Small Business News

News about the high optimism of small business owners  regarding the economy across the US, seem to be a hot topic of conversation. Despite the incertitude of many of the issues affecting the small business community, the optimism according to media outlets seems to be high. The promise of a quick repeal to Obamacare has some small business owners wondering whether this is going to be a good move for them.  For more about this and other stories affecting the small business community, follow the links below.


Small-business owners are full of questions and regrets about the end of Obamacare

With the repeal of the Affordable Care Act likely but its replacement uncertain, small-business owners are weighing their options for the future.

More details may come Tuesday evening when President Trump makes his first address to both houses of Congress as commander-in-chief.

Trump took executive action on January 20 to “ease the burden” of the Affordable Care Act and formally announced the administration’s policy to “seek the prompt repeal” of the law. However, doing so with any speed has proven difficult. The president told a meeting of the nation’s governors on Monday, “Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated.”

Dirk Bak is simply hoping for cost controls. His business, SDQ Janitorial in Minnetonka, Minn., has been family-owned for 34 years and had been offering its nearly 200 full-time workers coverage even before the ACA became law.

A great majority of our nation’s small business owners are old, white men

Two weeks ago the Kauffman Foundation, a well-regarded nonprofit group that specializes in entrepreneurism, released its annual State of Entrepreneurship report — and at least in one respect, the news is encouraging. The report found that, despite still being below the peak that preceded the Great Recession, private enterprise is rebounding and entrepreneurs are driving a resurgence of business activity in America.

However, most of those entrepreneurs are still mostly old, white men.

Even as the U.S. population is becoming more diverse, the changes in the composition of our entrepreneurs is not reflecting these changes: 80.2 percent are white and 64.5 percent are male (other reports have put the average age of a small business owner at around 50 years old). The Kauffman report found that minorities own half as many businesses as non-minorities and their businesses start smaller and stay smaller mostly due to capital challenges. Women are also half as likely as men to own employer businesses.


79 Percent of Small Business Owners Remain Confident, Xero Report Says

With unprecedented economic uncertainty in the US and UK, you would expect small businesses would be more pessimistic about the future. Yet, according to the second annual Make or Break 2017 report from Xero (NZE:XRO), small business owners are irrepressibly optimistic going into 2017. Both small business owners (79 percent) and accountants (84 percent) feel more confident about 2017 than 2016.

Make or Break 2017 Report from Xero: Highlights

The optimism was especially true for young businesses with 94 percent of one-year-old and 84 percent of two-year-old businesses saying that they felt more confident going into 2017 than they did in 2016. Over three quarters (79 percent) of small business owners professed confidence in their businesses’ survival in 2017. While nearly a fifth of businesses going through a tougher time said they expected 2017 to be a turnaround year for their business.


 

Small Business Lending

According to the FDIC website, as of September 30, 2016 there were 5,170 FDIC insured commercial banks. They gave a total of 8,544 loans as of the third quarter of 2016.  You might think that with so many banks, and loans given every year to business, there would be a surplus of loans for the small business owner.  That is not always the case. Some small businesses have a lot of  trouble getting a small business loan, even though news around the country claim small business borrowing is increasing.

For more about this and other news, follow the links below.

 


13 top U.S. microlenders for your small business

What is a microloan, and is one right for your small business?

If you’re a small-business owner on a quest for capital, there are several smart reasons to turn to nonprofit microlenders. These lenders go beyond making small loans to entrepreneurs and provide some benefits that traditional lenders don’t:

Profit is not their objective. Many microlenders are called mission-focused or mission-based lenders. They offer loans from government or nonprofit programs geared to helping disadvantaged communities, including areas that are struggling economically. Some microlenders also operate internationally, helping entrepreneurs in developing nations.

Many microlenders and nonprofits provide pro bono consulting and training, including helping small businesses build credit.


US small business borrowing rises as Trump elected president

Borrowing by small U.S. firms ticked up in November, data released on Thursday showed, as Americans unexpectedly elected Republican Donald Trump as their next president and investors bid up U.S. stocks on bets that tax cuts will boost profits.

The Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index rose to 129.9 in November from a downwardly revised 119.8 in October. Measured from a year earlier, it was the first increase in six months. Movements in the index typically correspond with movements in gross domestic product growth a quarter or two ahead.

“Right now we’ve got this post-election bounce, because we know who will be in office,” said Bill Phelan, PayNet’s chief executive and founder. “Is this going to continue into a new era of growth or no? That’s unclear.”


Small Business Health Reimbursement Accounts Resurrected For 2017

Stand-alone HRAs are back for 2017. Employers don’t have to wait for the repeal of Obamacare to fund stand-alone health reimbursement accountsthat employees can use to pay for medical expenses, including health insurance coverage on the individual market. Tucked into the year-end 21stCentury Cures Act, Congress resurrected these HRAs (“qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements”) for employers with fewer than 50 employees.

“I’ve been contacting small employer clients, telling them, ‘It looks like we can bring your plan back to life,’” says Amy Gordon, an employee benefits lawyer with McDermott Will & Emery in Chicago. “This was an unexpected surprise.”

Stand-alone HRAs were banned under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) because they didn’t meet credible coverage rules (HRAs tied to high-deductible health plans and limited HRAs which cover retiree medical expenses or just dental and vision weren’t banned and are still viable). Employers had to freeze stand-alone HRAs and not make any more contributions to them.


 

Looking For A Business Loan?

59948705Many entrepreneurs have launched their small business with a loan from a parent, uncle, or any other relative willing and able to afford lending a small sum, and perhaps not getting their money back for many years. Not everyone has the means to do that, and that’s why getting a small business loan from a bank is so important for many entrepreneurs, or even the small business owner already established.  Many analysts believe the lack of small business loans available to small business owners has decreased over the years, and the terms of the loans are not very favorable to the small business owner or entrepreneur.  Looking at different alternatives seems the only way for anyone looking for a loan to launch their business idea.

For more about this topic, follow the link below.


Four Smart Ways To Finance Your Next Big Idea Or Small Business

If you’ve ever wanted to start a business of your own, there’s likely been one big hurdle getting in your way: getting the money to finance your big idea.

Fortunately, the internet has made this process a whole lot easier. In the mid-90s, I was able to self-fund my business through the first few dollars I made online, then kept scaling and putting money back into my business over time.

Like most online businesses, my startup costs were extremely low. But not all business models are created equal: Some may need more investment money and funding than others. To help with this process, I’ve listed four different ways you can start raising money or obtaining a financial loan for your next big business idea.

Pre-Sell Your Product Or Idea Before Launching

Wouldn’t it be great if you could prove your model worked before starting your business? In the offline world, this is quite expensive and hard to accomplish. But on the internet, it’s happening every day.


‘Fintech’ fast-cash loans are like ‘wild west’ for small businesses

If you run a small business, you’re likely seeing a flood of offers for easy-to-get loans — through direct mail, pop-up ads, even TV ads — promising fast money to pay your bills or buy new equipment. But that new world of fast cash can come with some costly catches.

“It’s been the wild west,” said Karen Gordon Mills, co-author of a just-released Harvard Business School study exploring the promise and challenges of alternative small-business lending. The sector has exploded in the last few years as a new industry emerged, referred to as “fintech” (for financial technology).

Typically, to get a loan, a small-business owner needs to provide a bank with tax returns, personal and business financial statements and a pile of other documents and data.  “You have to wait weeks or months,” said Mills, who co-wrote the report “Small Business Lending: Innovation and Technology and the Implications for Regulation” with Brayden McCarthy.

Moreover, there’s been a persistent “credit gap” — a dramatic lack of funds available for small businesses needing smaller amounts of money, less than $250,000.


Here Is What Small Business Needs From the Trump Administration

The nation’s 28 million small businesses and tens of millions of self-employed freelancers need a voice the President will listen to.

As President-Elect Trump is busy at work filling his Cabinet positions, the one area that may be among the most important, but is among the least talked about, pertains to small business.

Small business and entrepreneurship are at the center of creating jobs and growing the economy, which are key pieces of Trump’s stated focus. While previous presidents, including President Obama, have raised the Administrator of the Small Business Administration to a Cabinet-level position, Trump should continue his out-of-the-box thinking and make a small business Cabinet position even more front and center in his own administration.

As a leading small business advocate for the greater part of the past decade, I’ve identified several key areas that Trump’s appointee should be able to navigate in order to add full value to the administration, as well as the 28 million small businesses (and tens of millions of freelancers) currently at the center of our economic engine.


 

Productivity In The Workplace

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There are many factors that affect the profitability of a firm.  For managers and directors of firms, one of the most important factors is to increase profitability for their stakeholders.  The income a company earns over a fiscal year must exceed the expenses they incurred.  Profitability is then one of the many reasons management tries to increase the productivity of their workforce.  Productivity in the workplace is a major challenge for many companies, and research over the years have shown that happy employees are more productive than non happy or stressed employees. But how about working remotely? How is the productivity level compared to those working at the office?  For more about this, follow the links below.


Study: Whopping 93% Say They’re More Productive Working Remotely

Catherine Conlan’s spent her fair share of time in offices. These days, though, the rural Minnesota writer clocks in from home to a content marketing agency in Baton Rouge, La. Still, many of the work-life balance challenges are the same.

“There are days where I’m still rushing around to pick up the kids or the laundry just doesn’t get done, because I’ve put a priority on my work productivity,” Conlan says. “But working remotely, especially with an employer who embraces a project- or results-based approach to work and is dedicated to supporting employees’ lives away from work, can make finding a sense balance a lot easier.”


Boosting America’s Workplace Productivity

Here’s the plain truth: whether at home or at work, productivity tends to suffer under stress. And while stress triggers are highly personal, one thing many workers seem to have in common is uncertainty around how to handle personal finances. In fact, according to a recent study commissioned by MassMutuali, while most Americans say they prioritize understanding the importance of their personal finances, many admit they actually know little or nothing about them, and half say they don’t know how much to spend on benefits. Worse, 37 percent of those surveyed find managing their personal finances “somewhat” or “very difficult” and 40 percent say personal financial problems are a distraction at workii.

It’s clear from the research that personal finances bedevil many Americans, especially when it comes to understanding and making the most of their employee benefits. And employee stress doesn’t just affect employees – the prevalence of distracted employees in the workplace poses a huge productivity issue for employers that, if left untreated, will likely become worse.


Productive mobility is poised to give business a virtual boost

Throughout history, new technologies have constantly changed the way we’ve worked. They’ve been responsible for full-scale revolutions. And continued investments have come as corporate demand for worker productivity drives tech spending.

We should expect augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to eventually attract increased spending in the enterprise as they combine with new mobile network advancements to make an emerging trend called “productive mobility” a reality.

Productive mobility is about being as productive out of the office as inside, and as productive in a virtual instance as a physical one.

Consider Boeing’s use of augmented reality glasses to streamline plane assembly workflows, decreasing assembly time and reducing errors by 25 percent. This is amazing. It’s also just the beginning of this reality-transforming workplace future.

That’s where critical mobile network developments come in. Many of the most exciting AR applications require instant environmental interpretation, and rapid delivery of contextually relevant information and functionality. VR, in particular 360 stereoscopic video, greatly raises the payload overhead of rich media.

Fixed and mobile broadband network advancements like fiber and 5G, along with service provider-centric content delivery topologies, deliver higher throughput with lower latencies. New convolutional network designs find patterns among previously insurmountable massive data sets, enabling rapid, intelligent predictions about the network, the things connected to it and the users engaging with it.


 

Apps And Tips To Help Your Small Business

Customer Relationship Management business chart on a digital tab

There is always the dream for many people to have their own business and be their own boss.  You either will succeed on your terms or not.  A small business for many people is a scary idea that they better not contemplate.  But, if you are like the millions of entrepreneurs in the United States, you need to try, and it is never too late according to many small business owners.  The paperwork, and costs  associated with starting a small business have been declining over the years, making it more feasible for an individual to open shop.  For free advice and other related articles to starting your own business, follow the links below.


Facebook Messenger Is Actually Helping Small Businesses Boost Sales

According to the company’s director of small business.

Facebook has built its reputation on its ability to get granular. Because the social network knows so much about its 1.6 billion users, marketers can use the platform to target highly curated groups of people.

But small–business owners should think on an even more individual level, says Dan Levy, the company’s vice president of small business. He repeatedly sees companies missing out on a valuable, and inexpensive, tool: Messaging.

For better or for worse, over the last decade the phone call has gone the way of the Dodo. Millennials may have driven the trend, but by this point Gen Xers and even Baby Boomers would often rather text than talk. This extends to their interactions as consumers. “Small-business owners are telling me, ‘I’m getting more sales leads over Messenger than I get over the phone,’” Levy says.


Ken Crite: It’s never too soon to start small business

Small firms accounted for 64 percent of the net new jobs created between 1993 and 2011 (or 11.8 million of the 18.5 million net new jobs). Since the latest recession, from mid-2009 to 2011, small businesses have accounted for 67 percent of the net new jobs.

With this in mind, if the focus was on the development and/or expansion of small businesses, we should experience a more rapid rebuild of the economy.

When large corporations expand and create 50 new jobs, there are several hundred applications, leaving the majority of the applicants in the same situation that they were in prior to applying.

If half of the applicants decided to start their own small business and hired only one additional employee, the job creation and development increases dramatically.


10 Must-Have Apps for Your Small Business

Today, tablets and mobile phones are enabling every industry, every line of business and every employee to work in astounding new ways. This capacity is fueling a new generation of apps, delivering more power, more insight and more capability to businesses than ever before.

This is true for businesses of all sizes – both large and small. Leveraging the right kinds of apps can make for a cohesive business ecosystem valuable in increasing productivity, streamlining business processes, and instilling creativity overall. So where to start? This slideshow offers a look at some of the best types of apps for kicking your small business off the ground or to a higher level.

Mind Mapping

The practice of mind mapping goes beyond the brainstorming exercises you did in elementary school. When you’re beginning a business, it’s important to think through everything and being able to collect your thoughts in a flexible way, especially when you’re on the go, is valuable.


 

Apps And Tools To Make Your Small Business Run Efficiently

Customer Relationship Management business chart on a digital tab

According to the Small business administration (SBA) small businesses in the United States have increased by 49% since the 1980s. and provide more than half the jobs in this country. And although small business owners employ many workers, their personal loads at work have increased. They do more than one job at any specific time, and their long hours seem to never be enough to catch up with the many things they have to accomplish daily.  If you find yourself in a similar situation, then this article might benefit you tremendously.  Read more by following the links below.


Top 10 mobile apps for business executives

Anyone with a smartphone or tablet knows that a good app can make life easier — and business executives are no exception. These are the top 10 consumer apps that business people turn to for day-to-day productivity.

Mobile apps for business executives

Apps make your life easier. You can place an order for nearly anything with the touch of a button, you can call a cab to your door or schedule an appointment all without talking to a live person. It seems only natural that as apps make our personal lives more efficient, they’re also making our business lives more productive and functional.

“Over the last five to 10 years we have seen enterprises move away from in-house apps to off-the-shelf or SaaS models. Many of these are consumer-grade services that are retrofitted to specific enterprise needs,” says Dan Rowinski, editor in chief of the Application Resource Center (ARC), publishers of the report and the editorial and research arm of app quality and testing company Applause.


4 Tools That Make Your Small Business Look Big

Being a small company has its benefits: You’re agile, able to change directions at a moment’s notice. You’ve got autonomy, as your business is independent of a giant conglomerate. No, you’re not attracting the same number of consumers as a household name business, but that doesn’t mean  you can’t look every bit as professional to the consumers you do reach. You can make your small business look big.

Build/Update your Website:

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) estimated last year that 50 percent of all small businesses still didn’t have a website. Without a presence on the web, your small business can easily go unnoticed by potential customers. Now the good news: It’s easier than ever to create a website, especially one that your customers can access from their mobile devices. More than 75 percent of mobile phone users access the internet through them, and the number will rise to nearly 86 percent by 2018. Google now favors sites which work well on mobile in its search results: You definitely want to be one of the top results when people go looking.


KANSAS CITY — A little over a month ago, Tony Spagnoli, an aspiring coffee roaster in Philadelphia, discovered his fledgling business had received $3,500 from Mondelez International, Inc. Specifically, the money came from Triscuit Maker Fund, a project launched with crowdfunding web site Indiegogo to support artisanal food makers. On March 23, the cracker brand invested $250,000 to help fund 55 food makers’ campaigns on Indiegogo. Ranging from microbrewers to food trucks to small farms, the businesses represent a diverse scope of backgrounds, products, size of organization and geographic location across the United States and Canada.

“The timing of the Triscuit Maker Fund was just impeccable,” Mr. Spagnoli told Food Business News. “I had reached the point where I needed new capital to do some training and buy additional equipment, and I was also in the process of changing the brand name, so I had to redo a lot of collateral and the web site.”


 

Ohio Small Business News

Last Oct. 2015 the Unemployment rate for the state of Ohio was a 4.7%, and since then it has been increasing slowly, but surely to a 5.1% as of last month. A small increase to be sure, but it does make you wonder whether there are better times to come for the state, or things are going to progressively get worse.  Small businesses in Ohio are not as optimistic as they were last year, and some are still wondering wether the minimum wage increase will have other ramifications for their businesses.  For more news bout Ohio, follow the links below.


Ohio’s economy has had its ups and downs over the years, experiencing decline long before the rest of the nation felt the effects of the financial crisis. In the years preceding the recession, Ohio’s manufacturing sector was hollowed out, contributing to a drop in per capita income and a drastic slowdown in growth. And while the unemployment rate has plummeted, the labor force has shed nearly 300,000 workers since its peak in late 2007, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And as employment rises, so does the demand for skilled or experienced labor, and business owners find it progressively harder to hire the employees they need at the cost they want.

However, in 2008 — amid the recession — Ohio’s per capita income started to gain compared to the national average, and the U.S.’ seventh-largest economy has seen some bright spots. Despite a difficult decade — between 2004 and 2014, the compound annual growth rate of Ohio’s GDP was an anemic 0.3 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) — entrepreneurs in Ohio are seeing promise again. For small business owners in the Buckeye State, the sentiment is tepid optimism that a fledgling startup community and the return of manufacturing in the form of tech-focused companies will propel the economy forward in the years to come.


While small business owners acknowledge that there are some downsides to increasing wages for their entry-level workers, many of these business owners also find positives in doing so, new research finds.

Nearly 60 percent of small business owners said they favor raising the minimum wage, and the same percentage said they would likely vote for a state or national candidate who supports a minimum-wage increase, according to a study from Manta, a provider of products, services and educational resources for small businesses.

The results were released as both California and New York recently approved measures to gradually increase their minimum wages to $15 per hour.

The majority of small businesses surveyed are already paying their employees above what’s required. The research revealed that 40 percent of small business owners pay entry-level employees “far above” the required minimum wages in their areas of operation, while 38 percent pay “slightly above” the minimum wage. Just 14 percent are paying the state or local minimums, and only 9 percent are paying the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.


Small Business Confidence Hits New Two-Year Low

Small business confidence fell to a fresh two-year low in March amid persistent worries about sales and profits, the latest indication that economic growth braked sharply in the first quarter.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said on Tuesday its small business optimism index dipped 0.3 point to a reading of 92.6 last month, the lowest since February 2014.

It has declined from a reading of 100 in December 2014 and has pushed further off its 42-year average of 98.

“A ‘chartist’ looking at the data historically might conclude that the index has clearly hit a top and is flashing a recession signal. The April survey will decide whether or not the alarm should be rung,” the NFIB said in statement.

The soft reading fits in with recent economic data on consumer and business spending as well as wholesale inventory investment that have suggested economic growth slowed sharply from the fourth quarter’s 1.4 percent annualized rate.


 

Financial Cyber Attacks – A Growing Management Problem (Part 2)

Customer Relationship Management business chart on a digital tabAs we discussed last month, criminals are increasingly targeting small businesses for financial cyber attacks.  These attacks have included: stealing customer and company data to sell, high-jacking and holding the information system for ransom, and taking money.  Small companies are under fire because they’re low hanging fruit.

Owners who would never leave the doors unlocked on their building or office are leaving their cyber doors wide open.  They have installed locks, security systems and gates against the local “physical” criminals, yet all but put out a Welcome mat for the cyber ones anywhere else in the world.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way – with a little discipline and some common sense procedures you can prevent or minimize the possibility of a successful attack.  Here are some suggestions.

Scrutinize emails

Create an awareness program about phony emails, which you and your employees follow.  Fake emails are used to plant malware and spyware, which allows thieves access to the system (i.e. account numbers and amounts, passwords, transaction history, credit card numbers). Don’t open links or attachments unless you’re very sure you know who they’re from. 

Another popular ruse is to use realistic emails to initiate money transfers to outside accounts.  The thief, via email, poses as a manager and asks an employee to transfer money from a company account to an outside one.  An employee, properly trained, will make sure the request is legitimate before sending the money.

Avoid Wi-Fi

Smartphones and tablets have made it easy to do work anywhere.  But, it’s also made it easy for hackers to easily access your information.  Wi-Fi connections are notorious for having weak security – no matter what the sign on the door says. 

Would you trust a stranger to lock up your office every night?  Then why would you trust the owner (or a major corporation) of the local coffee shop to protect your important data, especially when the chances are very good that they aren’t protecting their own.

Use your bank as a partner

Your bank wants you to succeed – it’s good for you, it’s good for them and it’s good for the community.  Sit down with someone and find out what options they have for safeguarding your accounts.  They probably have some you don’t know about.

Do they have two-factor authentication?  It requires unfamiliar account users/devices to supply additional information.  Do they have software that flags attempted logins from unfamiliar sources?  If the bank doesn’t recognize a login they will send a one-time access code to a separate device of your choosing.  Can they provide text messages for each withdrawal?

Many small business owners don’t know that companies don’t have the same fraud protection consumers have.  Depending on the bank’s policies and the agreement you signed with them they may not be liable for stolen money.  Some banks provide fraud protection only when specific security measures are in place. 

Financial cyber attacks aren’t going to decrease, nor will they ever be “fixed”.  They’ll increase in frequency and sophistication, while having moving target solutions.  The cost of doing business in the internet age is realizing the problem isn’t going away, and it’s time to start dealing with it now, rather than later when all your money has disappeared.


Do You Have Salespeople or Order Takers?

business (9)It’s 2016 and just like small business owners all over Northeastern Ohio you’re vowing that this is the year you’re  going to focus on increasing sales.  This is the year the sales department is finally going to “get it in gear”.  Then, just as you did in 2015, 2014, 2013…, you dig  out the old goals and ideas.

For the sake of this article we’re going to assume the sales plan you have is a solid one.  (It may not be, which is a subject for another time.)  So, if it’s a good plan why hasn’t it worked all these years?  The problem with even the best sales plan is that it’s only as good as the people who execute it.

Most small businesses have order takers rather than salespeople.  This isn’t just a matter of semantics.  There’s a real difference in attitude, aptitude and mindset between the two – a difference which will increase or decrease your bottom line.

Order takers

Attitude – He sees his job as giving the customer just what they order.  They tell him what they want, he puts the order in and the transaction is complete.  His attitude is that his role in the sales process is a passive one.  He doesn’t believe that customers would get a greater benefit if he took a more active position.

Aptitude – She’s in the position by default, she didn’t seek it out as a career.  It may have been the only job available at the time or one she simply fell into.  She doesn’t really want to be a salesman, but “it’s a job that pays the bills”.

Mindset – His mindset is static and he fights innovation, believing “things are fine just the way they are”.  He sits in his office waiting for “new” business to come from the company’s existing lead sources (i.e. a RFP, an incoming call or a web request).  He plays solitaire on his computer waiting for the customer or prospect to come to him. 

Salespeople

Attitude – She believes she and the customer (or prospect) are a team, one which identifies problems and finds answers.  Her job is to take an active role in finding and helping people whose lives, jobs and companies would benefit from her product or service.

Aptitude – He likes and wants to sell, seeing it as an opportunity to make a good life for himself and his family.  He has an appreciation of the skills needed to be successful in the profession and works on developing them. 

Mindset – He enjoys his job and likes the challenges of the sales process.  He takes pleasure in “not being stuck in an office” and seeks out chances to interact face to face with future and existing clients.  His mindset is that he’s an expert concerning the product or service and others can benefit from his knowledge.

The question to ask yourself is, “Do I have salespeople or do I have order takers?”  If you have order takers, chance are you’ll be dusting off that unused sales plan about this time next year too.  It doesn’t have to be that way, make 2016 the year you add some salesmen to your work force.


Use Your Business as a Personal Bank (and Ruin It)

business (11)Too many small business owners don’t understand the difference between personal and business money.  They don’t “get it” to the point of undermining their success.  Countless people have driven their thriving business into bankruptcy or severely limited its growth.

They have the same basic mindset – my business money is just an extension of my personal money.  While there are a variety of ways this thinking affects their actions there are 2 behaviors which are the most common.

Run everything through the business

They believe the business can and should absorb the costs of personal items (i.e. kid’s college tuition, boats, cars for family not working in the company, vacations).  But, that’s what personal money – salaries, savings accounts and loans – should be used for. 

They use the company account as a bank that provides interest free loans, which never get paid back.  Putting aside the tax consequences if they get caught, the bottom line is that most small companies can’t support the cost (overhead) of personal items. 

Money isn’t unlimited and too often the business starts to suffer.  The money to buy a needed piece of machinery, hire more personnel or a new service truck is tied up in the home basement remodel, a family country club membership and a new motorcycle.

Use the company as an ATM

Another way of using business money as personal money is raiding the coffers.  They may or may not run any personal items through the books, but believe the cash assets are fair game.  They unofficially take money out in addition to officially paying themselves a salary and bonuses. 

Some owners take “just a little” cash.  One took $30 a day out of petty cash for pocket money.  He was shocked when the accountant pointed out he was getting a $7,500 bump in salary ($30 x 5 days a week x 50 weeks a year).  A raise he hadn’t formally given himself, because the company couldn’t afford it.  Others take larger amounts, sometimes hundreds or thousands.

But, regardless of how the cash is siphoned off it takes money to make money and if the business doesn’t have enough operating capital, at best, it becomes impossible to grow it.  At worst, the financial hole is dug too deep; it can’t survive the drain and folds.

No matter how it’s done using the business as a personal bank is short-sighted and self-defeating.  Everyone knows, or should know, the story of killing the goose who laid the golden eggs, and yet many don’t learn from it.  It’s unfortunate, because when used properly business money can be parlayed into bigger profits, which means a higher salary and increased bonuses.