People might think that you are not serious about your business and that you might change your mind at any time, which is a lost opportunity for long-term B2B relations.

  •       To Keep It Transparent

When the money from your earnings and business go on the same account, you will not distinguish between both when it comes to spending. At times, you might be making up for business losses from your pocket, and at other times, you will be buying your stuff from business money.

Bottom Line

For the reasons above and many others, it is in your best interest that you open a separate account for your business and keep your savings personal. You could also close doors for future incoming investments due to this basic non-professional move.

 

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Funded.com. If you need to access our network of angel investors or a business plan for start-up funding visit  Funded.com

Basic Principle of Financing

Poor management is often referred to as the main factor of why businesses fail. Lacking or poorly timed financing is a nearby second. Whether you are a starting up business or expanding your business, adequate capital is important. Yet it is insufficient to essentially have enough financing; understanding and planning are necessary to control it well. These qualities will ensure business owners to avoid mistake like having a wrong type of financing, or underestimating the cost of borrowing money.

Ask yourself this question before inquiring about financing:

  • Do you need more capital or can you work on with your existing cash flow?
  • How do you characterize your need?  Do you need the money because you want to expand? Or as a cushion against risk?
  • How vital is your need? You can get the best terms when you foresee your needs rather than looking for money under pressure.
  • How big is your risk? All businesses suffer from risks and danger, and the level of danger will influence expense and accessible financing plan B.
  • How strong is your management team? Management is the most important element surveyed by money sources.

Possibly most importantly, how does your need for financing mesh with your business plan? If you don’t have a business plan, make writing one your first priority. All capital sources will want to see your plan for the start-up and growth of your business.

Don’t assume all money is similar

There are two types of financing: equity and debt financing. If you are looking for money you should consider your business debt to equity ratio – the difference relatively concerning dollars you’ve borrowed along with dollars you’ve invested in your organization. The harder money masters include invested in the organization, the more it really is for you to entice loan.

If your company has an excessive percentage of equity to debt, you may want to seek debt financing but if your company has a high percentage of debt to equity, experts say you should increase your ownership capital for added funds. In this way you will not be over-leverage to the point of ruining your company’s welfare.

Equity Financing and Venture Capital

Most small scale businesses use limited equity financing but with debt financing, additional equity mostly come from non-professional investors like friends, relatives, employees or customers. However, the most common source of professional equity funding comes from venture capitals. These are institutional risk takers and may be groups of wealthy individuals, government-assisted sources, or major financial institutions. Most specialize in one or a few closely related industries.

Venture capitals are sometimes seen as deep-pocketed financial gurus looking for start-ups in which to invest their money, but they most often prefer three-to-five-year old companies with the potential to become major regional or national concerns and return higher-than-average profits to their shareholders. Venture Capitals earn money by owning equity in the companies it invests in. They generally prefer to influence a business passively, but will react when a business does not perform as expected and may insist on changes in management or strategy. Changing some of the decision-making and some of the potential for profits are the main disadvantages of equity financing.

Debt Financing

Banks, savings and loans, commercial finance companies, and the SBA are some of the sources for debt financing. State and the local government have come up with programs in the recent years to give encouragement to the growth of small business to help increase the economy. Family members, friends, and former associates are all potential sources, especially when capital requirements are smaller.

Banks traditionally have been the major source of small business funding. Their main role has been as a short-term lender offering demand loans, seasonal lines of credit, or single-purpose loans. Banks generally have been unwilling to offer long-term loans to small firms. The SBA guaranteed lending program encourages banks and non-bank lenders to make long-term loans to small firms by decreasing their risk and leveraging the funds they have available. The SBA’s programs have been an integral part of the success stories of thousands of firms nationally.

In addition to equity considerations, investors or lenders mostly require the borrower’s personal guarantees in case of default. This will assure that the borrower has a sufficient personal interest at stake to give attention to the business. For most borrowers this is a burden, but also an obligation.

 
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