Take a look at recent trends and developments in technology. It’s clear that these changes can give entrepreneurs that extra leverage to scale up. Here are three to consider.
(BPT) - Small businesses are far more influential than most people may realize.
That influence is felt well beyond Main Street. Small businesses make up 99.7 percent of all businesses in the U.S., and these firms employ nearly half (48 percent) the workforce, according to the 2018 Small Business Profile compiled by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
In addition, take a look at recent trends and developments in technology. It’s clear that these changes can give entrepreneurs that extra leverage to scale up. Here are three to consider.
Big companies have big opportunities for small firms
Back in the 20th century, a large company would get things done in this very straightforward way. Wherever there was a need, they hired someone directly to perform that task, whether it was a driver or an accountant.
Under today’s leaner models, these big companies are finding it’s much more efficient to partner with other firms to fulfill certain needs. According to Deloitte, 31 percent of IT services have been outsourced, as well as 32 percent of human resources. This increasing acceptance of outsourcing is a huge growth opportunity for small businesses owners.
For example, Amazon recently announced it is actively seeking and helping entrepreneurs who are willing to deliver packages as their contractors. The mega retailer will even go as far as helping with startup costs so long as these smaller firms deliver their packages. Landing a contract with a big corporation is a significant milestone for any company, but starting out with that lucrative contract is sure to let these startups hit the ground running.
Better connections for greater flexibility
When today’s entrepreneur has a new role to fill, they’re not confined to the talent pool in their immediate community. Because we now have the tools and connectivity to work from anywhere, a business owner can expand the search across multiple states!
What’s more, these flexible, work from anywhere options can give business owners the inspiration to do things differently. Having greater collaboration means having access to more options to fit specific needs.
For example, what is the very nature of being a small business owner? It’s dealing with a fluctuating volume of work. Tapping into the talent pool of freelancers to work on these specific, short-term tasks and projects is easier than ever, because for a segment of workers, freelancing is increasingly becoming a way of life. Freelancers currently make up 36 percent of the workforce, according to a study from Upwork. And, if trends maintain, most Americans will be freelancers by 2027.
Thanks to remote options with easy access to talent, small businesses can easily set up temporary or ongoing as-needed work arrangements. When you partner with Dell for your computing needs, you’ll get the expert help and support so you can set up the perfect flexible workspace system.
More automation brings better efficiencies
Without a doubt, new technology works in favor of small businesses and entrepreneurs because they have many tools at their disposal to automate labor intensive processes, be more productive and cut costs. For example, entrepreneurs can use software to process client payments and even set up automated payments, saving hours and costs associated with collecting, processing and reconciling under the traditional paper check payment system. That translates into a more efficient billing department that can spend more time focused on complex issues.
Let Dell equip your small business with the right tech tools, tailor made for your venture and backed with support, so you can focus on running your business.
(BPT) - Small businesses still struggle to obtain credit; nearly half of those who applied for credit in 2016 didn’t get all the funding they sought, and 17 percent of those who didn’t apply for financing skipped it because they didn’t think they could get what they needed, according to the Federal Reserve Banks’ Small Business Credit Survey. However, a growing number of small businesses are turning to alternative sources of financing.
“The process for accessing and receiving funding can be slow and cumbersome and alternative forms of lending are greatly helping to improve the availability of financing for small business owners,” says Jacqueline Reses, head of Square Capital. "Ensuring that the financial system is more inclusive and addresses the needs of small business owners who may have been previously underserved by traditional lenders is paramount."
The Federal Reserve study has shown steadily increasing numbers of small businesses, with annual revenues of less than $1 million, seeking financing through non-traditional sources such as online lenders. In 2014, just 18 percent applied to online lenders, while in 2016, 21 percent did.
As the alternative lending industry continues to grow, small business owners should keep five points in mind when evaluating loan offers, Reses says:
Total payback amount of a loan
Knowing how much a loan is going to cost isn't always easy. For a small business owner, being able to see exactly how much you will need to repay and accounting for that in your budget is crucial, and you should always look for transparency. Total payback amount is the dollar value that represents all costs, so business owners know exactly what they will owe over the life of the loan.
Businesses should look for this when they assess loan offers. Assessing offers solely on other metrics like APR may not always provide a fair or easy comparison.
The ease of repayment is also important to consider and there are some unique options available to small businesses looking for flexibility when it comes to repayment. With Square Capital for example, a fixed repayment amount is automatically deducted from the business’s daily card sales processed through Square until the loan is repaid, enabling the business to pay more when things are busy and less if things slow down. Businesses also have the opportunity to repay early and without penalty at any time before the end of the loan term.
Traditional small business loans can take weeks to process from the time you collect all the paperwork to apply, to the time you actually get approved, to when you see the money in your account. Yet, according to the Fed's survey, the majority of small businesses that applied for credit in 2016 did so in situations where time was a factor; 64 percent wanted to expand their business or take advantage of a new opportunity, and 45 percent needed the money to cover operating expenses.
While some funding sources have a reputation for being faster to approve, getting the money can still take time small business owners don’t have. Others have been able to tackle both of those challenges. For example, Square Capital can see the health of a small business based on its sales and transaction data, allowing it to evaluate the business's stability and actual ability to repay over time. With this unique insight, it can assess eligibility for a loan and deliver offers right to the small business owner. From there, an application takes as little as a few clicks to complete and once approved, funds are deposited as quickly as the next business day.
Business owners may know how much they need, but be less aware of what size loan they can afford. It's important to accept a loan offer that your business can repay within a reasonable time period while also helping it grow.
Square Capital's ability to use unique data to assess the eligibility of a business for a loan also enables it to provide access to loan offers tailored to a business's cash flow, reducing the risk of businesses borrowing more than they can afford to repay. Loans are sized based on a reasonable projected payback period so that a small business can use its funds to grow and not be stuck in debt for extended time periods.
Before applying for credit from any lender, it’s important to do your research. Know how they present their offers, look for transparency and flexibility that puts the borrower first and understand customer satisfaction and lender dependability. Working with a trusted brand is important to many small business owners and should be to you as well.
While online lenders are opening up access to the financing small businesses need to run and grow, it's important to do your homework and carefully determine which financial partner best meets the needs of your business. To learn more about small business loans through Square Capital, visit www.squareup.com/capital.
(BPT) - Today’s business environment is characterized by excitement as much as it is by anxiety. As new technologies are constantly introduced into the workplace and transform how employees work, managers need to adjust in order to retain employees, streamline processes and stay competitive.
“Companies of all sizes are looking for solutions that allow them to work and collaborate seamlessly from anywhere, transforming their businesses to be more efficient and mobile,” says Nate Spilker, vice president of product management at Citrix.
Many see such rapid change as particularly challenging for small to mid-sized businesses, where limits of capital, personnel and other resources may prevent them from being able to fully adapt to changes and implement fixes.
In fact, the opposite may be true. Because small to mid-sized businesses have less red tape to get through, they may be in a better position to become early adopters and outpace the competition. With an entrepreneurial spirit, they can turn these challenges into opportunities for growth. Here are five way they are doing just that:
1. Growing IT budget. For all the promises that come with new software and hardware, there's also a price tag. Beyond implementing new technology, businesses need to grow their IT staff to ensure everything functions as it should. To combat these costs, many have adopted a bring your own device (BYOD) policy in which employees use their personal computer, laptop or tablet to work. According to Forbes, this policy can save companies as much as $3,150 per employee per year. The key to a successful BYOD policy is software that provides rigid security measures and allows individuals to access shared files and work with one another, whether on a Mac, Windows or other operating system.
2. Keeping ahead of administrative tasks. When Hope Blankenship’s business To the Rescue Bookkeeping was expanding from a single location to multiple offices in different states, she quickly realized her success also brought new challenges, namely, how to coordinate and manage multiple locations. Blankenship discovered that Citrix ShareFile, which provided an automated workflow, file sharing, remote desktop access and document signing, was the solution she needed to coordinate with several people in a number of locations and not get bogged down by administrative work.
3. Customer security and confidentiality. Despite living in a digital age, many small and medium-sized businesses still rely on printed materials and faxes when working with clients. In fact, 72 percent of business agree that improved document processing would improve customer relations and increase their brand value.
“Business leaders recognize the need to embrace a modern, digital workplace to drive greater efficiency in business processes. This means taking a close look at their document and information management workflows and embracing technologies to take the friction out of these processes while keeping data secure,” says Terri McClure, senior analyst, Cloud Infrastructure and File Sharing, ESG. “By using ShareFile’s collaborative workflow and security features, customers and their clients benefit from more streamlined and structured processes, less time to complete projects, deliver results and increase customer satisfaction, all while complying with stringent security requirements.”
4. Generational differences. It has often been said that there has never been a greater gap between generations than there is with millennials and older generations. Smart businesses use these differences to create a dynamic and diverse workplace. This is done through traditional mentoring programs in which older employees train younger ones on professional development, career advancement and numerous other soft and hard skills while the younger group can teach older workers how to efficiently use new technologies.
5. Lack of space. One of the biggest problems a growing business faces is in finding the space for an expanding staff, either in their home offices or in remote locations. By incorporating remote file sharing and workflow technology into their business plan, physical space has become less of an issue. This technology streamlines the workflow and allows people to collaborate from virtually anywhere in the world and in the process, saves on the cost of rent.
The driving force behind many of these solutions involves a cutting-edge file synch-and-sharing system, like Citrix ShareFile.
“Citrix is continuing to drive innovation in ShareFile beyond file sharing and storage to address the workflow needs of the modern worker. Now with a simpler user interface and use-case-specific solutions, ShareFile is helping its customers to increase productivity and collaboration,” Spilker says.
With more than 80,000 business customers and 20 million business users, Citrix has developed their systems to be easy to use and capable of handling all types of files, from sensitive legal briefs to 3D architectural designs. Combining user experience with security, ShareFile safeguards data through leading industrial security standards.
To learn more about small business technology solutions, visit www.sharefile.com.
Success in business is often built on a commitment to core values, such as service, integrity and passion. The following strategies, including building relationships with customers, having a bold vision, being passionate and inviting others to share in your success, can help grow the success of your business, too.
4 Essential Strategies for Growing Your Business
(Family Features) Since opening its first store in 1986, the foundation of Mattress Firm’s success has been built on a commitment to its core values: service, integrity and passion. Now, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, a three-decade journey has seen it grow from a single Houston store to 3,500 stores in 48 states. The following strategies can help grow the success of your business, too.
Be deeply connected and highly visible. Sophisticated product knowledge, meticulous financial measurements and high-level strategic planning are essential skills for every business leader. However, successful managers put just as much emphasis on getting to know people as they do learning markets and numbers. Building relationships with your customers, your community and your industry is essential to understanding how to serve their needs. Strong personal connections – between team members and management; the company and the community; and retailers and business partners – are the keys to the success of any business.
Be bold. A bold vision to revolutionize the sleep industry became a reality when the doors to the first Mattress Firm store opened July 4, 1986 in Houston. The founders, Steve Fendrich, Harry Roberts and Paul Stork, didn’t know at the time that a single store would grow into a publicly traded company with 10,000 employees nationwide, but they believed in their vision and their values. Plans written down on paper are great – they are used all the time to evaluate new markets and consider future opportunities, for example – but real leadership requires more than just a strategic plan; it takes boldness and the courage to act decisively on not only data-driven insights, but the knowledge that you’ve gained from your relationships in your industry and community.
Be passionate. It is essential for leaders to be passionate about their business for two reasons. First, customers respond best to someone who shows that they genuinely care about solving the problem that their product is intended to solve. Second, your passion will carry you through the inevitable setbacks along your way to success. Ask how your company helps your customers, then use that answer as inspiration when times get tough.
Invite others to share in your success. One of the most important things a leader can do is develop the next generation of leaders to ensure the ongoing success of the organization. This requires confidence on your part, as you cannot feel threatened by new ideas and new talent that are the natural result of cultivating a successful team. The emphasis on inclusivity and collaboration will trickle down through a company’s culture, creating an environment where all team members feel empowered to share both ideas and concerns in the spirit of constant improvement. Companies such as Mattress Firm foster a positive sense of discontent, feeling pride for far they’ve come, but always looking for ways to improve the customer experience. If you trust your team members, they will trust you. If you build a culture of clarity, accountability and respect, you will become an employer of choice that attracts, retains and develops top talent.
Mattress Firm’s founders dreamed big in 1986. They opened a store, but more importantly, they had a vision to improve lives through a better night’s sleep. Every day since then, passion, culture and community, combined with the willingness to do the hard work necessary to get the job done, has made that dream come to fruition. Learn more at MattressFirm.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
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