Financial Tips

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Protect Your Business Data from Hackers

Do you know where your company’s data is? Without strong security controls in place, your data could be anywhere — and you could be dealing with a privacy breach. As technology grows more complex and the flow of information accelerates, opportunities for the misuse and abuse of data are bound to increase.

Flow Chart of Data

It’s imperative that you know exactly what data your business collects. Pay particular attention to the personally identifiable information (PII) you have for both customers and employees. Create a detailed flow chart showing what information is gathered, how it is captured, how it is used, where it is stored, how it is shared, and how it is ultimately disposed of.

Risk and Regulations

An effective data management plan helps ensure compliance and manage risk by establishing policies and procedures that control the flow and use of information. In addition to federal privacy legislation, the vast majority of states have laws to prevent security breaches, and some industries have developed their own privacy guidelines. Note that each phase of the information “life cycle” may require a unique set of controls.

Privacy Policies

Privacy policies are the “public” face of your data management plan. Best practices include:

  • Notify customers about your privacy policies. Explain why information is collected, how it is used, why it is retained, and why it is disclosed (if it is).
  • Obtain customers’ consent to use the information as outlined in your policies.
  • Collect only the information you need and only for the purposes outlined.
  • Keep personal information secure.
  • Allow customers to review and update their PII.
  • Do not retain the information any longer than needed to fulfill your stated purpose or as required (by law or regulation).
  • If you disclose information to a third party, do so only with the consent and only for the purposes outlined.
  • Monitor your compliance efforts on an ongoing basis.

For more tips on how to keep business best practices front and center for your company, give us a call today. We can’t wait to hear from you.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).

Need a Loan – Follow these Steps First

Is it time to put your expansion plan on the front burner? Have you outgrown your current location? Do you need to replace some equipment? There are many reasons small business owners might be in the market for a loan. If you’ll be shopping soon, here are some pointers.

Check your credit. When you apply for a loan, the lender will look at your personal and your business credit histories. Before you start the application process, check to make sure both are accurate and up to date. If there are errors, resolve them ahead of time.

Polish your plan. Prospective lenders will want to know as much as possible about your business. Prepare a comprehensive, up-to-date business plan that provides information about your company (a description and an executive summary) and yourself (educational background and relevant experience). Since your plan may be pivotal in convincing potential lenders to approve your loan, consider including an overview of your management team and key personnel along with some market analysis and a marketing plan.

You should also be prepared to provide financial statements and cash flow projections with good knowledge of your banking account status. Lenders may request personal financial statements for you and other owners as well.

Check your equity. Before you submit a loan application, make sure you have enough equity in the business. Although requirements can vary, lenders generally want a company’s total liabilities to be less than four times equity. A lender may require you to put some additional money into your business before approving you for a loan.

Identify collateral. Lenders generally require collateral, an alternate repayment source that can be used in case your business isn’t generating enough cash to make payments on your loan. Either business or personal assets can be used. If you don’t have anything you can use as collateral, perhaps you can find someone who does who will cosign the loan.

Look for a good match. If you already have a good working relationship with a bank that lends to small businesses, it makes sense to start there. If you don’t, or if your bank isn’t a good match, do your homework. Look for lenders that do business with companies similar in size to your own. Finding a lender that’s familiar with your industry is an added bonus.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).

Map Out Your Journey with a Business Plan

Much like a map or a GPS provides clear directions to your destination, a business plan can help define your goals and spell out the steps your business must take to achieve them. It can also establish a set of benchmarks to measure your progress. A business plan is critically important when it comes to obtaining financing. Here are the key sections that a business plan should include.

Executive Summary

Your executive summary outlines the primary points in the subsequent sections and touches on your company profile and goals.

Company Goals/Mission Statement

This section summarizes your company’s purposes and goals. It defines who you are and what you want to achieve.

Market Analysis

Here you can demonstrate your industry knowledge and present conclusions based on your assessment of the industry, your potential market and its demographics, and your main competitors.

Company Description

Provide information on what you do, how you do it, the markets your business serves, and what differentiates your business from the competition. You can include examples of recent projects that were completed and, if advisable, the names of some of your major clients.

Organization and Management

Here you can outline your business’s organizational structure and identify the company owners, management team, and board of directors.

Service or Product Line

This section provides the opportunity to explain what you sell and how your products or services benefit customers.

Strategy and Implementation

It’s important to summarize how you plan to market your business and what your sales strategy is. This section should include information on how you will reach target customers and penetrate the market and should provide details about pricing, promotions, and distribution.

Financial Plan

This is where you present an overview of your finances. It is where you lay out your assumptions about revenue growth, operating costs, and cash flows. Include balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow schedules as well as details about capital requirements.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).

Learning To Live With (and Appreciate) Employee Vacations

When it comes to employee benefits, paid vacation time is a favorite. Although not legally required in the U.S. (as it is in most other developed countries), most employers — about 77% of businesses in the private sector — provide their employees with paid vacation time.1

What’s in It for You?

But what is the business impact of letting your employees go on vacation? Isn’t it bad, especially for small businesses, when key employees are gone for a week or longer? Actually, it isn’t. While it may be disruptive in the short term, providing paid vacation time can benefit employers. A survey of human resources professionals, a large majority ranked taking vacation as very or extremely important for employee performance (94%), morale (92%), wellness (92%), productivity (90%), a positive culture (90%), and employee retention (88%).2

Survival Strategies

Vacations may be a win-win, but you still need to minimize disruption and maintain productivity when employees are away. Here are a few tips:

  • If you don’t already have one, formalize a vacation policy that spells out how to request vacation time, how many employees may be gone at the same time, how disputes will be handled, etc.
  • Create a master calendar and record all approved time off.
  • Cross-train employees; try to have at least two people trained to cover each job.
  • Have employees update their job descriptions and provide access to any passwords or other information that may be needed during their absence.
  • Prior to leaving, make sure employees compose “away” messages for voicemail and e-mail and let key customers and contacts know how long they will be gone.

Benefits Are the Bottom Line

A comprehensive, competitive benefits package is the best way to attract and retain employees. Top prospects want health insurance, voluntary benefits, and a retirement plan in addition to vacation time. How do your benefits stack up? Your financial professional knows the marketplace and can provide guidance to help you make your benefits package more competitive.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).

Making a Year’s Profit in a Seasonal Business

If you have a seasonal business, you most likely face some challenges that year-round businesses don’t. After all, trying to squeeze a year’s worth of business into a far shorter period can get pretty hectic. Here are some tips that may help.

Cash Control

All small business owners have to be careful cash managers. Strict wealth management is particularly critical when cash flows in over a relatively short period of time. One very important lesson to learn: Control the temptation to overspend when cash is plentiful.

Arming yourself with a realistic budget and sound financial projections, including next season’s start-up costs, can help you maintain control. And you may want to establish a line of credit just in case.

In the Off-Season

It’s difficult to maintain visibility when you aren’t in business year round. But there’s no reason why you can’t send your customers periodic updates via e-mail or snail mail. You’ll certainly want to announce your reopening date well ahead of time. You can also spend time developing new leads and lining up new business.

Time for R and R

You deserve it, so take some time for rest and relaxation. But you’ll also want to use the time your business is closed to make any necessary repairs and take care of any sprucing up you’d like to do. You can also use the off-season to shop around and look for deals on items you keep in stock and/or equipment you need to buy or replace.

Expansion Plans

If you’re thinking of making the transition from “closed for the season” to “open all year,” start investigating new product lines or services. If you diversify in ways that are complementary to and compatible with your core business, your current customer base may provide support right away. A well-thought-out expansion can be the key to a successful transition into a year-round business.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).v

How to Improve Your Cash Flow

Slow paying customers, seasonal revenue variations, an unexpected downturn in sales, higher expenses — any number of business conditions can contribute to a cash flow crunch. If you own a small business, you may find the suggestions that follow helpful in minimizing cash flow problems including having a Personal banking account and more helpful tips.

Billing and collections. Your employees need to work with clear guidelines. If you don’t have a standardized process for billing and collections, make it a priority to develop one. Consider sending invoices electronically instead of by mail. And encourage customers to pay via electronic funds transfer rather than by check. If you don’t offer a discount for timely payment, consider adding one to your payment terms.

Expense management. Know when bills are due. As often as possible, pay suppliers within the period that allows you to take advantage of any prompt-payment incentives. Remember that foregoing a discount in order to pay later is essentially financing your purchase.

Take another look at your costs for ongoing goods and services, including telecommunications, shipping and delivery, utilities, etc. If you or your employees travel frequently for in-person meetings, consider holding more web conferences to reduce costs.

Inventory. Focus on inventory management, if applicable, to avoid tying up cash unnecessarily. Determine the minimum quantities you need to keep on hand to promptly serve customers. Systematically track inventory levels to avoid overbuying.

Debt management. Consider how you use credit. Before you commit to financing, compare terms from more than one lender and keep the amount to a manageable level. For flexibility, consider establishing a line of credit if you do not already have one. You will be charged interest only on the amount drawn from the credit line.

Control taxes. Make sure you are taking advantage of available tax breaks, such as the Section 179 deduction for equipment purchases, to limit taxes.

Develop a cash flow budget. Projecting monthly or weekly cash inflows and outflows gives you a critical snapshot of your business’s cash position and shows whether you’ll have enough cash on hand to meet your company’s needs.

Don’t get left behind. Contact us today to discover how we can help you keep your business on the right track. Don’t wait, give us a call today.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).

Hire Nothing But the Best

How can your company attract and retain top employees? It’s not always easy, especially for small businesses. Having a streamlined hiring process and ensuring that your salaries and benefits package is comparable to other, similar companies in your area can help make your company an attractive destination for high performers. Here are some pointers to jump-start your thinking.

Simplify the process. Make sure job responsibilities are clearly described when posting your openings. Candidates should be able to easily ascertain if they have the appropriate qualifications for a position. Also, describe any documentation candidates may need to submit with their applications.

Be open and professional. Let candidates know early in the process, preferably in the job posting or during interviews, how much the position pays. Top candidates appreciate candor about such matters. Treat candidates professionally during every stage of the process — it sends a strong signal about your company’s culture.

Evaluate your benefits package. Compensation and benefits are important factors when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent. Salaries should be in line with what other companies in your region pay for specific occupations. Attitudes toward health and retirement benefits can influence employment choices and how committed and engaged employees are after they are hired. Your company will have a leg up on attracting and retaining the employees it needs to succeed and gain a competitive advantage if it can offer the benefit options top performers want.

If you are unsure whether your current benefits package is competitive, please contact your financial professional. An analysis of your current retirement and insurance benefits will help you identify areas that may need to be improved if you are to attract and retain the best employees.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).v

Hard Times? Get Back to Business Basics

It’s reassuring to remember that downturns are a normal part of the business cycle. And, just as there are strategies that help businesses thrive during profitable times, there are basic survival tactics that businesses can employ when the outlook is less than rosy.

Control Spending

Finances should be your fundamental concern when economic conditions are unsettled. When sales slow, it’s time to preserve your cash. Look closely at how you can reduce overhead. Make certain that all your operating expenses are necessary. Even if you’ve recently made cuts, see if there are other measures you can take. Unless absolutely necessary, consider putting plans that call for capital investment on the back burner until conditions improve.

And to make sure that you give your staff the very best rewards possible you need to also make sure that you are using a top-class and flexible benefits system so that they all get exactly what they like the most.

Maintain Customers

While containing costs is essential, maintaining your customer base is also crucial. So, when you’re deciding how to trim spending, make sure you don’t make cuts in areas that deliver real value to your customers. At the same time, watch your receivables. Make sure your customers’ accounts stay current.

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Think Short Term

Plan purchases for the short term, keeping a minimum of cash tied up in inventory. At the same time, however, make sure you’ll be able to restock quickly. Your suppliers may be able to suggest ways you can cut costs (perhaps by using different materials or an alternative manufacturing process). See if you can negotiate better credit terms.

Plan for Contingencies

There’s a big difference between imagining that you might have to seriously scale back your business and having an action plan in place that you can quickly execute. To develop a realistic contingency plan, prepare a budget based on the impact you imagine an extended downturn would have on your business. Then outline the steps you would need to take to survive those conditions. For an added level of preparedness, draw up a second, “worst case scenario” budget and chart the cost-cutting steps you’d need to take to outlive those more dire circumstances.

Many businesses will survive these challenging economic times by being informed about their financial condition and by planning ahead to succeed. Connect with us, right now, for tax advice and business planning.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).v

Growing Pains: Structural Considerations for Growing Your Business

Ask any small-business owner what he sees as the major challenges to growing his business, and chances are he’ll say: winning more sales. Ask any medium- or large-business owner what her major challenges have been, however, and she’ll probably say: structural growing pains — putting into place the necessary processes and structure to accommodate a higher volume of business. In fact, one of the most common reasons businesses plateau at a certain level is their inability — or unwillingness — to develop the structure needed for growth. T¿You can always talk to a website design columbia sc company for help with your business online.

But aligning structural changes with sales growth is not simple. It is often more of an art than a science. The systems, processes, staff, and organization changes needed to grow are ongoing and dictated by myriad factors such as the nature of the business, its capital requirements and, ultimately, customer demands. Nonetheless, certain structural growth concerns — excluding financing and office/production space issues — are shared among all growing companies and fall into three overall areas: organizational structure, policies and procedures, and systems/technology.

Staffing/Organizational Structure

Among the most common growing pains small companies experience are those related to organizational structure. Organizational structure and reporting hierarchy for a 25-person company is quite different than it is for a five-person organization. Typically, an entrepreneur can manage fine until there are about a dozen people in the organization. At this point, the initial structure — where everyone usually reports to the owner — breaks down. In effect, nothing can be done without involving the owner, creating a communications log jam and a barrier to growth. A telltale sign of such a situation is the line of staff outside the boss’s office — waiting patiently for a decision before work can recommence. The best way to overcome or prevent this from happening is simple: Trust your key employees and learn to delegate. A good place to start is to look at where you are spending your time. You can still have final say on any important decisions, but you need not be involved with the time-consuming, day-to-day issues that can prevent you from focusing on larger, more strategic matters. It’s also important to formalize delegated authority with an organizational chart and job descriptions. These will help you better define functional expertise for a given job and for various departments across the organization, and provide the foundation for the growth of future personnel and key management staff.

Lack of functional expertise is another common growing pain of small companies. Too often, businesses fail to recognize that specific expertise is needed as they grow. Typically, small businesses are organized around the manager’s area of expertise, such as marketing, accounting, or production. This specialized expertise often prevents the business owner from recognizing problems that may arise in other parts of the business. It’s a good idea to periodically get an outsider’s opinion of where expertise may be lacking. These need not be paid consultants, but are often trusted, business acquaintances. Tapping into this same group, you can also form an advisory board to give you periodic feedback on strategic direction.

Policies and Procedures

For most smaller businesses, written policies and procedures are often nonexistent and sometimes cursed. Typically, they are associated with the bureaucracy and inefficiency of big companies and the enemy of customer responsiveness and quick time to market. Not surprisingly, most smaller businesses have few documented operational policies or procedural guidelines. But it is precisely this lack of documentation — and the thought that goes into it — that can put a stranglehold on rapid growth. If your business is growing fast enough to require frequent additions to staff, formalized policies are a must for training purposes. Even if you are expanding at a moderate pace, documented policies will likely be necessary once you reach 20 or more employees.

What warrants a formal policy and what should be documented? This will depend on the nature of your business and the average skill level of your employees. In general, however, it’s a good idea to document all HR policies in detail, expense approval authorization levels, inventory control policies, billing and collection procedures, and any operating policies that could materially affect your business if they went amiss. An annual budget and sales projection, updated monthly, are also a necessity if you are ever to obtain outside funding or sell your company. Later on, consider putting together a comprehensive policy manual where employees can get answers to questions when decision-makers are unavailable.

As you grow bigger, you will also need to put into place more formalized communications channels for employees and customers. An informed and involved staff is usually a more productive and enthusiastic one; whereas a staff that is left in the dark often feels alienated and unappreciated. Regularly scheduled employee meetings, periodic e-mail updates, and a cascade communications policy are several ways to make sure your internal communications channels facilitate, not constrict, growth.

Is your business suffering from growing pains?

Here are some sure signs that structural changes may be in order.

  • Sales continue to grow but profits do not.
  • Everyone is working increasingly long hours.
  • People spend too much time putting out fires.
  • There are constant lines outside the boss’s door.
  • There are no regularly scheduled meetings or employee communications.
  • The “system” is constantly down.
  • Aging equipment is not replaced.

Systems/Equipment

Perhaps more obvious than organizational or procedural growing pains are those associated with systems and equipment. Smaller businesses are often the last to upgrade to new technology, usually due to cost. Yet the costs of not upgrading are usually much higher. Low productivity, frequent downtime, and incompatibility with newer client systems can cripple a business that’s poised for growth. There’s also the matter of keeping up with your competitors both operationally and across product and service offerings.

The average computer is virtually obsolete in just three years, and most of the widely used software applications come out with new versions every two years, so keeping on top of technological advances must be an ongoing endeavor. Start out by working regular capital upgrade costs into your budget. Consider dedicating a full-time person to information technology (IT), if you don’t already have one, and make sure he or she is current on the latest technological developments in your field. Even though you may not be able to afford all the latest equipment, at least you’ll be on top of technology trends in the industry and know what your competitors are up to — or are capable of.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).v

Find and Keep the Best Talent for Your Business

Finding the best candidate to hire is often costly and time-consuming. But, if your new hire turns into a loyal, hardworking, long-term employee, your investment may be worth every cent and minute.

Locate Candidates

How do you find good people? In the past, people who were job hunting would look in the “help wanted” section of the newspaper or go from store to store filling out applications. Today, most people use a computer and a mouse and search the Internet for jobs. So if you’re not posting your openings on online job boards and industry blogs and websites, you may be missing talented candidates. Note: Running classified ads may still be a good way to reach out (especially to fill jobs requiring local candidates) since many local newspapers also have an online job board for posting classifieds.

Another way to attract candidates is to add a recruiting page to your website. In addition to posting job openings, you can use the page to attract qualified candidates by highlighting the benefits of working for your company.

And last, but certainly not least, you can use social media to announce openings and solicit job applicants. There’s no better way to reach a large number of people almost instantaneously.

Make an Attractive Offer

If you’re hoping to hire top talent, you’ll want to make sure the benefits you offer are competitive — or better. Many full-time workers have access to employer-provided medical care and/or access to a retirement plan.

Keep Employees on Board

Once you’ve assembled a group of valuable employees, an attractive and competitive benefits package will help ensure they stay. Your financial professional can provide insights and help you review your firm’s benefits package for cost efficiency and competitiveness.

For more tips on how to keep business best practices front and center for your company, give us a call today. We can’t wait to hear from you.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).v

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