Define Your Financial Goals for 2017

Architects at work

The greatest basketball player of all time once said, “You have to set your goals before you can achieve them.” Even with his incredible talent, Michael Jordan recognized the importance of setting clear goals. Most businesses want to increase profitability, help their employees become more productive, or additionally, take a greater share of the market. However, without setting specific targets, and developing a plan to hit them, it is less likely that these goals will be achieved. To help you get started on defining financial goals for 2017, try this well-known, and effective method called S.M.A.R.T.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

The SMART concept for goal setting was introduced in an article in the November 1981 issue of Management Review on the importance of setting business objectives. It’s become widely used and adapted because it provides a simple, logical framework, and the acronym makes it easier to remember.

Specific – Be specific. For example, set specific revenue targets, e.g., increase revenue by 10 percent by cross selling new products to current clients.

Measurable – Measurable goals inspire action, and provide markers for success. If your sales team sets a goal to close 20 deals by the end of the first quarter, this can be easily tracked. Along the way, plans and actions can be adjusted to meet the target.

Achievable –Setting achievable, but inspirational, goals is important. The purpose of goal setting is to guide growth and success. Set goals that are ambitious, but attainable, and guide your business to the next big milestone.

Relevant – Setting a relevant goal means that it aligns with the overall mission of the business. For example, if you’ve determined to increase revenue by 10 percent, determine the most logical areas, based on experience and known factors, where this revenue increase can be derived.

Timely – Lastly, set timeframes for each financial goal. “In the first half of the second quarter, a new, long-awaited product will be introduced, and we are targeting a 10 percent increase in top-line revenue by the end of the year.”

Once you’ve set your goals, work towards them methodically. Share them with your team, and monitor progress. A commitment to the process ensures progress will be made, and you will learn a lot along the way.

Detroit: The Good News City for Businesses Big and Small


Detroit, Michigan

Detroit has been experiencing a building boom. In the last few years, more than a hundred new restaurants have opened in the city, including Gold Cash Gold, opened by passionate locals, and Roast, a creation of famed chef Michael Symon, an Iron Chef on Food Network.

The resurgence in the city’s restaurant business can be partly credited to the phenomenon of a barbecue restaurant named Slows, which opened in 2005 in an all-but-deserted block of Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. The restaurant quickly caught on, and brought throngs of customers nightly, proving the city could attract people and dollars. The neighborhood now is a thriving destination, with restaurants and shops lining both sides of the main drag. Among them is Astro Coffee Shop, opened by young entrepreneurs. It attracts daily crowds with its artistic, urban charm, and a menu that rivals any international city’s hot spot for coffee.

The arrival of Quicken Loans, the largest online mortgage lender in the United States, was one of the most important breaks the city received in decades. Quicken ranks at the top of Detroit employers with 11.524 people working in its Detroit offices. Founder Dan Gilbert has been successfully leading the city’s real estate revival. He has been buying and redeveloping buildings, many of them historic, in the downtown area, and now owns or controls more than 80.

Small businesses, like outdoor apparel retailer Moosejaw, have been steadily opening, and large national chains are beginning to take notice of the upturn in Detroit’s business environment. Whole Foods has a store in the historic Brush Park neighborhood, and it’s been reported that Target has Detroit on its radar.

The Motor City has been helped by the record-breaking auto sales of the last few years. General Motors has its headquarters in the Renaissance Center on the Detroit River, and has been important to the development of the beautiful parks and trails along the Riverfront. Once a desolate area marred by parking lots, the riverfront now brings thousands of daily visitors. In addition, General Motors recently invested $1 billion in its plant on the border of Detroit and Hamtramck, hired 1,200 employees, and added a second shift to meet demand for the five vehicles produced there.

Detroit’s recent successes have come in the best possible way – through the contributions of small business owners who love the city, the commitment and investment of large businesses, and the sheer determination of its residents who never counted the city out.

Crestmark Helps U.S. Manufacturers

Many bottles on conveyor belt

The U.S. manufacturing sector represents 30 percent of Crestmark’s clients, according to Dave Tull, Crestmark founder and CEO. In Crestmark’s 20-year history, it has provided financing to scores of American manufacturing companies – often those that could not get funding from traditional banks. Crestmark is helping manufacturers from a range of industries get the funding they need for growth, cash flow, acquisitions, and operations.

According to a 2015 survey by Consumer Reports, the vast majority of Americans say they prefer to purchase American-made products. The good news is that while U.S. manufacturers have faced many obstacles to success, they continue to innovate, create efficiencies, and produce goods that are in demand.

Since Crestmark was founded in 1996, manufacturers have been a core client base, and have been important to the bank’s growth and success. So far this year, Crestmark has helped entrepreneurial U.S. manufacturers from all areas of the country, including: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas. The diverse array of products they manufacture include:

  • Aggregate
  • Apparel
  • Automotive components
  • Beer
  • Bicycles
  • Brackets
  • Building supplies
  • Chains, ropes, rigging
  • Cosmetics
  • Electronics
  • Footwear
  • Furniture
  • Handbags, belts, wallets and scarves
  • Home goods
  • Machinery and tooling for various industries
  • Medical devices
  • Orthopedic implants
  • Packaging
  • Pipes, fittings, valves and gaskets
  • Propulsion systems
  • Signage
  • Solar energy systems
  • Steel
  • Storage cabinets

Though news articles often depict the decline of U.S. manufacturing, it continues to be an important part of the U.S. economy. ABA Banking Journal looks at the manufacturing sector in an article titled “How Banks Drive Growth in American Manufacturing.”

Crestmark founder and CEO Dave Tull was interviewed for the article. On helping manufacturers with cash flow, Tull told the ABA Banking Journal, “The turnover of the cash doesn’t often coincide with the need for cash. The cash is going to be there, so it’s just a timing issue.”  One way that Crestmark helps manufacturers with this common challenge is by purchasing accounts receivable. This provides manufacturers with quick access to funds.

In the article, it is explained that Crestmark has a range of options to help manufacturers. For example, when a manufacturer needs funds to get to the next level, Crestmark can help. “We step in to finance growth,” Tull says.

Read the complete ABA Banking Journal article here.

Four Steps to Take If Your Business Is Audited

Checking documents

For many small businesses, once the business tax return is filed, and taxes are paid, they wonder, ‘What if we’re audited?’ It’s not likely. According to the IRS, only 57,000 businesses were audited in fiscal-year 2014 – the fewest since 2006. This represents 0.57% of U.S. businesses.

So, what if your company is one of those selected? Though feared, an IRS audit does not necessarily mean bad news, or that they suspect wrongdoing. According to the IRS, audits are a review of an organization’s or individual’s financial accounts to confirm that financial information is reported correctly, and to verify that the amount of tax reported is correct. So for most businesses, having the IRS knocking at the door will be little more than an inconvenience.

If your business is one of the lucky ones selected for an audit, follow these guidelines:

Don’t Panic

It’s important to treat the audit as another part of doing business. Work with your tax professionals, and proceed in a professional manner.

Don’t Procrastinate

If your company’s return is selected for an audit, the IRS will send a notice by mail. Don’t delay in opening mail from the IRS. Deal with it right away, and it will make the process much easier and less stressful.

Provide the Information Requested

Many times, audits are conducted by mail. The IRS notice of an audit will include instructions. Review the instructions, and respond to requests for information and/or documents within the time indicated. If you aren’t sure you understand what is being asked of you, call the IRS phone number on the letter or go to your local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. Work with your business’s tax advisers.

Review the IRS Decision; Respond by the Deadline

After review of the documents requested, the IRS may accept the tax return as filed. Or they may propose changes. If they accept your return as filed, the audit process is complete. If the IRS proposes changes, you have the option to agree with the proposed changes, or disagree with the proposed changes. It is important to review your options carefully, and to respond in a timely manner.  There are many options for managing this process. Read: Your Appeal Rights and How to Prepare a Protest if You Don’t Agree.

Taxpayer Bill of Rights

When working with the IRS on an audit, keep in mind that taxpayers have rights. They are:

The right to be informed.

The right to quality service.

The right to pay no more than the correct amount of tax.

The right to challenge the IRS’s position and be heard.

The right to appeal an IRS decision in an independent forum.

The right to finality.

The right to privacy.

The right to confidentiality.

The right to retain representation.

The right to a fair and just tax system.

For details about the audit process, go to the source! The IRS has a video guide to an IRS audit, and other helpful information.

Four Tips to Successful Business Growth

People working at a creative office

You may think that rapid growth for your business is a good thing, but growing too fast sometimes causes unexpected challenges. There are many successful businesses that grew too fast, and experienced significant problems, and even failure. Of course, growth is the goal of a business; managing it well should be part of the plan. Here are four tips to manage business growth:

Hire the right people

As your business grows, it’s important to hire the right people. Mistakes in personnel decisions can present a significant obstacle to success. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, says that growing a business has more to do with “who” than with “what.” Collins explains that those who grow their staff properly start by “getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.” As your business expands, it’s important to maintain the attention to detail that propelled it to success, and this includes attending to the details necessary to make a good hire. Determine the functions and roles that need support, and create a job description. Before interviewing candidates, give thought to the skills and credentials most important for the role, and the most desirable traits for the person selected. For example, if an extrovert is needed on your team, be sure to look for that quality in your candidates; or if strong leadership and a sense of humor are desirable, look for those qualities during the interview. The best hires are those individuals who contribute to the culture as well as skillfully perform the functions of the job. Then, once you have your team, create the environment where each member can excel.

 Determine if you want a scalable business

No matter what type of business you operate, it’s important to think about your long-term strategy to grow and scale. Not every successful business model is scalable. There are many businesses that operate profitably and bring satisfaction to their owner that never grow beyond a single location, service or product. But you may want to start a business that is scalable. This means that the business can grow revenue without adding significantly to overall costs, and can be operated, and produce revenue, without the continuous presence of its owner. Examples of companies with scalable models are software product developers that produce a single software product that can be sold to millions of people. As you develop your business plan and model, determine the importance of scalability to its success.

Practice sound financial principles

When it comes to small business finances, it’s best to establish sound habits and practices from the beginning. When you start out, it may be possible to track revenue and expenses manually with simple tools; but as it grows, it is wise to consult with a trusted accountant. Get advice on the best systems that are easy to manage, and make it a habit to stay on top of your finances. Bookkeeping and tax preparation should be integrated into operations, and not be an afterthought.

Know your options for financing, and how it can help your business

As demand increases for your products or services, your business may need to invest in expansion. Whether it is a new facility, an additional location, a piece of equipment, or perhaps a new hire, there are upfront costs. For many businesses this requires financing. At Crestmark, we specialize in providing lending solutions that help businesses manage growth. We customize financing to meet the unique needs of each client. Give us a call today to discuss the variety of lending options we offer.

Five Cities with Growing Economies


Local economies are the life of every city in the U.S. They have an effect on nearly every facet of society, such as school systems, population growth, and business opportunities. Local economies, just like our national economy, are always in motion. As cities seek to grow and prosper, they generally experience good times, and periods that are challenging. Some cities experience an economic boom, while others decline, or remain stagnant. There are many reasons why some cities grow and others falter – consider Bismarck, North Dakota, a sleepy city that grew drastically due to global economic factors that required a new method of oil production. In the same way that business owners must manage the challenges of a shifting economy, cities are also looking to come out on top, and these five cities have made positive moves to grow their economies.


This Tennessee hotspot isn’t fueled by country music alone, as Nashville has grown and matured as a city, it has also diversified. With a wide range of healthcare services and financial companies, it has piqued the interest of job seekers who have relocated to the area. All across the country, there has been a trend of migration into cities from the suburbs, and Nashville is no exception. Businesses large and small have contributed to Nashville’s growth, and in 2013, its economy officially topped the $100 billion mark.


Known the world over as Motown and the Motor City, Detroit is also called Hockeytown in honor of the passionate followers of the Detroit Red Wings hockey team, valued at $600 million. This sports-loving town is also home to the Detroit Tigers Baseball Team, valued at more than $1 billion; and the Detroit Lions Football team, valued at $1.5 billion. All three teams invested heavily in stadiums and arenas in the city’s downtown; construction is underway on a $444 million hockey arena and 45-block entertainment complex. Stroh’s beer, which stopped brewing in the city in the 80s, now brews a Bohemian-style Pilsner in Corktown. Visionary, and future-focused, Detroit’s civic and community leaders united on the need for public transportation to create a vibrant, livable city. The M-1 Rail Woodward Avenue Streetcar Project is set to open in 2017.


In one of the top spots on Forbes Fastest Growing Cities list, Dallas is becoming known as a hub for global finance. A 2015 report from The Texas Development Council indicated that the state’s finance industry grew 15 percent in the past 10 years, and that had a positive impact on jobs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where financial sector jobs increased 4.7 percent.  Though the oil industry has faced some tough challenges in the last year, housing prices are rising. They are up nine percent since 2015 due to demand.


Rich in culture and just plain old rich – Austin has been listed as Forbes fastest growing American city. From 2011-2016, Austin economy grew at rate of 6.1 percent. Not surprisingly, Austin’s population, many of them young professionals, has skyrocketed with 2.9 percent annual growth. As the capital city of a state with tremendous business opportunities, Austin shows no signs of slowing down.

San Francisco

Often referred to as the “New York City of the West,” San Francisco has become a massive hub of commerce in Northern California. A high cost of living has not deterred job seekers from moving to the Bay Area; the city has shown job growth rate of 4.6 percent. Besides job growth, a sprawling tech industry, and a strong finance industry, who can resist the year-round temperatures hovering pleasantly near 70 degrees?

No matter where a business is located, most are helped along their journey with financing. At Crestmark, we’ve helped businesses achieve their potential by offering flexible lending solutions. We look forward to answering your questions, so give us a call today at 888.999.8050!

Sound Financial Systems: Help Small Businesses Succeed

Waitress holding an open sign at a restaurant

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.


  • 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, including this article: Good Recordkeeping Helps Avoid Headaches at Tax Time

The Value of Going Green for Manufacturing Companies

green manufacturing

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

Kickstarter Image

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

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?