Alternative Lenders and How We Differ from Banks

Many individuals and businesses require additional capital and are not aware of the many alternative lending options on the market today and have been turned down by traditional Bank lenders. In fact, in October 2012, bank lenders receive a record-low of 14.8 percent of requests for small business loans.

Since many people and startups are frustrated by bank lenders and come to Alternative lenders to find a solution, it is a great time to shed some light on the continually growing alternative lending industry.

What is alternative lending?

Alternative lending is one of the broad term used to describe the full range of credit options offered outside a traditional bank loan to consumers and entrepreneurs. These alternatives most often used when a person or company owner for many reasons cannot obtain a conventional bank loan.

Alternative lenders specialized in the use of overlooked collateral sources such as properties or even outstanding invoices to secure the loan. Typically, they have much greater flexibility to provide cash than the banks when it is a question of repayment schedules and loan approval.

This industry is well-established, and generally, respected members of the financial services community are employed in the alternative lending industry.

Fill The Gap for Individual & SMB Everywhere

While alternative loans may sometimes have more interest-rate than traditional bank loans, they fill up some gap for individual and small enterprise everywhere, giving cash flow funding that is so important to cash-strapped companies that have been unable to obtain a credit or loan from traditional banks. Every reputable alternative lender will discuss the best lending program for your company in detail with you.

Types of Alternative Lending Models

When we look at alternative lending as a whole, it is, in fact, a complex ecosystem composed of eight types of alternative lending model. They are:

P2P lending

P2P lending is currently one of the best-known examples. A large number of companies operate successfully to democratize lending. P2P lending is constructed as a market where people receive unsecured loans from other people.

The model enables people to access fast, cheap loans at an affordable rate.

Reward-based crowdfunding

Reward-based crowdfunding allows Cross-companies and individuals to make early-stage investments, sell products, gain market validation and social evidence, develop a multi-source concept, engage customers, build loyal communities.

The Reward-based crowdfunding started from Europe, but went much further and got adopted across continents.

B2B Lending

B2B lending is similar to P2P loans but aimed at companies. It allows SMEs from a range of online (individual and institutional) investors to receive the necessary growth funding. The real advantage of this system is that it enables businesses to cut down on time-consuming and complicated paperwork, such as banks process.

Also, B2B lending offers competitive rates and funding terms together with transparency and ease of use, just like P2P lending.

Equity-based crowdfunding

Equity-based Crowdfunding is one of the rapidly growing models. It allows startups and entrepreneurs to raise early-stage working capital directly mostly from angel investors, individual investors, and VCs in for equity in the company.

This lending model has a significant impact on business-to-business cross-border relationships as investors can access business abroad and oversee foreign business operations from the inside.

Microfinance and Community shares

This alternative lending model tends to focus on empowering small and medium-sized enterprises through local community participation.

Social institutions and community-based organizations can utilize local social networks for a “good cause” or fuel a small local business and sometimes to support a particular community (such as female entrepreneurs).

Microfinance enterprises are generally committed to supporting small business owners that do not qualify for a bank loan in their communities.

Donation-Based Crowdfunding

This model, which is already one of the rapidly growing funding sources, allows funders to support humanitarian or social causes or civic projects without material or financial returns.

Invoice Trading

Invoice trading is an entirely new area where small business has been able to sell their invoices or receivables at a discount for working capital to many individual or institutional investors. Financing platforms such as supply chain can also include in this category.

Although, this system is still new but already operated by a few companies.

Debt-Based Securities

This model allows long-term investments and primarily focused on clean energy firms (for example, financing wind farms or installations of solar panels). With increasing concern about natural resources and growing interest in renewable energy sources, this lending model has tremendous potential to be among some of the world’s hottest.

“Green” tech firms are gaining recognition and momentum and will require considerable allocation of resources in the coming years to impact countries around the globe.

The list of existing models and firms is indeed not exhaustive; creative innovators always come up with new ideas about how businesses, communities around the world or individual aspirations can be financed.

In the coming years, as the lending business is changing all the time, we may see a significant growth of other alternative lending models with very promising representatives.

Traditional Bank vs. Alternative Lender

You probably want to borrow money to help your business grow or thrive. Where you are planning to get this money is a big issue. Traditional banks and alternative lenders each offer their benefits and disadvantages. The differences, in general, can be divided into five areas:

Interest rates

Banks tend to provide loan for small business with the lowest interest rates because they have access to a considerable capital pool. But banks can, however, make a lot of money from a wide variety of products, such as credit card transactions, checking or merchant services, so they don’t need to focus on lending margins as much as possible.

While on the other hand, alternative lenders may need to draw more on their funds, commonly from credit facilities or investors, including banks, to issue new loans that raise their interest rates and borrowing costs.

While various online lenders seem to have lower operating costs because they don’t have to manage local branches, overall interest rates tend to be higher than what a traditional bank can find.

Application Process

It can be a long and complicated process to apply for a loan from a traditional bank. You might have to plan a phone call and then go to the nearest bank branch to start discussing the application and your qualifications in person after collecting and submitting your documents.

Hearing back from the bank might take three to four weeks, and even longer to get the funds.

Many alternative lenders have streamlined the application and approval process. You can get everything submitted online, and connect your financial reporting or invoicing software to make it possible for the lender to examine your business and hear back fairly quickly.

If the lender approves your application, it may also be able to transfer the funds within the next few days or speed up the delivery, and you will receive it the very same day.

Costs and fees

When comparing financing options and lenders, you may end up facing a variety of potential charges. Some are quite common especially, such as applications fee (the money you paid to apply regardless of the decision).

Others also, including origination fees (either a fixed fee or a percentage of the amount), are quite standard, although you’ll find out that other lenders don’t charge them if you shop around.

An alternative lender with higher interest rate will be inexpensive to approach for a loan. Whereas the banks generally require upfront costs without the guarantee of being approved.

Borrower Eligibility

Whether you are trying to open a credit line or apply for a term loan, you have to go through the underwriting process of a lender and get reviewed and approved. Bank loans might have stricter requirements than other alternative lenders.

Many banks, for example, will only consider lending to companies which have been operating for at least two years. You might also be asked to submit a formal business plan, have an excellent personal credit score, and demonstrate that your business has real assets to qualify (such as supplies, equipment, or invoices).

Alternative lenders often provide a full range of business owners with capital. A minimum credit score may be required, but it is usually considerably lower than the mandatory requirement of the bank. Also, alternative lenders may not probably ask for a business plan and expect you to have been in business for some months.

Security

Perhaps one of the notable differences between a bank loan and an alternative lender is that banks often generally require the loan to be secured, while alternative lenders are much more open to providing unsecured loans.

For a couple of reasons, banks will rarely give unsecured financing to small businesses, ranging from loan size to regulatory restrictions, approval processes or lending limits to risk. And even though they provide an unsecured loan, it can often turn into a drawn-out process that does not serve the immediate needs of business growth.

Access to low-cost deposit funds by banks means they may sometimes provide lower-cost finance. Heavy stipulations imposed by banks, however, indicate a massive hit to the degree of certainty that comes with that funding. Banks often have very low unsecured loan limits, forcing SMEs to look somewhere else.

There are cases where individual or business borrowers don’t get enough, and the unsecured limits they get out of a bank are meager, like $ 5,000 or $ 15,000, if they need up to $ 80,000 or more to do what they want to do. So it is genuinely a reflection of the fact that they would never be able to borrow the amount they need from a traditional bank.

Helpful Tips

Banks do have a centuries-old strategy which does not favor unknown factors, but there are options for raising funds for the infant company. In a business sector that banks were never meant to serve, alternative lending exists to fill a need.

Below are a few helpful tips to enjoy the benefits of Alternative Lenders.

Get You Strategy Organized

An individual and small business owner should undoubtedly start by organizing their strategy to receive the benefits of alternative lending. So, do you have a strategic plan that clearly outlines the goals of your company and how you are going to achieve them?

If not, that’s where you would have to get started. Specify in the strategy plan why you want the money for your business and what it will achieve.

If you’re not a person with numbers, it may be a good idea to find one, as lenders need to be reassured that you’ve been thinking through your idea and you’ve not just based your concept on a dream. You can convince a lender by presenting a clear and detailed business plan that your business is worth taking on a certain level of risk.

What is your credit condition?

The condition of your personal credit is another point to consider when seeking alternative lending. Let’s be clear; lenders will most likely pull your credit report and scrutinize it before they transfer the money to your bank account.

Save yourself some frustration, if you have credit problems, try to get them cleaned up before applying for a loan.

Do your homework

Finally, although many alternative lenders operate effectively legitimately, some people have been exploited by unscrupulous lenders. It is crucial to perform due diligence by comparing all types of lenders with shopping loan rates.

Weigh options and search for any hidden charges that may arise later down the road. At the very least, look for reviews from happy customers and check on your list for possible choices for reviews that other borrowers have given to any lender.

Choosing the best source of loans

There is no single most useful source of loans for individuals and small businesses. However, you can follow a few guidelines.

If you meet the criteria based on your credit score and business time, don’t need money fast, and don’t mind the amount of time it takes to complete an application successfully, a traditional bank loan could provide you with lower interest rates, higher borrowing limits, or favorable terms.

Consider an alternative lender if you need some funding quickly and easily, want a simple and fast approval process, or don’t meet the bank’s qualifications.

Finding the right lender is ideal. Once you’ve agreed that alternative financing is right for you and your business, it’s time to decide on the right lender, and the perfect way to make this difficult decision is through consultation.

An ideal lender is interested in investing the amount of time it takes to fully understand your business and help you to understand the benefit of a loan, as well as identify the right alternative options for your situation.

Alternative lender will answer all your questions if you have any concern and help you feel more comfortable. Individuals and businesses looking for funding should concentrate on finding a lender ready and willing to treat you and your business as a family.

We could be the option available you are looking for: we are specialized in building one-on-one long term relationships with the individual as well as small and medium-sized business owners. In any way we can, we are here to help you.

 

References

  1. The New York Times – Students Look to Loan Alternatives to Simplify Process and Ease Burden

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/23/education/students-look-to-loan-alternatives-to-simplify-process-and-ease-burden.html

  1. Annual Review of Financial Economics – A Review of Empirical Capital Structure Researchand Directions for the Future

https://www2.bc.edu/thomaschemmanur/phdfincorp/MF891%20papers/Graham%20and%20Leary%20A%20Review%20of%20Empricial%20Research%20in%20Capital%20Structure.pdf

  1. Capital University – Alternative Loans – Helpful Tips for Choosing an Alternative Loan

https://www.capital.edu/admission/tuition-and-financial-aid/alternative-loans/

  1. Research Gate – A Research on the Influence Factors of P2P Lending Market

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313882613_A_Research_on_the_Influence_Factors_of_P2P_Lending_Market

  1. thebalancesmb – Learn About Rewards-Based Crowdfunding

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/what-is-rewards-based-crowdfunding-985103

  1. accion.org – A longitudinal study on the impact of mission-based lending services on small business in the United States

https://us.accion.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Small-Business-Lending-Impact-Study.pdf

  1. Journal Venture Capital – The interaction of equity crowdfunding platforms and ventures: an analysis of the preselection process

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13691066.2016.1252510?tokenDomain=eprints&tokenAccess=vcUhkg6wPXCYD6V4Sd8w&forwardService=showFullText&doi=10.1080%2F13691066.2016.1252510&doi=10.1080%2F13691066.2016.1252510&journalCode=tvec20

  1. Business insider – Invoice trading is the new darling of Australia’s fintech loan market

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/invoice-trading-is-the-new-darling-of-australias-fintech-loan-market-2016-3

  1. Reserch Gate – The Case of Alternative Versus Traditional Financing: A Literature Review

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319557876_The_Case_of_Alternative_Versus_Traditional_Financing_A_Literature_Review

Reasons Why SEO is Important for Your Business

Search engine optimization is often used as a buzzword in the realm of digital marketing. Sadly, this status of “buzzword” is often why businesses dismiss it as something trivial. In truth, SEO is probably the single most important thing on the Internet that businesses must focus upon.

But what makes SEO so important for businesses? Let’s take a look:

1. Visibility:

The primary reason why businesses need to have SEO is website traffic. Just pure, heavy traffic can do wonders for your business – strength in numbers, remember? Good SEO ensures that your business ranks high in the search engine ranking pages (SERPs) with their relevant keywords. The general user trend is to “never go on Page 2”, so being visible on the first page automatically guarantees that a lot of users would visit your business website. Ignoring everything else, just this traffic can exponentially improve your reach. In many ways, good SEO can bring you more visibility than any other form of marketing. For a small business, being visible is crucial in expanding its user base; SEO can be a boon for them.

2. Credibility:

Building credibility in the eyes of the customers is as hard as building a brand. More often than not, potential customers tend to ignore a company if they think it is not credible enough, no matter how good their product/service is. Credibility doesn’t build overnight; there is a lot of work involved in creating that authority. Although there are more ways to create authority, Google search results are often an important metric. In the eyes of an internet surfer, a business on the first-page results must be quite credible if it is so high in the Google search results. On the contrary, web pages on the later SERPs must be shady, or why wouldn’t Google show them first? Search engine optimization ensures that your business ranks high in the search results, thus ensuring credibility in the eyes of potential customers.

3. Local Market Engagement:

Most search engines today make a distinction between global and local users. This distinction can be very useful for businesses. “Local” users are simply users who are in the vicinity of your business. Local SEO is a type of SEO aimed at targeting these local users. This is usually done by keywords that the local users would tend to use, backlinks to other local websites etc. Google particularly allows businesses to exploit this distinction between local and global users; with the use of local SEO, businesses (especially small and medium ones) can get greater local engagement and build a customer base.

4. Return on investment (ROI):

Marketing and advertisement generally consume the most capital in businesses other than the actual cost of production. But more often than not, the ROI is not impressive enough. Businesses spend huge money on paid advertisements only to realize that they are not reaching far enough. On the other hand, SEO has a much higher ROI. This is largely because SEO costs a lot less compared to advertising and marketing. However, it is also because SEO is a lot more targeted. Only people interested in your niche or sector would bother searching about it, and your position in the top results would ensure that they visit you. This also eliminates all the wrong demographics which are often unintentionally targeted by advertising campaigns and increase the costs.

5. Better User Experience:

Businesses constantly strive to provide a better user experience in anything they do. After all, better UX means more satisfied users and loyal customers. But quite often these solutions do not solve anything at all. SEO, however, improves UX in a single, direct way. Most users today tend to use Google as a personal assistant instead of a search engine. They tend to not only search for businesses but also the services, features, and reviews of those businesses. With good SEO you can allow Google to provide all these answers to users on their search results page. With the correct use of SEO, search engines can index certain parts of a webpage and use it as metadata in response to search queries. Not only does it further increase your traffic but also provides a better UX to users by providing them with the exact information they want.

6. SEO is always Up-to-date:

The market has never been more dynamic before. Every day something new happens, and even a single event has the potential to change the way market works. As the competition gets stiffer, the methods to reach customers become obsolete faster than ever. Be it advertising, social media marketing or public relations – companies are often late to realize that their existing tactics are no longer relevant. But with SEO, this is never the issue. Google search algorithms are probably one of the most fickle things in the universe, continuously changing over a matter of days. Fortunately, this is matched by the rate of SEO updates. Any changes made to the search engine algorithm are almost immediately reflected in the SEO strategies. Thus, SEO ensures that there is at least one front where businesses can always keep up with times.

7. Low Cost, Long Effects:

Like we said before, one of the reasons why SEO has such a high ROI is its low cost. In fact, if business owners are proficient with SEO, it practically costs nothing to use SEO on their website. Despite the low cost, SEO gives some long-term benefits. In its core, SEO is a long-term strategy. While it is entirely possible to see some positive impacts in the first few months of using it, the real power of SEO lies with time. No matter how much search engine algorithm or SEO strategies change, the impact of using even basic SEO would resonate and continue to benefit your business for years. In fact, when done continuously over the years, the impact would likely grow exponentially.

Conclusion:

Search engine optimization is certainly much more than a buzzword. When used correctly, it can do wonders for a business. All you need to do is recognize its potential for your business.

 

by Nancy Khosla

IZPO Marketing

Why is the First Page of Google Listing So Important for Your Business?

Anyone who has dealt with search engine optimization has definitely heard a lot about reaching the first page of Google listing. It is like a Holy Grail of SEO where every website strives to reach. But why exactly is it so important? Most businesses wonder the same and often discard it as too much trouble for too little. But to be honest, it is anything but “too little”. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of the first page Google listing for your business:

1. More visibility:

Most users can tell at least one website on the first page of any search query they often use. How many can tell a website on the second page of the same query? Numbers suggest that less than 3 percent of users ever bother to go to the second page of search results. This means that there are an overwhelming number of potential customers that would be missed if you fail to appear on the first page of Google listing. That is why SEO works in multiple fields simultaneously to ensure that you find yourself in that narrow, sweet spot. From outbound links, SEO keywords, and social signals to the length, quality, and title of content – a lot of factors play a role in reaching the first page. But when you do, you find yourself visible to an exponentially larger pool of users.

2. More Traffic:

It is natural that the more visible you are, the more traffic you will get. But the numbers are astounding. Some studies show that more than 36 percent of the traffic on any search query is hopped by the top 5 websites alone! This means that out of the millions of search results, every third person tends to go with the first 5 ones. Not just that, but websites on the first page get, for example, 10 times more traffic than ones on page seven. This is why making it on the top is so important. Traffic is one of the most crucial metrics in judging the success of any business online. Sometimes, it is even the end goal. More traffic often translates into more customers. By making it to the first page, you are simply giving a huge boost to your website traffic.

3. New Opportunities:

As a business owner, particularly small business, one of your top priorities is always to expand your customer base and search for new opportunities. But how exactly does someone do that? There is an array of marketing tactics that aim to create new customers, but appearing among the top search results is perhaps the most interesting one. Why? For starters, it gives users a sense of power and control. Instead of the business approaching them (like in advertisements), this time they approached the business (through the search query). Consistently appearing in the top results also compels users to become familiar with the brand easily. The best thing is that SEO is a long-term strategy, so these new opportunities would continue to present themselves as long as you can maintain yourself on the first page of Google listing.

4. Creates Credibility:

Your rank on the search results page speaks volumes of your credibility – at least in the mind of the users. Thanks to the Internet being only a recent phenomenon, people are still generally skeptical of what they see online. Especially in cases of businesses that have just begun and/or are not very well-known, users would usually try to avoid them. This skepticism is not unfounded either since there are indeed a lot of scammers on the Internet and Google search algorithm is designed to eliminate or at least push back such websites. In any case, there is a direct proportion between Google rank and credibility of a business. Hence, appearing on the first page of Google listing automatically gives you authority and allows users to trust you more easily.

5. Saves Money:

As we can probably deduce, SEO is quite cheap. While basic SEO can be done by anyone and is virtually free, even the advanced SEO that ensures first page rankings doesn’t cost much either. Compared to this, the benefits are huge. Like we mentioned in a previous point, appearing among the top results is a huge marketing advantage. It opens you to new potential customers and does all that organically (which is better, because users hate paid advertisements). The effectiveness of this is quite greater than other marketing strategies. At the same time, the cost is much, much lower. In simple words, appearing on the first page of SERP can save your business a lot of money.

6. Branding:

Like credibility, branding is hard to build. Branding is nothing but the cumulative effect of many factors which concludes in a single thing: the name of your business being enough to sell products/services. But brands are not built overnight. Even if you find success right now, it does not necessarily mean that people will buy your product/service next time on your word alone. So while building a brand is slow and tedious, being on the first page of SERP can aid in it a lot. Like credibility, branding too requires a lot of trust by the users. And like we said earlier, being deemed worthy to be among the top results on a search page is like wearing an “I am trustworthy” badge.

7. Paves Path for Top Rank:

Reaching the first page also opens the ultimate prize to you i.e. reaching the top. Being among the first three results can drive at least a tenth of the total traffic (for that specific keyword) towards you. While the benefits of being on the first page and being on the top are virtually the same, except in the extent of it. Reaching the top increases the visibility, credibility and, traffic to a significant extent. But all of that is possible only when you are able to reach the first page of Google listings.

Conclusion:

As you must have realized, reaching the first page of Google listing might be tough and tedious, but it is worth every bit of effort for your business.

 

by Nancy Khosla

IZPO Marketing

Ways to Make Quick Money Online

Are you in need of quick money? Do you feel pumped and ready to start to earn extra money online? If you’re looking for ways to make quick money online, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled a list of ways so that you can finally make your 2018 the year you pay off your debt as you begin a better life financially. Choose the best way that fits your needs and start something that will help you financially in the virtual world.

  1. Virtual Lottery

Have you heard of the free app called Luckrastic? It releases new assortments of digital scratch-off tickets daily and you can win several prizes ranging from $1 up to $10,000. Aside from this, you can also win and earn tokens, play several games as well as enter different contests.

  1. Online Surveys

It is increasingly becoming more popular to students to wants to make money by filling out online surveys during their spare time. Numerous research companies recruit new members to test new products as well as answer different surveys. For just a few minutes of your time, you can now make some couple of quid which is paid either via cash or rewards. Among the few good ones you’ll want to try to include Global Test Market, iPoll, Opinion OutPost and Branded Surveys. You can also sign up for Swagbucks and they will reward you for surveys and by surfing the web, playing games and watching videos.

  1. What’s in your fridge?

Did you know that there are companies that are willing to pay just to know what’s in your fridge? Companies such as Nielsen Consumer Panel will send you a free app scanner or you can also use your own smartphone. Just simply scan the barcodes of the product while you’re shopping and then send that data off to NCP. Once you’re an active participant, you can earn several gift points to redeem numerous merchandise items that range from electronics, toys for kids and even household items. There will be more opportunities for you to earn points as you stay longer on the panel. You can even win a vacation trip or a brand new vehicle just by scanning product barcodes.

  1. Sell anything virtually

If you think your shelves and closets are packed to the brim with things you won’t use anymore, then you can sell them virtually. Free apps such as Letgowill let you do the selling for you. Just simply snap a photo of your item, upload it online and wait for buyers to check your stuff. It will remove lots of hassle of selling things online plus, it is 100% free.

  1. Part-time bookkeeping

Few of the perks of working as an online bookkeeper is to earn few buckets, having the freedom to work remotely while helping others succeed. In part-time bookkeeping, all you need are some computer skills and a passion for helping business owners in tackling their own real-world problems. Part-time bookkeeping is perfect for stay at home moms and college students who want to make real money by working from home.

  1. Online Market Trading

The world of stock market investing and currencies have been known worldwide. Nowadays, you don’t need to be a fat cat or to fun all the yachts of Wolf of Wall Street-style stockbrokers. Now, you can do them all by yourself using the help of online market trading platforms. Different platforms such as eToro and Plus500 both offer free practice accounts that you can use to start your experiment in the world of investing virtually.

  1. Downloading apps

Believe it or not, there are companies who’ll actually pay you just by downloading apps on your phone or computer. By keeping them installed on your smartphone, you’ll get paid again each month as long as the app is installed on your smartphone. Several apps you checked out that offer this include MobileXpression for Android and SavvyConnect.

  1. Data Entry

Although doing data entry cannot be considered as the best paying job, still, this is something you can do with just a few skills or no previous experience whatsoever. All you need is a computer and a good internet connection. With a cup of coffee on your side, find that online data entry jobs that will help you earn several buckets. Among the freelancing sites you can check include Clickworker and Smart Crowd.

 

Have you found the one that will suit your needs among the items listed above? We hope that the abovementioned list will help you as you start your journey in making money virtually. There are many other ways to make quick money online. You can even share your own ideas in the comments.

The Impact of Technology on the Small Business

Owners of small businesses use technology to help them in their daily operations. From computers to printers, cash registers to online file storage, the advances the world has made technologically has made a huge positive impact across all industries. The amount of impact on an individual business depends on the goals of that business, the products they use, and how well owners and employees adapt to new systems.

Impact on Operating Costs

Small businesses can use technology to reduce overhead costs. Basic software can enable a business to automate office functions, such as accounting, record keeping, and payroll. Owners can also use technology to create a secure environment for housing sensitive business and client information. Most of these technologies are very user-friendly and easy to implement.

Improved Communication

Generally, small businesses work very closely with their clients, providing them with products and services that add value to their life. However, going from an idea to an actual product or service requires means owners and employees must collaborate with each other and other vendors. Email and messenger tools made huge strides for small business communication, paving the way for online sharing and collaboration. Thanks to the option of connecting instantly, sharing information, and obtaining feedback, email and messenger tools have become great benefits to small businesses. Project management systems that are internet-based such as Basecamp, 5pm, and Zoho Projects offer an internet-based approach to keeping track of projects, updating team members and clients, and delegating tasks in real time. This means up to the minute information is available at a central hub, no matter where he finds himself in the world.

Flexible Work Environments

Technology provides small businesses with the option to work in an office, from home, or on the road. This results in the owners’ ability to hire talent from all over the world, thereby giving the business a competitive edge in the global environment.

Increased Productivity

Businesses can increase their employee’s productivity through technology. Business software can allow employees to process more information than they could manually. Technology can also reduce the amount of human labor in a function. This means that the business avoids paying high labor costs along with employee benefits.

Instant Connection with Clients

Owners no longer need to mail surveys to clients, waiting weeks for replies. They also do not need to call customers for feedback. Current technology provides small businesses with the ability to connect with their clients via email, blogs, forums, and social networks. Owners can take advantage of an instant connection through obtaining feedback from clients and then applying it as they see fit.

Online Stores

Technology has made a large impact on the retail industry. Crafters, designers, and other artisans now have an option to create an online store, rather than a costly brick and mortar storefront. With consumers moving to the internet to purchase everything from gifts to groceries, the popularity of online shopping continues to increase as the variety of products offered continues to grow. Those businesses with storefronts can expand their current business through creating an online store that can reach target markets beyond their immediate surroundings.

Employee Training

With small businesses implementing new technologies into daily operations, they now need to train new and veteran employees. New employees are likely to adapt to the new technologies quite easily. However, veteran employees might resist them or need a steep learning curve to get up to speed, which may result in a reduction in productivity for a time. Thus, owners must be diligent to implement new technologies at a pace that employees can manage so as not to harm the bottom line.

 

By Christine Trimbur

Jay Clark & Associates

33 Ways to Use Technology in Your Small Business

Technology aids small business owners in leveraging their limited capital in more effective ways. Sometimes, utilizing technology is a natural progression for processes already in place within the business. At other times, adjustments may need to be made in order to reap benefits from tech-friendly alternatives. Thankfully, the benefits will certainly outweigh any potential short-lived challenges that may arise during the transitional time once new systems are in place.

The ideas presented below will allow your business to do more with less and become more efficient and versatile. Even if you’re not tech-savvy, there are ways to implement technology within your business that are quick and painless.

Productivity

  1. Use a time tracking software to determine how you are spending your time. Then, you can evaluate and determine how to be more productive.
  2. Replace your costly name brand application with open source alternatives.
  3. Utilize a digital filing system. Doing so will make it easier to save, sort, find, and share documents.
  4. Develop an email management process to make it easier to stay on top of the message flow.
  5. Stay on top of your daily business responsibilities by using project management and task management tools.
  6. Use digital dictation to streamline your work processes.

Money Matters

  1. By using an online budget tracker you will keep on top of, and reduce, your expenses.
  2. Use an invoice service online to help reduce the cost of payment collection from clients.
  3. Comprehensive accounting software will streamline your business finances
  4. File your taxes online.
  5. Use your digital files you created above to share your financial records with your bookkeeper and accountant.
  6. Sell products and services online which will create a new revenue stream.

Marketing

  1. Start a blog that is related to your business and reaches your target audience.
  2. Software can help you create a marketing plan that you can edit, share, and update.
  3. Social media sites are a great way to promote your products, services, and your business.
  4. Use an opt-in form to collect email address to utilize the power of email marketing.
  5. Video marketing can be very lucrative.
  6. Create a website to promote your business online.

Collaboration and Learning

  1. Online teleconference calls are a great way to be sure the entire team is up to date, even if they’re all over the world.
  2. Use a webinar or conduct a web conference for no travel face time.
  3. Utilize online business training to expand your knowledge.
  4. Put your files and data in the cloud.
  5. Use an intranet for local file sharing.
  6. Use instant messaging as a way to communicate quickly with your team.

Customer Service

  1. Utilize social media to get customer feedback and conduct customer service.
  2. Set up an online ticket system or help desk to deal with issues.
  3. Allow customers to schedule an appointment online.
  4. Get customer feedback through online surveys.

Mobile Working and Telecommuting

  1. Creating a mobile office allows you the privilege of working productively from anywhere.
  2. Remote desktop applications can access files from your office computer making mobile working more functional.
  3. Save money on supplies and storage by going paperless.
  4. Find apps that sync with the Cloud to help you stay connected no matter where you are.
  5. Obtain a virtual phone number and an e-fax line that can follow you anywhere.

 

By Christine Trimbur

Jay Clark & Associates

Technology is essential to future of small businesses across America

The bottom line is that technology continues to change the world. In fact, it has changed the business landscape and the global economy several times over. Through the advancements in artificial intelligence and the decreasing cost of computing power, there will be another massive shift in the way people communicate and work in the next century. In the same way that the industrial revolution empowered entrepreneurs to construct iconic enterprises like Black & Decker and Ford, signs are there of the way the digital revolution is giving Main Street the competitive edge.

99% of firms in American are small and medium-sized businesses, powering American commerce. Through hiring, promoting diversity, and participating in the global market, these entrepreneurs strengthen both their local communities and the US economy. These owners are increasingly counting on technology to begin and grow their businesses.

It is no secret that technology is used to support millions of small and medium-sized businesses in the US. Simply consider the way Amazon enables online sales. Or think about the variety of digital shops that have popped up on eBay and Facebook. Everything from the way small companies market and ship their products to the way consumers find and purchase them is continually shaken up through new technologies. Each new innovation brings improved tools for running small and medium-sized businesses and engaging with potential clients.

The transition to a digital economy is happening so quickly that we are in the beginning stages of understanding the extent to which technology is transforming the world for small businesses. More than 70 billion small businesses throughout the world actively utilize FaceBook. Using this fact as a jumping off point, we can begin to comprehend the role digital platforms take in the development and the future of US small businesses.

The Chamber of Technology Engagement Center, the policy hub at the US Chamber of Commerce, partnered with Morning Consult and polled 1000 small and medium-sized business. This means companies with less than 500 employees. This is just a taste of what we are learning about small and medium-sized companies in general and how they utilize technology to fuel growth.

28 million small businesses account for 2/3 of new jobs and generate more than ½ of the US’s economic output, according to the US Small Business Administration. The poll showed that almost half of small and medium-sized companies that use Instagram, WhatsApp, and FaceBook have hired more people because of the increased demand for their products or services. On average, 43% of the businesses surveyed use digital platforms to retain and recruit staff.

Additionally, technology breaks down geographic barriers and this includes Main Street businesses. E-commerce and social media platforms have made it possible for small and medium-sized companies to reach clients well beyond the borders of their city or even state. This is a particularly large advantage for owners in rural areas.

It is not surprising, therefore, that ½ or more of small and medium-sized business leaders surveyed in 14 rural states said that FaceBook is the essential tool for their business growth. This allows small and medium-sized businesses based in rural locations the best of both worlds. Their actual location means lower overhead costs and proximity to their cherished community. Yet, these businesses can still reach clients around the world.

Because of technology, small and medium-sized businesses can participate in the global market with greater ease. This can mean marketing, exporting, and selling their goods abroad. Even though they are small, these businesses have an enormous role in global trade, accounting for 98% of US exporters and approximately 1/3 of merchandise exports. For instance, more than 120,000 US small and medium-sized companies export to Mexico and/or Canada. Of the businesses surveyed, nearly 80% sell products and services to more than one country.

Entrepreneurs require technology to run their businesses, no matter the size. As consumers continue to move online to make purchases and look for services, small and medium-sized companies have a unique opportunity to facilitate new relationships and market share. The preliminary research findings demonstrate that technology helps small and medium companies support local economies across the US, create jobs, and generate new opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation.

It is essential to bring a clear understanding of the role technology plays in the development and growth of the small business economy. This is not only to nurture and sustain economic health amidst today’s ongoing digital transformation, but also to ensure that the millions of Americans touched by small companies benefit from the economic security and the opportunities it offers for decades.

Business Loan Brokers

Funding a business isn’t an easy task. A lot of research, analysis and time is required to know and understand what your business requires and from whom. You need to find an appropriate lender as per the finance required by your company and negotiate with him to your terms and conditions.

All this lengthy work can thus be given over to someone experienced and worthy of efficiently handling it in order to save your hard work and time. These people who handle your business funding are known as Business Loan Brokers. A business loan broker will take the complete information of your company and its requirements as per the terms and find a suitable lender for your business.

The Working Mechanism of Business Loan Brokers

These brokers help you find the appropriate loan match keeping in consideration all the requirements and necessities of your business. They’ll bring to you the best available loans. In case you accept a loan offer brought by your Business Loan Broker, there are two options available for the payment of their fees. First, you can directly pay them their fees or secondly, the fee will be included in the total amount of business loan taken. Many brokers charge only if you secure the loan brought by them, whereas a few charge fees even for their service.

Advantages of Working with Business Loan Brokers:

  • Appropriate Rate: The business loan broker will diversify the reach and submit your loan applications to a few potential lenders. This will help your business to find the most suitable rate. You don’t have to rely on one single lender’s demands and rates.
  • Alternatives: If by chance, your application gets rejected by a bank or a lender; your business loan broker would help you find an alternate option for getting loans.
  • Wide Network: Finding appropriate lenders is the daily job of these loan brokers. Thus they have established relations and networks with the right contacts needed for the job to be done.
  • Market Analysis: These brokers have an intense knowledge of the market and its terms. Various financial terms which are even hard to pronounce, are presented to you in a simplified and explained manner by the business loan brokers. They make you familiar with the meaning and the functioning of various terms in the financial market.

Disadvantages of Working with Business Loan Brokers:

  • Control: The basic controlling of the whole lending procedure is given in the hand of the broker due to which a check on the progress and actual work being done is not noted properly.
  • Unethical Methods: These brokers have their own way of working and getting things done. These might be done with some unethical methods or practices which might not be appropriate for the conduct and reputation of your company.
  • Understanding: The broker might not be able to understand the functioning of your company completely which might result in inappropriate decision making and unwanted chaos.

Conclusion:

Hiring a business loan broker would release you from some time-taking responsibilities and unwanted headaches. Moreover, they help you understand how things work in the market when it comes to taking loans and understanding the financial terms. Their widespread contacts and networks allow you to get more money at fewer rates which would help in increasing your returns.

But at the same time, it is necessary for you to be cautious and alert while choosing the person you will be working with. You should be well aware of the broker’s past work experience and conduct to be sure that he would bring in the best offer for you. Keep checking regularly the work being done and how it is being done. This way, a business loan broker can prove to be a beneficiary asset for your company’s progress.

Nancy Khosla,

Jay Clark and Associates

How Do Business Consultants Help Businesses?

A business consultant provides solutions. There are many problems occurring every day in a business, irrespective of the scale of operations. A small business has a different kind of problems; a medium scale business will have a different set of issues while a large scale business firm will have completely different problems occurring. But a consultant can help with all kinds of business problems depending on his/her expertise and your size of business. Business consultants provide a fresh perspective on the business matters and help the owner achieve new heights of success.

There is a list of things a business consultant does that are very good for your business:

  • Provide a fresh set of solutions
  • Identify the root cause of problems
  • Supplement the existing staff
  • Provide expertise on a specific subject or market
  • Train the existing employees
  • Look after employee turn over
  • Bring in necessary changes to the structure
  • Provide objectivity
  • Provide constructive criticism

Not all business consultants are same. They come in many forms. There are experts in the following six major areas of businesses:

1. Management Consultant:

A management consultant solves the problems from within the business structure and provides ways to improve the efficiency and productivity. He creates strategies for making changes in the existing business management system and offers a lot of opportunities for personal development. They analyze how a business works – its strategies, operations, and structure, and then come with a plan to make changes and achieve the goals of the business.

2. IT Consultant:

Technology is growing very fast and it is essential to incorporate it into the day to day workings of your business. An IT consultant decides whether you need a new technological setup or not and how to integrate the new technology with your old one. He makes your business technology more flexible to suit the needs of internal and external associations.

3. Operations Consultant:

An operations consultant reduces the steps of production and increases the efficiency of your business. He implements new ways to reduce cost, increase productivity and simultaneously increase profits. An operations consultant specializes in re-engineering and quality control, maps out changes to reduce the number of defects and maintain the quality.

4. HR Consultant:

The employees need to align their goals with the business goals for a business to succeed. An HR consultant helps with that. He works after increasing the overall satisfaction of the employees, recruiting new staff when needed, training the new and existing staff and also letting go of people redundant to the company. They provide performance-related feedback and evaluations to make your team stronger.

5. Marketing Consultant:

A marketing consultant helps you create a niche for your business in the market. From the need for a new logo to a new social media strategy, a marketing consultant can help with everything. A consultant adds to the creativity when your people run out of ideas. The consultant can help create a new position for the business and attract new and more customers.

6. Finance Consultant:

A financial consultant offers financial advice related to investments, taxes, and insurance to increase the worth of the company. They help the company understand what to do with their current financial status and how to achieve their goals by maximizing the company wealth. A consultant helps the business in increasing profits along with smartly utilizing the earning and creating a financially secure future.

Reasons to Hire a Business Consultant

The following are a few reasons to hire a business consultant:

1. A Temporary Brain:

A consultant come in handy as a hired extra brain when you are short on human resources or have not yet filled the gap for a specific job. So in the meanwhile, you employ a person for a permanent job, the consultant can lend you the expertise required on the subject. Sometimes, when you need someone temporarily for a job of the limited time period, in such a situation too, a consultant can be helpful.

2. Bring in Changes:

Consultants are known for bringing in changes in the company which usually the employees resist when the management decides to go ahead. Thus, the consultant takes the heat for implementing all the changes and the loyalty of the staff towards you is maintained. Many times consultants are brought in for political cover or introducing unpopular changes.

3. To Employ Expertise:

Consultants are the experts in their field. They have the theoretical and academic knowledge and have worked with big companies closely. Thus they have the practical implementation of the same theories. For every problem, they have the best possible solution that has been tried and tested. So why look for new solutions when the consultants have implemented those on bigger clients and come out successfully.

4. Creativity:

Sometimes the internal solutions can get stuck up in their own boundaries. At a time like this, a fresh new perspective can help you look at the bigger picture which you were missing before. Consultants can come up with ideas for your business which you and your employees could never have thought of due to lack of exposure and creativity.

5. To Train the Employees:

Consultants are leaders and can train the employees to become more efficient and productive. Consultants have both – theoretical and practical knowledge of things which they can share and train people to take the advantage of the knowledge directly. They can deliver high values to the employees and make them more capable of their jobs.

6. Constructive Criticism:

Sometimes the business gets stagnant at a position and whatever you do seems to fail. A business consultant can analyze your business, compare its status with the outside flow and give you unbiased feedback. Many companies ignore the changes happening outside and thus get left behind. But a consultant provides the much-needed outlook on the details of current state, implementation of new schemes and such other critical matters.

7. A Roadmap for Future:

While you start the business, you have a roadmap of where you want to reach. But on the way, you have to make changes according to the market requirements. After a certain period, you feel the lack of experience or expertise to move forward. In a state of such crossroads, a consultant can clarify the direction for you to move forward. A consultant can make a plan for changing directions and also create strategies for you implement and reach your new targets faster.

8. Market Research:

Professional consultants are constantly researching the market and are in touch with the changing trends and dynamics constantly. Thus while taking strategic decisions you don’t have to hire someone, especially for market research. You can just hire a consultant and ask for his expert advice because he would definitely have done a thorough research of his own already. He can suggest you suitable changes and their practical implementation.

9. Save Time:

You cannot be an expert on everything. And you cannot employee permanent employees for a short-term work. For example, learning and doing the taxes above other things can be a hassle and there are chances of you making mistake. Therefore, you need to hire an expert who knows the fastest way to do the work and also has the best solution. This saves time and energy which you can utilize to do other work and take your business forward.

10. For Business Expansion:

With the changing trends, your business needs to branch out and expand to increase your existing market share. Developing a new business is a different experience for each category. When you are branching out, a consultant can help you with the business launch and also in the day-to-day operations of the new venture.

How to Find the Right Business Consultant?

Theoretically, the consultants are experts in their jobs. But practically, finding the right one that suits your needs is extremely difficult. You need a consultant who is passionate about his work, has an eye for detail, can do value-addition to your business and strives for excellence. The kind of problems you are facing needs proper addressing by an expert. Finding all these skills can be a difficult task.

You need to look for experience and strong referrals. A good business consultant needs to have a combination of many skills. So, necessary certification is essential along with well-documented information about his past works.

Consultants don’t come at a cheap price, but the right person can boost your profits immensely. And that is why you need to understand in detail to whom you are handing over your problems and trusting with the solutions.

Final Thoughts:

Hiring a consultant has positive effects on the business every day. But you the right man for the job. A consultant can not only create a plan for your success but also help you with the implementation. Not all consultants are same and not all the business problems have the same solution. So you need to analyze your business needs first and then look for the right person who will fulfil those needs.

You do need to wait for a little for the positive results to take effect but once they do, you will never work without the expert advice. Taking the counsel of an expert is sure expensive but weighed with its importance and future benefits, it is definitely worth it.

Nancy Khosla,

Jay Clark and Associates