Have Something to Sell? The Government Wants to Buy from You

Small business owners especially women-owned and minority companies should seriously consider selling to government entities. Why? Because the government buys everything. And the government pays.

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Factoring: An Alternate Way of Getting Capital Into Your Business

When your customers take 30, 60 or 90 days to pay an invoice you are financing their business.

As a factor, I have been involved in the cash flow industry for over 20 years. Any time a business is owed money, the business owner can opt to collect that money sooner rather than later by negotiating to receive a reduced amount from a third party. One of the ways that businesses use to manage their cash flow is by factoring their receivables.

What is Factoring?

Factoring, sometimes known as accounts receivable funding, is the process of purchasing commercial accounts receivables (invoices) from a business at a discount. This process provides businesses with cash today—cash that would normally remain tied up in accounts receivable for several weeks or even months.

Factoring eliminates problems companies face when customers with slow payment habits create uneven cash flow. Although factoring originated with the Greeks and Romans, over 4000 years ago, small to medium sized companies have only recently begun to use it. It has spread to all types of product and service-driven industries. It is becoming the fastest growing financing option of companies today.

When your customers take 30, 60, or 90 days to pay an invoice, you are financing their business. They are using the money actually owed you, to run their operation – money you could be using to pay your employees, purchase new equipment or grow your business in another way.

Factoring allows you to overcome problems created by your slow to pay customers by advancing a percentage of the invoice amount. This way you have money as soon as your service or product has been delivered, not 30 or more days later.

Unlike traditional forms of financing, such as bank loans and venture capital, factors primarily look at the creditworthiness of your customers, not you. In short, factors are more likely to say “yes” when banks and investors say “no.” Therefore, even if you are a start up business, factoring can open previously closed doors to increased profits and growth.

The Factoring Process is fast, easy, and requires minimal paperwork.

The factoring approval process can take less than a week. After the initial funding, your advance funds can be in your company’s bank account in hours. The discount rate, the rate you pay for receiving your money immediately, depends on the invoice amount, your customer’s ability to pay, when your customer will pay, and the industry your customer is in.

Factoring costs more than a bank loan, but when weighed against the cost of lost business or losing your business entirely, the importance of the discount associated with factoring diminishes considerably.

After papers have been signed, the funding process begins. The factor conducts due diligence by researching your customers’ credit and any liens placed against your company. The factor also confirms the legitimacy of your invoice before buying your receivables and advancing money to you.

Let’s define words that a factor uses.

  1. The Advance – The client usually receives up to 75%-85% of face value of the invoice when the invoice is purchased.
  2. The Reserve – The money on paper that remains in the account waiting for the check to come in.
  3. Discount Fee – The percentage rate charged for getting the money early.
  4. Rebate -  The money that is rebated back to the client.  When the factor receives the check, the advance and the discount fee is subtracted and the rest of the check is rebated  back to the client.

Let’s look at an example of a $10,000.00 invoice that is factored with an 80% advance.

This is money to take on new contracts, pay payroll on time, buy supplies at a discount, pay taxes. Is it worth it? It is for most companies.

Who is a candidate for factoring?

The typical business that is a good candidate for factoring is a small to medium sized business that has an established contract to supply a credit-worthy company or government agency with a quality product or service at a price that provides a good gross margin.

This business will be one growing at a fast rate, without having the ability to internally finance its growth, and can likely recoup all or part of the cost of the factor’s fee. This business may be a start up, it may not have collateral, and its owner may not have good credit. This business may have invoices not coming in on time.

Factoring can be used in every kind of industry. Even those businesses working through Chapter 11 bankruptcy can factor. Factoring offers flexibility and unique problem-solving ability. If factoring is not for your company, then the factor can often help direct you to some creative alternatives, such as equipment leasing, government financing, credit card advances and of course, bank loans.

Factoring has many benefits for business owners.

Factoring can improve the efficiency of your business. Factoring provides predictable and continuous  cash flow in order to:

  • Increase Sales
  • On refusa continuar payar custosi traductores
  • Fund growth and expansion
  • Meet payroll and payroll taxes
  • Maintain a good credit rating
  • Capitalize on supplier discounts
  • Obtain cash without debt (fee is written off as a business expense)
  • No long term contact
  • Does not require strong financials
  • Start ups are eligible
  • Ideal for non bankable business
  • Little or no due diligence fee

If you can get bank financing based on your personal and business history, then do it.
If you need financials that are able to grow when your company grows, then you should definitely consider factoring. Call Joy Ann at 636 458 2612 to discuss your financing options.

Joy Ann Venverloh is the owner/CEO of Lexx Funding, Inc., a factoring and financial consulting company. She can be reached atjoyann@lexxfunding.com or fax 636 787 0543.

Do You Ever Need Someone to Save the Day?

When you think of people who save your day, what comes to mind?  Do you think of a family member, friend, neighbor, or religious leader?  All of those are good choices but a superhero you might not put in your top 5 is your local office supplier.  Yes, I just said office supplier.

Here is a scenario for you.  Have you ever gone to the supply cabinet to get what you think is your last box of envelopes.  What about your last ream of paper or even roll of bathroom tissue and then have that sinking feeling that sets in when you find an empty box or no box at all.  NOW WHAT?  You have a deadline to hit, the phone is ringing off the hook, you need to leave work early for a family event or business meeting, and lunch is not even penciled in your work day until maybe tomorrow if your lucky.  The last thing you have time to do is solve one more problem or get in the car to go get that item you need.

You wish clicking your heels together 3 times like Dorothy did in the Wizard of OZ, would make the missing item appear.  The stress free solution is just 10 numbers away 314-227-6771.  It is that simple!  Call Office Supply Solutions and we relieve your stress, cater to your need of the day, and deliver service with a smile.  Right now you’re thinking yeah, sure like that’s going to happen.

Check out these 3 true stories and then consider if calling 314-227-6771 and getting an industry educated live person without going through voicemail prompts is real or just a fantasy.

  1. A customer went to their supply cabinet only to find an empty box of catalog mailing envelopes. Guess what, their mailing HAD to go out that same day.  After calling 314-227-6771, the customer was assured we would be right over.  In 30 minutes their front door opened and they were presented not only with their much needed catalog envelopes but a free bag of candy for ordering online (a promotion at that time), and the Office Supply Solutions delivery driver knew exactly where to put away the customer's bathroom tissue, paper towels, and trash can liners so the customer could start immediately on their mission critical project.  Did Office Supply Solutions save the day?  That’s for you to decide but our customer was relieved so my guess is their vote was a resounding YES!
  2. This call I will never forget.  I was in between meetings and saw an incoming call on my cell phone from Kansas City (Office Supply Solutions is located in St. Louis, Missouri).  The customer said frantically, “I am not sure how this happened but we are in the middle of a project and we are out of toner and have no spare.  Is there anything you can do to help?” Of course we could because we solve problems!  This particular customer was printing again in less than 2 hours even though they are 200 miles away.  If Superman strapped the cartridge to his back and flew over highway 70, the cartridge would not have arrived much sooner.
  3. Have you ever had something on your to-do list that was always the next thing you were going to do, for days.  That was the situation for one of our customers whose boss asked them to get motivational signs and have them delivered and on the walls by the time the boss got to town. You guessed it: the boss walked in, didn't see the signs and asked the manager why the signs were not on the walls.  You may have been in a similar situation before.  The words out of your mouth are, “They should be delivered today, I am not sure why they haven't arrived yet.”

The truth is the reason they have not been delivered is that all the items had never been ordered.  NO BIG DEAL!  The customer called and said. “Help! Is there anything you can do to get me motivational signs 10 minutes ago?” We went online with the customer, picked out the signs, and walked in the door with the signs and a smile about an hour later.  Was this person's day saved?  I am pretty sure the answer was “FOR SURE!”

These are just a few ways your local office supplier can be a super hero in your day.  Just a parting piece of advice... if you order an extra box of the item and do not cut it so close, we won't have to be your super hero as often, your stress level will be lower, and just in case you do need superhero service we are here to cater to you as long as these 10 numbers are in your speed dial: 314-227-6771.  We save days one office at a time.

VoIP Is All About Productivity and Flexibility

Many times I hear, "I need to get a VoIP Phone system so I can save money on my phone costs."

While I am sure it is one of the initial intentions driving a decision to investigate VoIP (Voice over IP technology) it shouldn’t be the main reason. The main reason you should look at VoIP technology is to increase the flexibility and productivity of your workforce.  As you grow your company, these flexibility and productivity enhancements, which can be garnered using VoIP, outweigh any potential cost savings.

Flexibility: Never be tied to your phone again

Do you feel like you are tied to your phone system?  When we work with clients they do feel this way.  They want more flexibility with their systems and VoIP phone systems bring that flexibility. How? The biggest and most common flexibility feature, standard on all VoIP Phone systems, is email to voicemail functionality.  This feature provides the ability to have each voicemail on the system be sent directly to your email account.  If you have a smartphone, then you have the ability to receive voicemails at any location. This is an incredibly flexible option that ensures you never miss a voicemail when you are out of the office.

Productivity: Increases across the board

Sage Research published an article that sites a significant increase in two major areas.  Faster moves, add-ons and changes as well as opening new offices quicker.  When an entrepreneur is thinking about a technology, it is hard to think ahead and consider the importance of these two factors.  However if you take into account the time and money spent on these two categories alone, you have a great reason to move to VoIP technology.  But that is not the only productivity gain.

Here are some additional productivity and lower cost gains:

One cabling outlet – Phone and Internet are managed with one cable infrastructure.

Find-me-follow-me feature – One number rings multiple handsets and devices, making it easier for customers and potential clients.

Single voicemail – No more need to check multiple voicemail boxes for incoming messages

VoIP technologies utilize IP Technologies that allow you to gain flexibility and productivity increases and dramatically grows your business.  While many business owners do not think of their phone system as a strategic investment, they should.  VoIP make it easy to ensure you are always in touch with your team and your customer.  Positive or negative, it is the first and lasting impression they have with your company. Use VoIP to make that first impression a winning one.

To learn more about strategy and selection in phone technology, let us help you make the best choice.  Call us at 314-801-6700 so we can put together a solution which exceeds your expectations.

Blind Spots

The game of golf is quite fascinating.  It’s so elusive and unpredictable, much like a business.  I’ve been a golfer for several decades and my game comes and goes just like it does for any other golfer. Well, lately it left and I’ve really struggled.

For weeks, I’ve practiced and have worked on things that normally help.  Not this time.  The more I practiced, the worse I got.  Frustrating!  Since I am mostly a self taught golfer, I’ve only had a few lessons in my life and each time I got lessons, they seemed to do more damage than good.  So, I did my best to fight through my challenges on my own.  However, the other day I went to practice and ran into a Golf Professional.  Reluctantly, I decided to ask for help.

Turns out despite my reasonable success as a golfer, there were some things I was doing that were counter-productive and I never knew it. I won’t go into details, but, the bottom line is the instructor saw things I could never see nor was even aware of.  It was so obvious to the instructor what the problems were.  And, after he shared his observations, it was clear to me as well.  After a very short lesson, the coaching I received fixed my problems almost overnight.  What a relief!

The day after the lesson, I was describing what I experienced to a friend.  While telling the story, I realized as a coach and advisor to business owners, these owners are subject to this same experience – they are too close to their business to see clearly how their current state-of-affairs are being impacted by limited perspective.  Many times they cannot see what symptoms are causing real issues for their business, not to mention a lot of personal stress.  I frequently find myself in coaching sessions where the client cannot see the cause of one or more issues impacting his or her business.  By not being too close to the business, I can generally see what is occurring and causing the clients’ issue(s).  And, by having outside perspective, together we can more quickly identify root causes and work through them efficiently and effectively.

Even though I have experienced this phenomena many times, my golfing experience gave me greater appreciation for how important it is for any business to have an outside perspective.  This is the main benefit public companies gain by having a board of directors – sharing lessons learned from their individual experiences and objective, external view of the business.  I’m sure you’ve heard before, “even Tiger Woods has coaches.”  The reason is perspective.  So, if you are running a business, you would be wise to seek outside perspective from a host of options – independent business coaches, consultants, peer advisory boards or a board of directors.  Just one idea or observation could have a significant impact on your business and your life.

In fact, according to Business.com and Fast Company, business owners that belong to peer advisory groups realize 19 – 43% increase in profits, better customer retention, higher employee morale, lower turnover and have more control over their life and business.  This is due to the collective experience of individuals outside of their company.

Don’t fly alone with your business.  Too much is at stake.  Get others to help you gain perspective and clarity.

Interested in eliminating blind spots?  We help business owners do just that by forming and facilitating peer boards.  These boards are comprised of business owners in different industries that meet frequently to help each other in a confidential thin-tank like environment.  For anyone exposed to the E4E community, we offer sample board meetings.  These sessions demonstrate the power of how others outside your business can see things you may not.  Interested?  Contact Barry Gleeson or visit www.TABStlouis.com.

Do You Have What it Takes to be a Successful Entrepreneur?

True entrepreneurs know and understand the magnetism and exhilaration of exploration and discovery.

Having been an active entrepreneur since 1979, I can look back and reflect on the driving forces that keep my internal GPS calibrated to live this roller coaster ride without a map or track. I can compare my entrepreneurial life with traditional work environments, as I spent 18 years with a major corporation prior to serving worldwide businesses with my skills and competencies as an entrepreneur. Naturally, I tend to hang out with other entrepreneurs like me, the “birds of a feather flock together” syndrome. I hope my experience, insights and Ideas nudge new entrepreneurs to launch into this crazy and wonderful field of endeavor.

Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone and certainly not for the feint hearted. It’s definitely not an easy, guaranteed path to success. The word “entrepreneur” makes me wonder if the “neur” (neuron) part deals with using your brainpower to form new enterprises. True entrepreneurs create products, services and businesses, characterized by something new, better, different or having higher value. By definition, the entrepreneur’s pathway is an experiment because the concepts, ideas and outcomes are unproven. The territory and domain of entrepreneurs is the unknown. They must have fortitude, faith and vision to follow this life pathway. True entrepreneurs know and understand the magnetism and exhilaration of exploration and discovery. They experience disappointment, setbacks, loss, risk and the full spectrum of human emotion, perhaps more than anyone else. They can rarely explain to others why they do what they do; they just know they were born to be on this path.

Being a “me too,” or replicating what someone else has accomplished with a sustainable profit, is not, in my mind, being a true entrepreneur. I enthusiastically encourage and support launching small businesses using established and proven business models; franchises are a good example. Adding more locations or factories to meet market demand is also an example of replication. Small business is the true core and catalyst for economic growth and job opportunities. At one time, however, every successful small business began as the entrepreneurial dream and pursuit of someone wanting to break out of the norm and do something different. There are opportunities to use the “entrepreneurial spirit” to make continuous improvement in businesses of all sizes.

The following is a short list of characteristics of true entrepreneurs I have observed in fellow compatriots and myself.

  • Passion to do something they are unable to do working for someone else
  • Vision and “gut feel” for creating something new that has enduring value
  • Knowledge of their personal strengths and limitations without allowing limitations to limit them
  • Resiliency and determination in the face of adversity and failure
  • "Never, ever give up" attitude (A Winston Churchill quote)
  • Instinct for what to do and who to go to for help
  • “Ready, Fire, Aim” may be a way of life with increasingly better outcomes over time

In conclusion, entrepreneurs make the world a better place to live, learn, grow and prosper. They spawn small businesses that become the larger businesses that power our world economic engine. Entrepreneurs are the leading edge for change. Let’s honor, respect and support these brave men and women, who may appear foolish at times, but have a dream and dare to live it.

Are You Sabotaging Your Own Day?

Stop Sabotaging your day!

Consider the last time you drove to get office supplies. Did it bring you any new revenues or help you build your business?  Stop for a second and think of the cost to your bottom line when you spend your time doing anything that takes you away from what you do best and the activities most supportive to meeting your goals for your business.

What most people experience by neglecting to get adequate support purchasing their office supplies is a lack of productivity, a waste of gas and lost hours that could have been better spent developing their business, building client relations and running their staff. And while it’s possible you may have needed a break from work, wouldn’t it be a better use of your time  to jump on Linked in and make a few new connections, spend time developing your staff or deepening the relationships with your customers?

Do you remember times you felt frustration walking up and down the aisle of a supply store, wasting precious time trying to locate items and people who will give the personalized support you want and need, only to find you are in line behind the next guy. Need I go on?

Most business owners and executives suffer ineffective time management.  Too often, they do not delegate tasks to others that represent an inappropriate use of their time. You have unique strengths in your work; similarly helping you with your office supplies is my strength. It’s my passion and pleasure to fulfill this; my  JOB to support you and cater to you.  I love it when I save my customers time, money, and stress by providing all the printer cartridge and office supply items at the best price, delivered right to their door.  I experience great satisfaction when I see the look on the face of my customers when I consistently save them 10% or more off the retail price.  Sound like a wise business decision?  Kathleen, a client of mine recently said to me “It’s so easy working with your company! I order items and they just show up. When I need your help, I can always count on your excellent service.”

Do you like to be catered to?  Does it make sense to delegate the job of office supplies, including pricing, selection and delivery to your business, off your plate so you can focus on more important tasks? Better use of your time?

If so, email me at markbrimer@officesupplysolutionsllc.com, go online and request a login at www.officesupplysolutionsllc.com, or call me at 314-227-6771.

Problem solved!  Now all you have to do is decide how  you will best use all the time you just recovered?  So, stop sabotaging your day and choose instead to focus on your priorities. Let me be your partner and relieve some unnecessary stress.  Office Supply Solutions makes office supplies simple. Don’t waste another moment of your precious time: Call Now!

What the Cloud Means for Small Business

92% of users feel email is important or critical in helping them get their work done and 75% of all communication is sent by email.

In an already jargon laden industry, it strikes me as comical to brand the next big revolution in computing as “Cloud” computing.

I speculate it came from our friends in the marketing department, after all, what better way to describe a hyper complex, highly specialized, and esoteric new system of computing? Ironically, the “Cloud” does accomplish its goal of packaging all those moving parts into one tag line, however, it is also a great adjective for many consumers’ comprehension of the technology. Minus the buzzwords and the amalgam of confusion, lets just say, for small businesses everywhere - Cloud computing is a game changer. Here’s why...

If you have taken the red pill, you have found your way to the truth about cloud computing and will begin your journey with me with a quick description of the technology behind the “Cloud”.

What is the Cloud, really?

Let’s start with the very familiar and probably most widely consumer adopted use of cloud computing, Software as a Service (SaaS). You will find the majority of the paid or free services on the web rooted in Cloud-based technology. Of course, I am speaking of services like Gmail, Google Docs, DropBox, and Salesforce. All of these services provide a front-end application to their base without the need for their customers to purchase any specialized equipment or software. The backbone allowing this to happen is considered cloud technology. In many instances the backbone of SaaS is made up of a cluster of highly expensive enterprise level Web and Database servers, all of which are painstaking interconnected and redundant for the ultimate satisfaction of achieving 100% up-time. It is estimated that another well-known cloud (SaaS) company called Twitter could be exposed to as much as $25 million dollars in losses per minute of downtime. This is based on revenue from ads on their 500 plus million users.

The beauty that allows SaaS to achieve the uptime and scalability necessary to service millions of users is grounded in virtualization. IT professionals have the ability to run multiple single-purpose servers, virtually on one physical hardware box. The initial appeal of this technology was first realized as a way for larger organizations to vastly reduce their datacenter footprint by way of consolidation via server virtualization. In 2007 and 2008 this also meant companies could take advantage of green energy tax credits, as they were able to reduce their carbon footprints by as much as 50%. Later, as the technology advanced, new methods of high-availability came into play and suddenly, IT professionals could keep a service like Gmail running without the worry of hardware failure crippling the system. So, as you can see, Cloud technology’s initial appeal for many established companies came in the form of cost savings through consolidation and server availability. New and innovative companies realized the potential and started building systems designed around hosted consumer based applications, giving rise to services like Salesforce and Google Docs.

I believe SaaS will be evolving rapidly in the next few years, and we are already enjoying the benefits in our every day lives of which many are hidden. The next major iterations will most likely be in full cloud based operating systems. Truly the “sky” is the limit.

Moving on to the next most used cloud based service among businesses is infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Instead of using the developed application-only infrastructure as a service allows its customers to take advantage of a completely hosted server infrastructure model. For example, if you are a bio tech startup and require specialized computing to sequence a genome, which requires a large amount of computing power, you would lean on IaaS to build the infrastructure necessary, easily and affordably without the need to purchase and maintain a large server farm. Once your biotech company is finished with sequencing, you would simply decommission the infrastructure and no longer pay for the service. This type of system is a true pay-per-use model in which you dial up or down computing resources as necessary. The IaaS model has found its place with companies subject to seasonal business fluctuations and more importantly business that are starting and need their capital to fund their mission and not their infrastructure. As prices decrease with time, the availability and applicability for businesses to adopt this type of cloud based technology as a permanent solution makes much more sense both financially and technologically.

I have provided two of the most widely used cloud based consumer uses, I have explained what it means to be in the cloud, and I have provided consumer based applications examples for each use. When I reach out to small business owners, I make sure I find a cloud based solution that fits within at least one segment of their operations. It is not good enough just to "fit" a technology in a business operation though, the service or product must meet some basic criteria before we adopt. Most significantly we require the technology either save money, provide process efficiencies, enhance conveniences, increase reliability, etc, etc,... and wouldn't it be nice if it could do all of those things!

Do you need the Cloud?

At the heart of this document the fundamental question begs to be asked. How can cloud computing benefit your organization? Let me preface by saying most applications of cloud computing for business use are still in early adoption phase. This means companies are still testing the waters and exploring benefits. I see the technology industry moving in the direction of increased cloud computing, because as I mentioned previously, the benefits to large organizations and startups greatly outweigh the costs of the traditional model. Emergence in the cloud can be as simple as a few key applications at first or you can decide to move your entire network. It is my opinion that eventually your decision will be made for you, as more software vendors are taking advantage of reoccurring revenue and hosting their software to offer as a service instead of a product. Purchasing software will eventually become reserved for large organizations that require the control of ownership.

Why are some SMB organizations moving to a cloud model? What benefits are they seeing that inspire them to change?

Most small business owners I have spoken with, regard IT as a necessary evil. Obviously, I am not one who would agree; IT has paved the way for young organizations to compete with larger better-funded corporations. Now, I think what they mean to say is they don’t want the headache of managing an IT department, nor do they love the worry of having their system vulnerable to downtime. So I believe most business owners view IT as a variable on their balance sheet and a point of fragility for their operations. Take email for instance, 92% of users feel their email is important or critical in helping them get their work done and 75% of all communication sent by a typical user is from email. We are all aware when a critical function like email is down it affects our entire business and possibly our bottom line.

So is it any wonder small business owners consider IT an evil? I submit it is their fear of the unknown, their dependence on their systems, and their reliability on one person or an outsourced vendor to make it all work, that causes their anxiety. It is this reality that makes the cloud such an attractive option for most owners. The cloud can help you scale your business by paying for what you use at the time you use it, provide tremendous accessibility options for remote or mobile users, and allows for a company to grow without the need for large capital expenditures. However, as I have just detailed, quite possibly the most important benefit for small business owners is the knowledge their company has a reliable technology backbone, their data is safe, they do not have to worry about upgrades and updates, and their key programs and files are accessible when they need them.

SMB businesses I see moving into cloud computing range from start-ups with little cash to well-established businesses with antiquated software and a host of manual processes. Both are looking to the cloud, but for different reasons. The startup needs to save cash and prove their business plan, while the mainstay SMB Company has a need to upgrade software and processes providing agility for growth. In both cases IaaS, SaaS, or a combination of both can be used to achieve their individual goals. While they have different reasons for adopting cloud technology, the fact remains, they both chose the cloud because of the inherit scalability, reliability, and accessibility it offers. Advancements in cloud technology only solidify its presence in the industry and increase its viability as a market solution. You may be asking yourself, “What’s the catch? Why isn’t everyone running to this technology?”

Keep checking back, as I address this and many other concerns cloud users and IT professionals have about the technology.

Using Digital Tools to Manage Your Business

Business owners are always trying to find ways to run their business more effectively and save time.

It only makes sense because time is money. Economic conditions and competition in today’s market demand productive management. Digital tools are emerging at a rapid pace. This allows several options for us, as business owners, to evaluate these tools for different areas of our business. Tools can dramatically improve business flow and provide a productive boost.

Common Challenges

We also face common challenges where these tools are more necessary to conduct business with source agnostic solutions.  Within our society (personally and professionally), we have become independent of our workstations. We check email anywhere, meetings back-to-back, commuting, and conducting business on the go. As this is as much a benefit to our flexible business culture, without certain online tools that are device or source agnostic, we would live in a productivity nightmare. It’s critical to access your important information no matter where you are or in the event of a computer failure, which we know always happens at the worst time.

Investment costs are also a concern for many. Luckily, digital tools are typically more cost effective for the small to medium sized business owner, both in terms of an initial investment price, and not having the overhead costs to upgrade and maintain traditional software.

Digital tools really are the key to some proficiencies. There are numerous types of productivity tools like the following:

  1. CRM (Content Relationship Management)
  2. Accounting
  3. Contract Management
  4. Event Management
  5. Support Ticketing
  6. Project Management
  7. Document Collaboration
  8. Brainstorming
  9. Note Taking / Research Clipping

All are unique and solve specific needs to help increase efficiency to sell more, do more, assist more, and make more.

I’d like to share one digital tool that has revolutionized our business. At SimpleFlame, we do business across 6 different continents. Between time differences, international costs and the not-so-dependent email tracking, we were faced with challenges like:

  1. Versioning issues
  2. Delays in responses
  3. Tracking issues
  4. Delayed “official documents” via snail mail
  5. Various repositories for digital and hard copy contracts.

Adobe Echosign to the Rescue

After researching different ways to manage documents and contracts, Adobe Echosign was the solution that solved our business pains for contract management.

All businesses require signatures across different kinds of documents such as: contracts, work orders, estimates, proposals, and more. The type of document doesn’t matter, but how these documents are generated and how they are signed make up a process unique for any business.

Adobe EchoSign helps reduce the time it takes to go through this process in a very simple manner.  It’s an online subscription service available through cost effective plans meant for businesses of all sizes.

Learn more about this digital signing service at echosign.com.  E4e Partner Expert, Cesar Keller, shares strategic reasons for using EchoSign at SimpleFlame, a successful Saint Louis based web agency with international clientele.  Learn practical aspects on how SimpleFlame manages contracts and work orders by reading the article within the e4e Academy.

Why a Business Owner Needs a Buy-Sell Agreement

A Buy-Sell Agreement is a legally binding agreement between partners or co-owners that eases resolution if one person dies, becomes disabled, or leaves the business, preventing infighting among family and co-owners.

 

A business client came into my office the other day with a problem that could have been avoided if he'd had a buy-sell agreement.

Let's call my client Max. Max’s business partner owned half the business. The partner died, leaving behind a wife and two adult children.

Max had always gotten along with his partner's family. But he never had any business discussions with them. A few months after the funeral his partner’s wife called asking questions about the business. His partner’s children also called asking questions. They all claimed to be co-owners of the business according to his partner’s estate plan. They either wanted money to buy out their shares or they wanted to make important decisions about the company’s future.

“I don’t have money to buy their shares in the business.” Max said “So, am I really in business with my partner’s family now?” The answer was difficult to take. Without money on hand to buy out the shares, Max was indeed in business with his partner’s family. Max wasn't happy.

That leaves us with two questions. What are Max's options now, and how could he have avoided this mess?

What Is a Buy-Sell Agreement?

One of the most crucial documents for a company with multiple business owners is a Buy-Sell Agreement. A Buy-Sell Agreement is a legally binding agreement that governs what happens when a partner or owner of a business either dies, becomes disabled, is forced to leave the business or chooses to leave the business.

A buy-sell agreement can provide liquidity for dealing with these major events in a business. It also helps to avoid infighting among family members, co-owners, and spouses.

For Max, having a buy-sell agreement could have answered the following questions after his partner died:

  • Is my new co-owner my deceased partner’s wife and kids?
  • Do I have to buy them out?
  • If I have to buy them out, what amount do I need to pay them?
  • If I need to buy them out, where does the money come from?
  • Can they sell their interests in the business to my competitors if they need money?
  • Can I start a new business or do I have to stick with the old one?

How Does a Buy-Sell Agreement Work?

A buy-sell agreement legally binds people who sign it and their heirs as well. That means any co-owners wives, children, and other beneficiaries are also bound by terms of the agreement. The agreement can also establish a manner of valuing the business for buy-out and purchase purposes, so there are no disputes as to how much money needs to change hands.

How is a Buy-Sell Agreement Funded?

A life insurance policy is generally used to fund a buy-sell agreement. When someone dies, insurance money flows into the business. The money is used to purchase business interests from heirs of the deceased co-owner. It also provides enough money to stay afloat during the transition. Finally, it ensures the business interests stay in-house and the original owners can control with whom they partner.

Are There Any Options?

There are many different types of buy-sell agreements. They can address many issues such as disability and retirement, beyond just death of an owner. An estate planning and business attorney experienced in drafting buy-sell agreements can help you choose and draft the right type of agreement for you.

Who Needs a Buy-Sell Agreement?

For any business owner in business with others, an updated buy-sell agreement is an absolute must have. Just like many other legal issues in business, if you prepare in advance, you are better off when something unforeseen happens. If protection for your business and family is important to you, act now before it is too late.

Brian G. Quinn is an Attorney with the law firm of Quinn & Banton, L.L.P. in St. Louis, Missouri. If you are interested in learning more about protecting your business using legal strategies, please feel free to contact Brian at 636-394-7242 to schedule a consultation.

Six Reasons to Factor Your Invoices

Many business managers view the “factor” as the lender of last resort, a sort of leverage only to be used when other lenders refuse to extend credit.   Unfortunately, this attitude arises from a lack of knowledge and is an obstacle to the success and full potential of many businesses.  Today, most businesses factor due to the accessibility and liquidity factoring provides as they sell their credit-worthy receivables for needed cash.

In the fifteen years of operating my factoring company I have discovered my clients rank the most important benefit of factoring is the ability to quickly raise cash when their business cannot get a traditional bank loan, or when a company is experiencing rapid growth and needs to purchase materials, pay vendors and cover operating expenses.   I have been amazed at the reaction of my clients when I explain factoring, how it can help them, and how quick they can get their company funded.  The smile just radiates from their faces as they discover all the benefits of factoring. Because it’s a dynamic financial tool that enables them to continue to make sales, accelerate and stabilize cash flow, businesses across the world continue to use this powerful tool.

There are a significant number of reasons why companies should consider factoring.   Here are six.

1.  Factoring is an extremely fast way for companies to raise money.   A factoring deal can be done in only a few days, or even sooner.   A company can have cash in hand in a very short amount of time.   As soon as the invoice is generated and verified, money can be advanced to a business desperate for cash or looking to quickly expand their operations.

Applying for a loan can take a good amount of time, including receiving word back on whether or not a bank is willing to provide the money needed.   A business may not have that amount of time.   The livelihood of its business may depend on getting money fast.

2   Factoring shortens the collection process.   Businesses often wait weeks or even months before they are paid for services rendered or products delivered.   During this time, many are cash poor and don’t have funds available to grow their businesses or even pay for current operational expenses.

If a company has to wait 30, 45, or even 60 days before receiving payment, its outstanding cash is actually funding the customer’s company.  This money is needed to pay payroll on time, replenish inventory, and buy vendor supplies at a discount.   If an invoice is factored, the company gets most of the invoice amount immediately to use however the business owner wants to or needs to use it.

3.  Factoring is funding without liability.   Banks look at the business assets, how long the company has been in business, the company’s credit score, the owner’s credit score, the balance sheet, and the profit and loss statement.   Today companies that could get bank loans a year or two ago cannot get one now mainly because of our unstable economy, and because the loan criteria has changed.   The company has to have a higher credit score and down payment requirements tends to be much higher.

“It is not about you, it is your client’s credit that matters.”

When a company factors they can get immediate cash with debt.  The factor looks to the credit-worthiness of it’s customer’s for its due diligence, and to see if each customer is paying their bills on time.   Therefore a company can be a new company, have little or no collateral, and may not have the best credit score, yet customer invoices can be factored.  In this way, the company receives cash instead of a loan with all the associated liability.

4.  Factoring strengthens the balance sheet.  As a company is factoring its invoices, its bank account is receiving this money.   The company can now pay its employees and creditors on time, and its taxes on time.   Its vendors are eager to sell them their products and give them discounts because now the company can pay them on time.

Factoring helps businesses become more likely to get that bank loan in the near future because now its credit score is higher since bills are being paid.   Employees are happy because they are paid on time and therefore do a better job and the job gets done on time, making the company more profitable.

5.  Factoring gives peace of mind to the business owner.   When factoring invoices, the business owner does not have to worry about when checks are going to come in so bills can be paid.  He has already received most of the invoice money upfront.   He may be able to cut his accounting department’s staff since the factor now keeps track of the invoice and sees it is paid in a timely fashion.

The business owner now has the time to work “on” his business instead of  just “in” his business.   He has the time to plan new projects and develop new products.

“Factoring is a simple and straight forward business process.   It requires little paperwork, time, and little or no collateral such as hard assets or real estate”

6.  Factoring helps seasonal or service companies.   Payroll and payroll taxes fuel the cash flow needs of temporary staffing agencies, cable installers, security guard companies, and corporate consultants.  Because their assets often consist primarily of accounts receivable, which banks typically won’t lend against, obtaining financing can be challenging.

An Accounts Receivable Credit Line where cash is available “on demand” and there is no restriction on use of funds may be used to better manage and expand these businesses.   Funds can be drawn only as much as needed and the business pays for what it uses.   An Accounts receivable Credit Line uses far less collateral, requires only minimal paperwork, can be in place in a week or less, and best of all, grows with the business.

If you have gone the traditional lending route and had no positive results, why not try the alternative funding option of factoring.   Lexx Funding will help you discover if factoring will solve your cash flow problems.  Call Joy Ann now!  636.458.2612

What Could be Better Than Gossip?

Initially about 50% of teams discover they aren’t secure enough or capable of
 ceasing to gossip. The reasons: they 
lack trust, skills, confidence, or compassionate understanding.

“Some say our national pastime is baseball. Not me. It's gossip.”
- Erma Bombeck

“The only gossip I'm interested in is things from the Weekly World News - 'Woman's bra bursts, 11 injured,’ that kind of thing.”
- Johnny Depp

Ah… Gossip’s not called “juicy” for nothing!

Most people agree gossip’s not healthy or helpful and that it’s everywhere! It’s in businesses, schools, homes, even churches! There’s good reason for this. And, in order to build trust and teamwork, gossip needs to go. The question is: how and what would allow people to find something more satisfying instead? I’m Judy Ryan, a Human Systems expert and I work with organizations, helping them understand the good reasons people gossip so they can incorporate new strategies to meet needs met by gossip, by substituting more satisfying practices instead.

Our Current Dilemma

When I work within clients sites, initially about 50% of teams discover they aren’t secure enough or capable of
ceasing to gossip. The reasons: they
lack trust, skills, confidence, shame nor a compassionate understanding of why there’s such a pull to gossip.

The Good Reasons We Gossip

That’s when the discussion begins. We talk about gossip, especially the good reasons we engage in it. Some include:

1) To feel empowered. Stress in relationships often triggers feelings of overwhelm and the belief we’re not empowered. To combat this, gossip gives a false sense of power; pseudo-power. Gossip then provides the illusion we’re taking meaningful action when, in fact, we’re avoiding it.

2) To feel lovable. We often have faulty interpretations of negative behavior from others, become triggered by self-doubt and insecurity, and conclude we’re not lovable. Gossip pro- vides temporary relief as we inflate our own virtues and exaggerate the faults of others.

3) To feel contributing. We gossip to compensate for times we’re not giving, doing or saying what would otherwise fulfill us and be aligned with our values, either because we feel too afraid, unclear, unable and unwilling to take action.

4) To feel connected. Especially in the US, many people report they experience inadequate physical and emotional connection. Gossip, unfortunately, is a widely sanctioned way to intensely connect as opposed to more vulnerable expressions of appreciation, encouragement and love often disdained as too mushy or touchy-feely.

5) “Don’t we just need to vent?” Venting can be helpful but not the way it’s normally done. Gossip as venting is just another way to create the feeling of meaningful action. And indiscriminate, unfocused venting hurts: the one giving it, the one receiving it and the one gossiped about.

When venting is handled with an intention to take constructive action and greater personal responsibility, everyone wins, everyone feels empowered and lovable, and you have the satisfaction that comes from creating an intensely positive, powerful connection, which is a fulfilling alternative. So if you find yourself in the habit of gossiping, stop and remember these five good reasons people gossip. If you want, you can then learn how to gracefully shift from gossip into something more constructive.

So in order to shift out of gossip, it’s important to really know, “What could be better than gossip?!” Please read my article entitled, "Imagine a Workplace with NO Gossip" to learn steps for how-to create a workplace with satisfying communications and behaviors that build strong and healthy relationships. If you’d like to experience first-hand helpful conversations and learn to integrate new practices that can drastically reduce and eliminate gossip in your workplace, become an e4e member and call me now to learn more and bring a program on this topic to your workplace! 314.878.9100

Feel You Always Have Too Much To Do?

Are you tired of sleepless nights, unproductive feelings of stress and anxiety, relationships constantly under duress, and not being yourself at the top of your game?

One of my earlier BLOGS pointed to the Tyranny of the Urgent and the importance of setting priorities in order to be happy, productive, and successful.

Why is it we have time to do things over, but not time to do them right the first time?

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Are you always on the verge of getting ‘caught up’?

Do you ever get the feeling your life is out of control?

The internet has been a game changer in our lives, but is your life better off as a result of the internet? The answer to that question is probably “it all depends.” Being overwhelmed day in and day out can be stressful. We’re literally being bombarded with activities that drain our energy. It’s important to admit we are sabotaging our lives and can make the choice to live healthier and longer lives with less stress.

Did you ever try to catch butterflies when you were a kid? Catching butterflies is not an easy thing to do. At a minimum it’s difficult to catch butterflies without a net. Getting caught up is like catching butterflies. We are often unsuccessful, because we flitter from one task to another. No matter how hard we try, we become overwhelmed with activities and tasks.

NEWS FLASH …..Stop trying to CATCH UP! It’s futile. Now, don’t you feel better? You have actually accomplished something.

You might be asking, “Why is a sales expert writing about time?” What makes me a time management expert? In the selling game ‘time is money.’ Over the years, I have constantly honed my time management skills because there are a jillion time wasters in selling. It’s like skeet shooting. There are always clay pigeons disguised as real priorities everywhere you turn. In selling you can literally waste hours, and even days of time if you don’t develop good time management habits.

It might be easier to wheel you into your local hospital for surgery on your brain but you could settle for a simple paradigm shift to make profound change in your life. Change requires effort and forming new habits on your part, but in the end it’s safer and less costly than brain surgery.

The real culprit in our lives is the…Tyranny of the Urgent*

To illustrate my point, in my last job before starting my own business, I asked one of our people (an up and coming super star). “How do you decide what to work on every day?” His comment was simply, “I work on what comes across my desk.” This thinking is easy but produces mediocre or poor results.

Our lives will always be too full. You may believe there’s a lot more to do than you have time and energy to accomplish. It’s like someone put you on a tread mill and then turned the speed up as fast as the treadmill will go. To be successful you have to discipline yourself to practice making good choices. Decide what’s important, what really makes you happy. When you focus on your relationships with your friends, family, children and colleagues, you bring great joy into your life. Being healthy spiritually, physically, and mentally forms the foundation for all you do. Having worthwhile work is motivating and rewarding. It’s that simple. You then enjoy a place you can call home and transportation to get you around. Everything else is just small stuff.

You will never be satisfied with “stuff”. “Stuff” gives short-term satisfaction but is a fleeting form of gratification…

How you prioritize, what you decide to do every morning when you get up, isn’t going to get any easier. Make the decision right now you are going to take action to make better choices about what’s important in your life before it’s too late. If you don’t value your time, don’t expect others to value it either. Give you and your family the greatest gift of all.

Live a quality life built around things that matter most.

If you’re interested in learning more about the art and science of taking control of your life, sign up for our free membership trial or become an e4e member. Once you sign up, go to my 7 Steps to Sanity in a World Gone Mad in the Articles section of the e4e community.

Productivity Through Digital Contracts

Have you ever considered using an online e-signature service to manage contracts?

Every business requires documents to be signed.  If your company is still waiting for physical signatures and faxes, then you might be able to introduce a new workflow to save you time.  Imagine all the following scenarios in your business:

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