Sound Financial Systems: Help Small Businesses Succeed

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Control and confidence vs. chaos and stress. This is the teeter totter of owning and managing a small business. Entrepreneurs gain a mastery of their small businesses when they make financial management systems a priority. There is strength in knowing the numbers, and where a business stands day-to-day. This information positions owners for big-picture planning, and puts the business on track for optimum performance. Entrepreneurs can ditch the uneasy feeling that comes with sloppy systems, embrace the financial aspects of ownership, and watch their quality of life increase.

PUT YOUR BUSINESS ON SOUND FINANCIAL FOOTING WITH THESE TIPS:

  • Make a commitment to improve financial operations.
  • Review current processes.
  • Determine areas for improvement.
  • Create a plan and systems that are simple to implement and maintain.
  • Set a regular time to review financial accounts and reports.
  • If accounting and financial tasks are not your strength, delegate this work to a skilled and trustworthy employee, partner or outside expert.
  • Select a software program for financial accounting. There are many affordable, comprehensive options available. Choose one based on the size and complexity of your business.
  • Develop policies and procedures that enhance financial operations; put them in writing.
  • Keep original documents on every financial transaction, and have a system for recording and filing them.
  • Share the policies and procedures with your team, and set a high standard for compliance.
  • Stick with it.
  • Enjoy the feeling of sound financial management.

When these functions are carried out faithfully, and with care, entrepreneurs have a clear sense of where the business stands, and can set a vision. When it comes time to talk with a business lender about funds to fuel growth, the necessary documents and reports will be in place.

For further reading on record keeping, check out the resources offered at www.irs.gov, including this article: Good Recordkeeping Helps Avoid Headaches at Tax Time

The Value of Going Green for Manufacturing Companies

 

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You may be green in the face from all the talk about “going green.” This trend over the last decade refers to the attention and effort to reduce waste in all areas of our lives, adopt more sustainable processes, and use materials that have minimal impact on the environment.

There are many steps businesses can take to become green, but you may be asking why. In the manufacturing industry, the focus is usually on increasing revenue, cutting costs and maximizing production. Implementing green practices is compatible with operational efficiency, cost control, and profits. In fact, these goals work in harmony with each other! Let’s take a look at the value of going green, not just for our planet, but for your bottom line.

Saving Money

The good news is, going green can help control costs. Take a look at General Motors and their Assembly Plant in Orion, Michigan. They have been using gas from landfills for heating and cooling, eliminating their prior use of coal. The landfill gas provides 66 percent of the energy used at Orion. In addition, Orion has a 350-kilowatt solar array that sends clean energy to the grid.

The plant’s processes have been changed to reuse and recycle in all possible areas. Shipping crates are donated to community gardens in Detroit for creating raised beds, and also used to create a rooftop garden on a parking structure at the GM Renaissance Center.

The plant is recognized as one of the most innovative assembly factories for car production. In addition, employees are encouraged to be resourceful and innovative in support of the plant’s green goals. Whether it is reusing rags in the paint shop or recycling, employees are participating in, and leading, green initiatives at Orion.

Increasing Top Line Revenue

Going green is not only useful for reducing costs, it can also increase revenue. Consumers, more than ever, want to do business with companies that demonstrate a commitment to policies and procedures that are socially and environmentally responsible. Consumers not only prefer companies to have environmentally sustainable initiatives — they expect them. There is a competitive advantage in manufacturing products with a minimum of carbon emissions and waste.

Imagine a consumer deciding between your product and that of a competitor – to them there may not be a clear distinction between the products, except that yours is produced in a green manufacturing plant. For many consumers, green practices align with their personal value system, and your company gains the advantage.

Tax Incentives

In addition, tax incentives are often provided to make it more affordable for businesses to go green. The solar industry is reaping the benefits of a bill, passed by Congress, and signed by President Obama, in December 2015, providing a five-year solar investment tax credit (TCC) extension, among other provisions. The incentives in the bill provided essential support for the burgeoning solar industry in the U.S., which has been a bright spot in the economy over the past several years.

Being Good to the Environment

Adopting sustainable manufacturing practices enhances brand value. Manufacturers have long been criticized for contributing to water pollution, and releasing greenhouse gasses into the air.

But some progress has been made. Advances in technology have lowered the expense of transitioning to renewable, clean energy, and other green practices. If your company is not ready to revamp its energy source, or make major changes, there are simple ways to begin transitioning to a green environment, such as mandating the use of non-toxic cleaning supplies, and insisting on office furnishings that emit fewer toxic gasses.

Manufacturers, evaluating how to join the green economy, have an array of new ideas to consider. When going green doesn’t cost your business green, there are fewer barriers to this commitment. Go green.

If you’re ready to be part of the green evolution, Crestmark can help! Call us today to hear about flexible financing options that could provide working capital to makeover your manufacturing facility!

Financing Great Ideas with Kickstarter

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Entrepreneurs and visionaries of all kinds can be easily confused about the best options for getting the financial backing they need. Now, there are more options than ever — some unimaginable only a few years ago. One of these is Kickstarter, self-described as an online platform for funding creative projects. Since Kickstarter was founded in 2009, nearly 300,000 fundraising campaigns have received pledges of more than $2 billion. Who put up the money? More than 10 million individual “backers” from all over the globe, in amounts as small as $5.00. To date, more than 100,000 campaigns have successfully launched products and projects.

One successful campaign funded production of a feature film based on the TV series Veronica Mars. Nearly 92,000 backers pledged $5.7 million; nicely beating the goal of $2 million. What happened to the money? The movie was the first in history to be produced entirely with Kickstarter funding. It opened in 291 theaters in March 2014, and had an opening-weekend box office of $2 million.

Manufacturers may be inspired by the Kickstarter campaign for the “Coolest Cooler.” Described as a “portable party disguised as a cooler,” the creators started their campaign with a fundraising goal of $50,000, and ended it with a whopping $13.3 million in pledges. The product is for sale on Amazon, but the company is experiencing operational and cash flow challenges.

If you have an idea for a new product or creative project, and are exploring funding options, Kickstarter has proved to be a viable fundraising option for well thought out and inspiring ideas. Project categories include:  crafts, dance, design, fashion, films, music, publishing, and technology. Kickstarter has rules governing the fundraising campaigns, and begin with the premise that projects must create something to share with others. The complete list of rules is available on their website.

Funding campaigns come in all sizes.  Here is a sample.

$20 Million in Funding

The campaign for the Pebble E-Paper Smartwatch raised more than $20 million, making it possible to produce, and bring-to-market, the first-ever smartwatch. Merely a great idea in 2012, the Pebble E-Paper Smartwatch is now available in several styles at many retailers, including Amazon (Retail price for some styles is $99.). Since its launch, Pebble E-Paper continues to innovate, and now offers its community of users a personal organization system via the watch.

 $1 Million in Funding

The “10-Year Hoodie” raised $1 million from backers who liked the idea of a high quality sweatshirt that comes with a 10-year guarantee and free mending. The $99.50 limited-edition hoodie can be purchased at flintandtinder.com.

Under $30,000 in Funding

Coming in on the low end of the scale is “The Playsuit,” a stylish, one-piece luxe-knit garment that looks like a skirt but has the comfort and convenience of shorts. The creators of this product received pledges of more than $22,000 from 364 backers – exceeding their funding goal by 125 percent.

Is Kickstarter a Fit for Your Creative Idea?

Do you have a creative idea but no funds to bring it to fruition? Here are some indicators that Kickstarter may be a good funding option:

  1. You have a creative project to share with the world — original music, art, apparel, film, or video.
  2. You are able to present an inspiring story to the Kickstarter community.
  3. You are able to communicate your idea and dream in a compelling way.
  4. Throughout the process of bringing your idea to production, you are prepared to share the journey with your backers.
  1. You are able to develop a reward for those who back your project. With Kickstarter funding, you retain sole ownership of your company, but you provide backers with rewards in exchange for their monetary pledge. Rewards have included copies of a published work, limited editions of the final product, and tickets to film premieres. The types of rewards created are limited only by your imagination.

Traditional funding sources for small and medium sized businesses

Not every product idea or creative concept is a fit for Kickstarter. Most established businesses, and start-ups, in a range of industries and service sectors, need and want financing solutions with predictable terms and reliable timelines. For 20 years, Crestmark has provided visionary entrepreneurs, and small- and medium-sized businesses with customized funding options. Contact us today.

Seven Ways Small Business Owners Can Seize the Day

Happy-jumping-dog-BLOGIt’s leap year! In 2016, there are 366 days instead of the usual 365. An extra 24 hours. A gift of time? For the small business owner, always feeling squeezed, will an extra day make a difference? Many business owners wish for more hours in the day, and at the same time, wish the day would end. With a change in perspective, and a lot of practice, it is possible to gain control over your calendar.

Forget the list of commandments to wake earlier, get to the gym by 5 AM, and improve your on-time performance. We suggest an approach that puts you in step with yourself, and your reason for starting a business.

Customize these seven time management tips, and you may even produce a more enjoyable, satisfying work day:

  • Develop an internal guidance system. Create your own guidance system that takes into account your business goals; the specific strategies and key people necessary to achieve them; and the values and principles you hold dear. As you schedule work, and plan projects, align your activities with your guidance system. Notice when you’re off course; get back on.
  • Time with purpose. Look at the work day as a resource. Use it to guide strategies, maintain focus on the big picture, and rein-in distractions. The day is yours to nurture a lead, coach a newcomer, or brainstorm a creative idea. Practice your purpose. Every day, learn what works, and feels, best to you.
  • Make thoughtfulness a core habit: Strong relationships provide the foundation for a satisfying journey. If the individuals around you are just the blurry backdrop of your life, bring them into focus. Transform your perspective on the people part of your work, and you may find your goals become easier to reach, and there is more pleasure in the day.
  • Schedule for strengths: As the business owner, you may have many roles, but schedule time to do what you set out to do – as often as possible. Are you the product innovator? Better schedule time for product design, or you will find yourself doing everything but.
  • Support limitations: If your brain wakes up at 10:00 a.m., shape your schedule to support you. Tackle routine tasks in the morning; be a winning CEO with a new client in the afternoon. Early risers who start strong may like to set aside chunks of time every morning for their challenging work, and use the afternoon for status meetings, routine calls, and report reviews.
  • Prevent time-stealing breakdowns: Anticipate and prevent common mini-crises by ensuring your business follows routine maintenance schedules for essential equipment, the office environment, vehicles, operating systems, software, and business relationships. A slow operating system may derail your production schedule. An unreliable truck may be a deal breaker if the engine fails while making a time-sensitive delivery. The ignored requests from a business associate, friend, or employee, may cause unfavorable ripples into the future. Attend, maintain, and deliver.
  • Check out time: At the end of the day, how do you feel? Take a moment to enjoy all of your successes, and assess the amount of time dedicated to big goals. What can you learn from the things that didn’t go as well? Don’t dwell. Check out for today.

At the end of the day, consider: was your time well spent? This is not about the stuff you did or didn’t get done on time. This is about how you moved through it. Did you do right by the day, and did it do right by you?

Blocking and Tackling: A Sound Business Strategy for 2016

What is your business plan for 2016? The economic landscape is ever-shifting, and 2016 has its share of challenges and opportunities. Employment numbers are up! Oil prices are down! Auto sales went on a tear in 2015! Your business, no matter the size, can adjust to the conditions. But it’s essential to be aware of them. In a late 2015 article in The Commercial Factor’s “The Year Ahead Issue,” Dave Tull, founder and CEO of Crestmark Bank, shares insights on the 2016 economy, and how it may affect asset-based lending. His wisdom, and practical approach to business, can be applied to any industry. Take a look here!

Crestmark to complete TIP Capital transition to Crestmark Equipment Finance

With the New Year quickly approaching, Crestmark Bank will finalize the transition of TIP Capital to Crestmark Equipment Finance by aligning the leasing company’s operations, website and social media networks into the corporate brand by year end. TIP Capital was acquired by Crestmark in October 2014.

As the equipment leasing division of Crestmark, CEF’s commercial and municipal customers can leverage a whole new portfolio of financial solutions for working capital such as asset-based lending, accounts receivable financing, business lines of credit, discounted and traditional factoring, SBA loans, and competitive rate, FDIC-insured Certificates of Deposit.

The alignment under the Crestmark footprint also opens up additional equipment leasing services for current commercial banking customers in industries such as transportation, manufacturing, apparel, furniture, oil and gas, hospitality and staffing.

Crestmark Equipment Finance offers vendor-neutral equipment leases that allow business customers to acquire equipment through fixed payment financing without a large amount of upfront capital required. CEF helps customers determine if a standard leasing buyout option (Fair Market Value, $1 Buyout) or a specialized financing program (leaseline) best services their IT and technology needs – and provides protection against equipment obsolescence.

We also focus on developing long-term business relationships with customers. CEF provides assistance throughout the lease term with online asset management tracking and reporting through our proprietary assetCONNECT® portal, and complete end of lease servicing expertise when equipment approaches the end of the lease term.

As TIP Capital completes its transition to Crestmark Equipment Finance on December 14, we encourage current customers and prospective equipment leasing customers to learn more about Crestmark by visiting www.crestmark.com or following Crestmark on Facebook and LinkedIn social media sites.

9 Resources to Help Small Business Owners

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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.

Dropbox

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.

Wix

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

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.

Slideshare

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

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

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.

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)

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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.