KCW HQ Blog
Welcome to the “KCW HQ Blog” – where we hope to inform, educate and maybe even entertain. Naturally our expertise is in helping businesses of all sizes work smarter or more “intelligently”. The over-riding theme of this blog will be to share ideas that we expect will make you more informed, more efficient, more profitable, and more relaxed. Enjoy, and please share your feedback with us.
Struggling to figure out how to finance your small business? Consider trying asset-based lending to get the job done. In simplest terms, asset-based loans are just what they sound like—business loans that are based on the tangible physical assets of your small business. This usually means accounts receivable and inventory but can sometimes include less obvious items, such as company vehicles. It’s a pretty simple proposition, but it is important to understand the advantages, challenges and risks of asset-based loans. You are risking your future revenue in order to gain access to more funds today.
Asset-based lending institutions will generally loan a small business funds based on a percentage of the value of your small business assets. The industry standard is about 70 to 80 percent of qualified receivables and 50 percent of finished inventory and/or supplies.
Asset-based loans are one of the most widely available lending platforms in the United States and the companies and lenders that offer asset-based loans are quite diverse, ranging from banks to credit unions to independent financial institutions. For small businesses, the tricky part is finding lenders that are willing to offer asset-based loans to new or fledgling companies. Many asset-based lenders prefer to make larger loans because the cost, personnel and time involved to screen and monitor asset-based loans
Banks are looking for some common characteristics in the small businesses to which they loan funds based on assets. Your small business should have good financial statements, a sound set of reporting systems, solid inventory records and ultimately, customers who pay their bills on time. The ideal situation is to come to the lender with solid financial information that reflects the day-to-day realities of managing and running your business. This data is key to making your lender confident that your small business has long-term viability and that you have a full and complete understanding of your small business and its assets.
There are many advantages to asset-based loans for small businesses, especially if your small business is experiencing growth or some other kind of tension. At times, a small business may need the shot in the arm that an influx of cash can provide in order to get over a financial burden, prevent undercapitalization, or keep growth from stagnating. These types of asset-based loans are particularly well-suited for manufacturers (which by their nature carry a great deal of physical assets) as well as distributors and service companies whose seasonal sales often hamper cash flow in the quieter months. Asset-based loans can also be used to finance acquisitions, obtain equipment, or staff up to encourage growth.
However, owners of small businesses are forewarned that there are potential risks and downsides to pursuing asset-based loans from a bank or other financial institution. Your chances of securing a credit line based on your assets are—no surprise here—only as good as the quality of your assets. Lenders will quickly identify customers that pay quickly, usually in less than 60 days. They may also not consider sales to individuals or other small businesses as suitable receivables.
These types of small business loans also cost more than traditional forms of credit. Interest rates for asset-based loans can vary to a wide degree, and banks may also impose additional fees to cover their costs in processing and monitoring your loan. In a worst-case scenario, large lending institutions may also require your personal guarantee, which potentially puts your personal assets at risk during the transaction. In some cases, the backers of your asset-based loan may require that your customers send payments directly to their finance company. This can be restrictive to the control and growth of your business because a third party now has control of your cash flow to some degree.
So consider your options closely before seeking out asset-based lending but don’t rule it out. In years past, asset-based loans were often seen as a “last resort” for troubled businesses. But as venture capital and governmental loans have been taxed in recent years, asset-based loans are widely seen by the small business community as a highly-regarded and easy-to-implement form of lending that can benefit many small businesses to a high degree.
Chances are your small business stores a lot of vital information online. Have you taken the right steps to protect this data for you and your customers? Here are some concepts and tools that will help you to protect your small business.
1. Train your employees how to manage basic security. Establish and practice basic security principles and policies for all employees including requiring strong passwords and appropriate Internet use guidelines with penalties for violating your small business’ cyber security policies. Establish rules of behavior that govern how to handle and protect customer information and other vital data.
2. Protect your data, computers and networks from cyber-attacks. The important thing here is to keep machines current with the latest security software, updated versions of your web browser and a contemporary operating system. Keeping current, clean machines is an investment against viruses, malware and other online threats. It’s also important to keep updated antivirus software like Norton or McAfee that runs a scan after each update.
3. Create a plan to manage mobile devices. Mobile devices can be an attractive target for cyber-attacks, especially if they hold confidential information or can access other features or software of your small business. Require your employees to password protect their mobile devices, encrypt their data and install security applications to prevent thieves from stealing data while the phone is connected to public networks. Your small business should also have a plan in place to report any stolen phone or other mobile device as soon as possible.
4. Set up firewall protection for you Internet connection. A firewall is a program that keeps outsiders from being able to access data on a private network. Make sure your operating system’s firewall is enabled. Any employees working from home should have equivalent protections on their home computers as well.
5. Secure your Wi-Fi networks. If you have a Wi-Fi network in use at your workplace, make sure it is secure, encrypted and hidden. The network should not broadcast your network’s name or Service Set Identifier (SSID) and the router should be password protected. If you decide to offer free Wi-Fi to customers of your small business, be sure to set it up as a separate network and still password protect it. You can still give out the password to your loyal customers but asking for the password requires them to engage with your employees and encourages them to make a purchase in order to enjoy the privilege.
6. Make backups. Regularly backup the data on all your computers and devices. This may sound like an expensive proposition, but hard drives and cloud technology have made backup technology extremely cheap and reliable in recent years. Critical data includes word processing documents, spreadsheets, databases, financial documents, human resources files and all accounting documentation. Backups should be automatic, performed daily or weekly, and ideally stored offsite or in the cloud.
7. Control access to your computers and create unique user accounts for your employees. This practice prevents the access of business computers by unauthorized persons. Laptops can be a particularly attractive target for theft, so lock them up when they are not being used. Be sure a unique user account is created for each employee with appropriate levels of access. Administrative privileges should only be administered to trusted IT staff or contractors and key personnel or leadership employees.
8. Use best practices with payment cards and systems. Work with your accountant or bank to ensure the most trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud services have been implemented and are accessible to your small business. Note that you may have additional security obligations required by your bank or payment processor, so do your due diligence before beginning to process customer payments. Ideally, payment systems should be dedicated machines that don’t serve other functions in your small business.Data Security Best Practices for Your Small Business
For small business, setting yourself apart from the competition is the key to success. So how do you identify your competitive advantage over other brands in your industry? Here are some concepts and ideas that will help you to define your small business in your market or community.
Define your brand. This concept of branding means defining what makes your small business unique. This is also about presenting a consistent message and telling your customers who you are and why they should do business with you. This step in the process helps you identify what aspects or characteristics of your business define your business in the minds of consumers and what differentiates it from other small businesses providing the same products or services.
Know why you should know your competition.Doing acomprehensive analysis of your competition will give you great insight into your market, local consumers, and where your small business fits within the business ecosystem of your community. This step in the process is usually part of an overall market analysis. Essentially, a competitive analysis identifies your competition by product, service, and market segment. This section should include elements like market share, strengths and weaknesses, barriers to entering a competitive market, the viability of your window of opportunity to enter the market, and any other barriers such as technology, personnel or investment.
Identify customer preferences. As a business owner, it’s important to identify who you would like as your customers. This means identifying the demographics or psychographics of your target customers. Find out your customer’s needs and wants. What do your customers really care about, and what motivates them to frequent any given business? How often do your customers make purchases at your place of business? What are your target customer’s current buying trends or habits?
Explore your personal preferences. Before coming up with a strategy to attract customers, revisit your own experiences as a consumer. While determining your advantages over other businesses, it is important that you think like a business owner. But you also have to occasionally put yourself in the shoes of a business customer and ask yourself why you like to do business with a given small business, and what it is about that business that attracts you. Attraction factors can include competitive pricing, a specific selection of products, customer service, and perceived personal relationships. You can also flip the script on this concept and evaluate the factors that make you choose not to frequent a business, such as poor customer service, poor stock, low quality, or high prices.
List strategies for gaining competitive advantage. By this point, you should have valuable insight to make important decisions, and should have the data that you need to craft a strategy for gaining competitive advantage in your market. First of all, it’s important to recognize that your small business is different. You cannot be everything to everybody, but you can establish your own unique identity and your own unique selling proposition. It’s also important in small business to be price-sensitive. This can be established in your community with coupons, sales, discounts or a loyalty program. Another factor that is important to customers is convenience. Choose a location that is accessible to customers and, if possible, provide online ordering and delivery. Be friendly to customers and provide excellent customer service and accessibility. Finally, you want to be specific about the products or services you deliver. Products should be innovative, durable, reliable and consistent from a reputable, recognized brand. Services should be consistent, reliable, competitively priced and meet a unique need in your community.
Implement your competitive strategy. In implementing your business strategy, keep in mind that you originally set a primary goal. Remember who your target audience is and put your focus on delivery of products or services instead of getting distracted with gimmicks or social media. Brag to the public about how proud you are of your unique offerings. While these strategies will likely lead to success, it’s also important to have a backup plan in the event unexpected competition arises.
Identify how you will remain unique. Remaining unique in your market or community is as important as creating your business strategy. It’s important to continually monitor trends in these areas:
- The local and national economy
- Government trends, such as new laws, regulations, and taxes
INTELLIGENT OFFICE PARTNERS WITH LIQUIDSPACE AND MEETINGROOMS.COM TO EXPAND ITS ONLINE LIVE SCHEDULING SERVICE
Enables Anyone to Reserve Meeting and Conference Rooms and Executive Office Space at U.S. Intelligent Office Facilities Directly from LiquidSpace and MeetingRooms.com
Intelligent Office, a virtual office facility providing administrative and staffing services for mobile executives, small businesses, professional services firms, and independent contractors, today announced partnerships with LiquidSpace and MeetingRooms.com. These partnerships will expand the Intelligent Office online live scheduling service and enable anyone to reserve meeting space directly from LiquidSpace andMeetingRooms.com.
“The trends related to the new economy and the modern workforce mean that people have more freedom to work and do business from anywhere at anytime,” said Louie Beaupre, Executive Vice President, Marketing for Intelligent Office. “However, the importance of face-to-face meetings or in person collaboration will never fully disappear. That’s why we have partnered with LiquidSpace and MeetingRooms.com – to accommodate the needs of the growing mobile workforce by making it easier for people to schedule a professional meeting place when they need it.”
Intelligent Office is making hundreds of meeting and conference rooms, and executive offices available at hourly rates through these two new platforms. Available now for approximately half of its U.S. locations, Intelligent Office will complete the rollout to all of its U.S. and Canadian locations later this year.
About Intelligent Office
Intelligent Office is the leading virtual, professionally staffed office space for mobile executives and small businesses in North America. The company is headquartered in Denver, Colorado, and has over 60 franchises across the United States and Canada. Intelligent Office helps clients grow their businesses and work smarter by combining professional staffing with the physical and technological infrastructure of a traditional office.
For more information on services, go to www.intelligentoffice.com.
For information on domestic and international franchise information, visithttp://franchise.intelligentoffice.com.
Congratulations—you’ve launched your own small business and it’s a huge success. Maybe too huge; you find yourself growing at a healthy but unsustainable rate and demand for your products or services is starting to outstrip demand. Where do you turn to find new and talent employees for your small business? It used to be that small businesses would just put a sign in the window, but things have changed radically in the past two decades. So let’s look at both the old-fashioned and the new innovative ways to recruit workers to see what works best for you.
1. Put a sign in the window. Well, we implied that this was old-fashioned, and it is, but the truth is is that it works. By literally asking for help, you are likely to attract people who like and frequent your business anyway. That means you’re starting out with someone who already has an emotional investment in the success of your business. It also demonstrates to your neighborhood and the larger community around you that you’re dedicated to the health of your town and you’re demonstrating it by hiring locally. Keep in mind you can also perform this recruitment trick digitally by putting a note on your website’s front page or listing the opportunities you have in a digital newsletter.
2. Run an advertisement in the newspaper. This has advantages and disadvantages. First, who knows if your town even has a newspaper anymore? Secondly, a small text advertisement in a newspaper has very little visibility in our fast-paced modern world. However, if you’re interested in recruiting local talent, it’s worth putting an advertisement in a smaller community newspaper especially if you’re interested in part-time employees who might appreciate “mom hours.”
3. Advertise on Craigslist. There are definitely some risks here. You’ll get high visibility by advertising on Craigslist or other free online services but there’s also definitely a risk of having lots of weird people come visit you.
4. Advertise on Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com, LinkedIn, other gigantic career site, etc. The fact of the matter is is that you’re a small business. These sites are also so large that your advertisement can quickly get away from you and suddenly you’re getting resumes from exotic locales and offers to pick up your inheritance from some obscure nation. Let’s try a few better ideas first.
5. Advertise on niche job boards. This is a better idea. It might seem counterintuitive, but smaller career sites offer a more interesting and diverse range of candidates who are often better qualified. For example, every nonprofit job in the city of Denver generally ends up on one of two boards: the Colorado Nonprofit Association’s job board or Regis University’s nonprofit job bank. Because professionals who want to work in this area monitor these boards closely, you might just end up with a better candidate whose entrepreneurial nature would fit in well with a small business.
6. Network with your friends, family and colleagues. This is another excellent approach. Sometimes the best matches for your small business will come from direct referrals. This has a couple of advantages. Candidates you find through your connections are already pre-screened in a way, because if you trust your friends and colleagues, they are unlikely to recommend someone who is untrustworthy. There’s also a better chance that they’re more appropriate for the job than the random applicants who come through advertisements or job boards.
7. Work with university recruiting sites. Hey, everybody has to start somewhere. Connect with your local university or community college to see if they have recruiting events, job boards, or other ways to connect graduating students with their first jobs. You might end up with a bright young employee who can be groomed to function the way you would like them to in your small business.
Our Co-founder Rodolfo Schildknecht is featured in one of the biggest News Papers in El Salvador. In the Article, Schildknecht talks about how flexibility lead Uassist.ME to success. He mentions how flexibility was key to the growth UAM has experienced in the past years. Starting with the idea that more people might need personal assistants, Schildknecht soon […]
Our founder and CEO Alfredo Atanacio has been featured on “Hispano Entrepreneur” with a peculiar interview that captures the spirit of our business while conecting with the Hispanic public. Alfredo tells us a little bit about what inspired him to create his, now succesful, business, how the idea was born and what keeps him going […]
As we all know well, our CEO and Founder Alfredo Atanacio is a entrepreneur with a vision. Since Uassist.ME was first founded in 2006 it has grown exponentially now employing over 100 Salvadorians. With clients all over the world, Alfredo tells us a little bit about his experience and the things that lead him to […]