9 Resources to Help Small Business Owners


Running a business, large or small, can be daunting, At times, it may feel like you’re constantly putting out fires. Achieving business goals without stress may seem impossible, but it is possible, with practice, to develop an orderly, productive pace to your work. Effective work practices may even contribute to the success of your business.

Examine the way you handle tasks and projects, and look for ways to be more efficient. Standardizing processes for key activities will provide structure and increase productivity. To help, look for information online related to increasing productivity, and look for resources and applications created for this purpose.

Here are some valuable tools:

Google Analytics

This tool, developed by the internet giant, tracks traffic to your website. Google analytics provides detailed information on where visitors come from; indicates the pages reviewed and for how long, and many other interesting and helpful statistics. Use this information to inform decision making related to the website, and align it with your overall business strategy.


Never lose another file or photo! According to Dropbox, the service has more than 400 million users, and more than 1.2 billion files are saved to Dropbox every 24 hours. Dropbox allows you to save and store photos, documents, and videos. Then, using your computer, laptop, phone or tablet, it is possible to access them from wherever you are. In addition, you can share files with others. For example, want your boss to see the results of a photo shoot while she’s on vacation? Just email her the file from your Dropbox. Once she has the Dropbox app installed, she can access the contents of the file.


Do you need to create a website but don’t have the time or money to pay a professional graphic designer? Then Wix is the tool for you. This easy-to-use resource uses a drag-and-drop template to help beginners create a professional-looking website. It’s also easy to edit your page. If you decide to, say, change your company’s logo, Wix allows you to seamlessly swap in the new design.


OmniFocus provides a system to corral, and effectively organize, all the stuff that is in your head, along with new projects, messages from your boss, and the notes and “to do” lists on little pieces of paper all over your desk. Use OmniFocus to categorize all the incoming “bits” into actionable items; for delegation; and to back burner. OmniFocus is available wherever you are through your phone, tablet or computer. Best yet, OmniFocus syncs your data to its cloud server to prevent losses.

By having one central place to keep all of the things you’ve been thinking about, or have been told to do, you can stop worrying about what you’re forgetting.


Do you have clients or co-workers offsite, either in another part of the country or even the world? Slideshare, which has more than 50 million monthly users, allows you to easily share presentations with them. You can share videos, slideshows, or music files with anyone who has the service.


JIRA is a tool for planning, managing, and tracking projects. First created to help software development teams, the tool is now used by many companies to manage all types of projects. On JIRA, projects are entered with associated tasks and deadlines. Team members are assigned work, which is distributed through JIRA. JIRA is a great tool to manage projects internally, and also those that have contributors outside the company, like graphic designers, copywriters, and IT consultants.


Quora serves as a virtual polling place where you can submit questions and receive feedback from thousands of users. This is a valuable resource for young companies and those who want to get more in touch with their customers’ needs.


Inc. is both a magazine and a website that offers information to help small business owners improve their operations.

The Small Business Administration

The SBA uses taxpayer dollars to provide loans to small business owners. But more than that, you can visit local SBA offices or Small Business Development Centers, or take SBA classes to learn business practices that can improve your operations.

Financing Mistakes That Entrepreneurs Make (And How to Fix Them)


Launching a new business is an exciting time for an entrepreneur. For success it is essential to understand and monitor your financial position. Take the time to learn good operating practices, and use financial reports to ensure you are focused on activities that build steady, reliable revenue.

Here are some mistakes you can avoid:

1. Not knowing, or miscalculating monthly cash flow/burn rate

One reason businesses fail is they are undercapitalized. This means they don’t have a cushion to cover their expenses while they develop a reliable stream of revenue. To get a handle on this, understand your business’s burn rate. This is the monthly cost to operate the business. Even if the business starts with low overhead, there are basic expenses that must be covered. What are your business’s monthly expenses? Are you paying rent? Do you have a staff? How much are your utilities? Do you have an assistant? Don’t forget vendors that must be paid monthly. Add up all the monthly costs, including supplies. For example, if you open the door to your new business, and your monthly expenses for rent, an assistant, phone, internet, utilities, and supplies is $10,000; then your burn rate is $10,000.

If you plan to seek financing or funding for the start-up, lenders will want to know the business’s burn rate.

Action: Go through your financial statements, and determine the monthly cost of operating your business.

2. Not Knowing the Cash-Zero Date

Another important measure is the cash-zero date. This refers to the date when the business will run out of cash. For example, if it is January 1, and the business has $100,000 cash-on-hand; the burn rate is $10,000, without revenue, you will be out of cash in 10 months.

Action: Determine your burn rate, and create a plan to get additional funds to support the business.

3. Seeking financing too late

Business owners may try getting by without financing. When a crisis hits, they have limited resources available, and may not qualify for a loan.

Action: Line up reliable funding options before you need them so that there are funds available to manage a crisis or other operational issues, including new opportunities.

4. Unfamiliarity with loan options; costly loans

Shop for a loan the way you would shop for other important items. Learn about the products and seek out reputable lenders. Examine the advantages and disadvantages of different loan types. Compare lenders’ rates, terms, and services. Familiarize yourself with lenders and financing products. Talk to other business owners. Ask for recommendations and referrals.

Action: Seek the best-possible funding option.

5. Failure to understand the financing process and timeline

Discuss the loan process and timing with lenders. The application process may take several weeks to months. It’s best to know the timeline up front. If you are facing a firm due date on a transaction, the funding may come too late. In this scenario, you will need to explore other sources of funding until your financing is approved.

In addition, some lenders – like Crestmark – are sometimes able to fund more quickly than traditional banks.

Action: Ask lenders to provide a timeline for the loan process, and for an estimated date the loan will be funded if the application is approved.

6) Relying on Credit Cards

Some entrepreneurs and small business owners use credit cards to cover expenses. This often occurs if they are undercapitalized, and haven’t planned for unexpected costs. While credit cards may help you through a jam, they are not a comprehensive solution for sound operations.

This option has limited advantages because of high interest charges, annual fees, and credit limits. In addition, it’s easy for small businesses to fall into a credit card trap.

Action: If it is necessary to use credit cards, seek introductory offers of zero percent interest; identify a card for business-only use; and track purchases.

Your business will have the best opportunity for success when you have sufficient capital to run it. Crestmark Bank provides funding solutions to small- and medium-sized businesses. Learn about our financial products here.

What is a Lender Thinking When I Apply for a Loan?

So you’re ready, and excited, to purchase an insurance agency. You eagerly call a lender to inquire about perpetuation or acquisition financing. The phone call goes well (you think), but a few days pass silently. Is the lender interested? Will I be approved for a loan? I wish I knew what the lender is thinking…

Crestmark’s own Christopher Soupal recently shed light on this topic, explaining the factors that influence the lender’s decision. The article was first featured by the Michigan Association of Insurance Agents, and it is also available on Crestmark’s Resource Section. In this piece, Christopher explains the factors the lender considers during the review, including the character of the borrower, the growth of the business, collateral growth, and more.

At Crestmark, we take the guesswork out of applying for a loan. Our lending experts work closely with you to determine the types of financing that will work best for your situation, and will walk you through the loan application process. To get started, contact us at 888-999-8050.

Crestmark to exhibit at Summer NAPE

Crestmark Bank will be exhibiting at the NAPE Business Conference held August 19-20 in Houston, Texas. Join Crestmark’s Steve Hansen and TIP Capital’s Landon Kent at Booth #2216 to find out about asset-based lending and equipment lease financing programs for the oil and gas industry.

Of note: the Keynote Speaker at the Business Conference Luncheon is Dr. Ray Perryman, often referred to as ‘the most quoted man in Texas’ for his expertise in economic and financial analysis. He is Founder and President of the Perryman Group, and will discuss “Dollars the Oil & Gas Industry Brings to the Economic Table.”

For more information about the Summer NAPE, please visit the NAPE website at www.napeexpo.com. Crestmark and TIP Capital look forward to seeing everyone at Booth #2216.

Crestmark: Champions of Business Featured in Bloomberg Businessweek

Crestmark was recently recognized in Bloomberg for providing capital and financing solutions to businesses across the country as a non-traditional lender. The featured article outlines Crestmark’s unique efforts in adding value to small-and medium-sized businesses through innovative financial solutions to niche markets.

The article discusses how Crestmark’s diverse team has helped to expand and reach new locations and new industries. The combined experienced of our team, as well the leadership of CEO David Tull and President Mick Goik, allows us to continue to work every day to help clients meet their goals. Currently at Crestmark, we work to provide financing solutions to a number of industries including manufacturing, transportation, staffing, retail supply chain, insurance agencies, equipment finance/leasing hospitality, oil and gas. We have full-service offices including our headquarters in Troy, Michigan, leasing division in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee, California, and New York – as well as sales representation throughout the country.

Crestmark’s vision is to help businesses not be limited by funding. They want businesses who have good sales, strong capabilities and potential to succeed who may struggle with funding to be able to achieve success. We want to encourage entrepreneurs, small and medium businesses to have the funding necessary to grow their business.

See the full article here: http://www.crestmark.com/resources/champions-of-business-financing-across-the-country/

Our team works with an outside network of business professionals such as lawyers, accountants, business consultants, and bankers to provide the working capital assistance those businesses need. We are proud of our history and the collective strength that we’ve brought together – and we are ready to help. When you are looking for alternative financing for your business, and have questions, contact one of the Crestmark lending experts at 888-999-8050.

Using Stock Options to Build Your Team

As the economy continues to strengthen in 2015, demand for skilled employees continues to grow as well. Companies who are looking to hire top talent have to find creative ways to land (and retain) workers. This is especially true for young companies who are competing against larger, more established businesses who have deeper pockets to attract new hires.

Offering stock options can be a great way to build your employee base. Bill Harris, the founder of Personal Capital, said at a South by Southwest Interactive session in 2013 that stock options are the most powerful way to help build a successful business.

“The people you want to attract to your business are the people who want equity,” he says, according to Forbes. “You need people who are willing to take risks. And then you need to reward them.” For that, Harris says stock options are the “best little storehouse in Texas.”

“It’s great for the company since it’s got no cash outlay,” he explains. “For the employee, it’s even better. They benefit from the stock price rising and are protected from its dips.”

Harris says first-timers often struggle with equity because they don’t understand how to get the maximum value out of it. He suggests a one-year waiting period for new employees after which the stock options can vest monthly or annually. There are no hard and fast rules on who gets how many options, but he suggests executives or early hires can receive as much as 1-2% of the total shares of the company.

Harris also notes stock options can provide a benefit that no future investor could ever receive. “In startups, employees are often able to purchase exercisable shares by as big a discount of as much as 10 to 1,” he says. “In other words, if the preferred stock is a dollar, the common share and employee could be 10 cents.” When those shares start to gain value, the profits could be huge.

When done correctly, equity offerings can help spur employees to bet on an unproven or new company, reward long-term value creation, spur creative thinking by employees, and encourage employees to think about the company’s success beyond their own positions.

Andy Rachleff designed the Wealthfront Equity Plan to help companies figure out how to offer equity. Each year, he says, the company creates a pool that addresses four needs: New Hires (used to hire new employees at market levels), Promotion (used to reward employees that have been promoted), Outstanding Performance (used to reward the top 10% to 20% of employees who were exemplary in the past year), and Evergreen (used for all employees, starts at an employees 2½-year anniversary and continues every year thereafter).

The key, he says, is consistent, early evergreen grants. These grants, he says, are the most common area where tech startups fail to invest until it is far too late in their development.

“The average tenure for most technology employees is two to three years, and waiting until your first employees hit year four is just too late,” he says.

A transparent and consistent system of evergreen grants allows employees to build that system into their long-term expectations and links long-term tenure and contribution to their ownership stake.

Ultimately, finding a compensation package that allows you to attract and retain top talent is key in growing your business. Next time you are planning to hire, consider stock options as a part of your offer!

Crestmark Funding Solution Featured in ABF Journal

Steve Tomasello, Executive Vice President and East Division President at Crestmark, has written an article recently featured on ABF Journal. Steve has over 25 years of commercial finance experience and has been working at Crestmark since 2009. As an alternative lender Crestmark is often asked by traditional lenders, turnaround professionals and consultants to develop specialized funding solutions for businesses. We are always eager to share our insights and experience with other industry professionals and businesses.

In the article Steve shares Crestmark’s unique experience in finding a new financing solution for a busy thermoforming company. The challenging opportunity to develop a customized loan structure required innovative solutions and carefully timed, coordinated efforts by an experienced lending team. Twelve loans had to be refinanced, consisting of personal loans, mortgages, a line of credit and machinery and equipment term loans.

In the end the multi-tiered solution was made possible by strong leadership within the company, the resourceful and motivated sales, underwriting and management team at Crestmark, as well as a solid relationship with the incumbent lender. A new lending relationship was formed and innovations including improved management of controls, consistent processes, and higher-quality financial reporting to enhance the company’s overall productivity and potential were also achieved in the process.

For full details, read the article here: http://www.abfjournal.com/articles/unique-funding-solution-a-multi-tiered-approach-for-a-growing-company/

At Crestmark we have a broad experience in providing diverse financial solutions to growing businesses. Give us a call today to speak with a lending expert and explore options for your business.

The Five Cs of Credit

When the time comes to meet with a bank to consider whether or not you are eligible for a loan, there are five key factors that the bank will take into account in the process. These key factors are known as the 5 Cs of Credit and include Capital, Condition, Capacity, Collateral, and Character.  Each of these factors is evaluated by your lender and ultimately will determine whether or not you’re on the way to receiving your loan.

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When you meet with your lender, they will want to know that you are invested in the company both personally and financially. They will consider whether or not you have contributed any funds to the business, as well as, how personally invested you are in the business. Recognize that there is more to a loan than just showing you’re passionate about a project in order to get the loan.


This factor takes into consideration the level of risk your company has in the market. What are the local economic conditions that can affect the success of your business? In addition, they will factor in your relationships with vendors and customers, your competitive advantage and the overall industry landscape.


This shows whether your business will have sufficient cash flow to repay the loan. The lender will take into consideration your payment history, cash flow, and determine the probability of repayment.


When the lender reviews your assets and collateral, they want to ensure that the assets match the loan type and can support the loan if necessary.


A lender can take into consideration all of the above factors, but a key component that could affect their decision is their personal experience with you. They’ll evaluate your references, your credit reports, and your overall professional demeanor.

Each of the factors plays a key role in determining whether or not you get the loan. It is important to find a lending partner that is reliable and trustworthy for your business loan. Crestmark is a trusted partner to companies in a variety of industries, providing the financing they need to help their business grow.

Check out the infographic to learn more about the 5 Cs of Credit and how Crestmark can help you through the process!


Borrowing Money vs. Equity

With the rise of popular television shows such as “Shark Tank” and “The Profit,” many new business owners are attracted to the idea of exchanging equity in their businesses in order to raise capital. This funding option is now commonplace – at least on TV – so it’s often a first thought in an entrepreneur’s mind when the need for capital arises.

But there is another option: borrowing money. Instead of giving up equity, some companies opt to borrow money, which has a few key advantages over giving up equity.

For starters, debt is typically less expensive than giving up equity in the long run because equity costs you a piece of your business.

“Think about it like this: when starting out, your small business needs inventory and equipment and to make payroll. Investors are going to help you with capital, but you’re sacrificing future profits indefinitely to fill a short to mid-term need,” writes Eyal Lifshitz on Entrepreneur. “With debt, you incur interest costs, but it is temporary and capped. Once you pay it back, your equity remains intact.”

Second, debt can be cheaper than your opportunity costs because you can profit from debt and open up new growth channels. The question, Lifshitz says, is this: “Is the return from this investment higher than the cost of the debt available to me?” Whenever the return is higher, the debt is worth it.

Third, paying interest on debt reduces your tax burden. The cost of interest actually reduces your taxable profit, which ultimately reduces your tax expense. The net result is that you’re paying lower effective interest than normal.

Finally, debt encourages discipline, particularly in the formative and growth years of a company, because it creates an environment of thriftiness throughout the business that could ultimately put the company on track for better margins.

Crestmark has broad experience in providing working capital solutions to growing businesses. If you are exploring options for your business, give us a call today to speak with a lending expert!

Tips on The Lending Process for Female-Owned Businesses


If you’re a woman in the process of starting a new business, you’re in good company. The number of businesses owned by women in the U.S. is growing. In 2014, there were over nine million women-owned businesses, employing over seven million people and generating over 1.4 trillion dollars. For inspiration, check out this list of top women entrepreneurs.

This is great news, because it means women have the opportunity to pursue their dreams, support their families, and contribute to the positive growth of our economy – all on their own terms. If you’re in the process of getting started with a business of your own – whether you’re just bouncing ideas around or you have a firm business plan drafted – here are some quick tips on how to finance your new business.

Financing options and lending partners

It’s important to think through what kind of financing you’re going to need, both now and in the future as your business grows. Sometimes starting a business doesn’t require much money, and people can afford to finance it themselves.

But often, more money is needed to get off the ground and running. If you’ve thought it through and know you’re going to need a loan, consider what types of financing exist. A few examples include:

• Asset-based lending
• Account receivable lending
• Business Line of Credit
• Term Loans
• Factoring
• Traditional bank financing

The Small Business Administration (SBA) also provides some excellent resources to help women launch businesses, grow their existing business, and compete in the global marketplace.

Before meeting with potential lenders, have the following prepared:

– Business Plan: Having a firm grasp on what your company goals are, and precisely how you’ll reach them is critically important. Your business plan should outline these details, and will provide potential lenders with a thorough understanding of how you intend to run your business. Most importantly, preparing a good business plan provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism, attention to detail, and ability to plan – all of which are important to potential lenders.

– Financial Documents: Once you’re moving forward and meeting with a potential lender for a loan, start prepping. Make sure all of your financial information is organized correctly and efficiently. Having the proper reports will help your lender understand your plans for the funding, how you plan to grow, and how you will eventually pay the loan back.
For more on what documents you will need and questions you might be asked, check out this previous post on our blog.

– Answers to FAQ’s: Be ready for questions the lender might ask you. From “Does the business control its inventory?” to “What is the future of the industry,” – have the answers ready. In order to prepare for this, share your business plan with a few colleagues and find out what questions they have. Chances are, they will be some of the same questions that a lender will be curious about as well.

We work with women to fund small-to-medium sized businesses and are experts in this area. If you have questions, or would like more personal advice on how to finance your business, give us a call today!