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Short-Term Financing: How Not to Get Ripped Off

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Short-term credit often provides vital sustenance to a new business. Short-term creditors also commonly predate on fresh entrepreneurs.  Regardless of the need, business owners should use such lenders cautiously.

“Loan sharks” can suck businesses dry in their times of vulnerability. This stage of the pandemic likely exposes the vulnerabilities of many businesses. Small businesses now likely struggle with debts as well as labor and inventory. Predatory lenders may circle like vultures at this stage.

Are there healthy routes to short-term credit? Absolutely. Three outlets can provide safe short-term loans for the cautious small business owner.

Lines of Credit and Online Short-Term Loans

Always beware of unethical practices by creditors. Predatory lenders often exploit smaller business owners with exorbitant Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) and crushing terms. Of course, businesses do need a cushion when crises arise. This cushion could be hard cash in a savings account or a line of credit from any of a variety of lenders, including mortgagers and small banks.

As discussed in our previous blog posts, cash flow poses issues for many business owners. You need money to make money, right? A trustworthy lender usually asks two things from a small business for a simple line of credit: At least six months in business, and at least $50,000 in annual revenue. Short of these requirements, Veteran Business Owners should give a second look to any lender offering short-term lines of credit. A line of credit may provide the “emergency fund” to protect a business in case of a short-term crisis. 

In a pinch, an online short-term loan may offer a tempting alternative. Direct cash from a lender may provide another “safety net.” However, absent reasonable terms, business owners should look elsewhere before contracting with lenders that seem too eager to dispense short-term capital. Their collections efforts will likely haunt them afterward.

Most online short-term loans have similar terms as lines of credit. A decent credit score tends to hold greater significance when the lender offers hard cash outright. These loans offer further risks, and the lenders use even more caution when approving short-term cash. 

These loans can range from four to five digits. However, bear in mind that the payback period can range from three to eighteen months. Creditors will want their money in the meantime. Lenders will also wield greater leverage in negotiations for payment plans and repayment terms. In short, despite the occasional necessity of short-term money, lenders inevitably demand their pound of flesh afterward.

Equipment Loans

These loans are a different sort of animal. Lenders foreclose on the equipment itself in case of default on these loans. Such equipment may include kitchen equipment, warehouse machines, and even company-owned mobile devices. Most lenders expect more security from business owners for such loans, since damage to equipment can greatly decrease its value following repossession.

Trustworthy lenders generally expect eleven (11) months in business, a decent credit score, and $100,000 in annual revenue before securing a necessary piece of equipment. The risk to the lender is greater, so the contractual terms place more responsibility on the borrower.

When to Use a Short-Term Line of Credit?

All businesses (and even individuals) should ideally have an emergency fund. Lines of credit and short-term online loans may plausibly furnish that cushion. Additionally, Veteran Business Owners may lack investment funds during their idea’s development phase. In the case of shorter loans and payment plans, both lenders and borrowers generally should recognize the urgency of repayment. Hence, everyone should apply a fine-tooth comb to short-term financing. Short-term lenders can be as sketchy as they are sometimes necessary.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

Online Security Tips

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

No company is a fortress, least of all small businesses. However, threats from outside are very real. Outside hackers as well as internal saboteurs can ruin a company. As the Internet comes of age, the good business practice requires that business people grow in sophistication just as the motley crew of potential scammers does the same.

1) Relationships with Employees

Creating a culture of security can save a business. One data breach can ruin a company. Access to a company’s online records merits careful consideration.

On an ongoing basis, workers should receive education about the dangers of online interlopers. Not every computer operator may understand even basic security concepts, such as the dangers of opening attachments. Periodic security courses can refresh employees’ knowledge regarding outside scammers, and the education can even benefit the employee in the long term.

At the very least, measures should be taken to ensure the separation of online life between work and home.  The use of workplace confidential information on unsecured home devices could make easy marks for scammers hungry for confidential information they can sell online.

Assuming the employee has an email account, the employee should know the basics of online scams such as “phishing,” fake online antivirus scams, and any of a host of more insidious schemes that may install malware or spyware onto company computers. Here is a link to some of the most common scams: https://uk.norton.com/internetsecurity-online-scams-5-most-popular-scams-in-2020.html.

Additionally, former employees commonly defraud small businesses with the information they carry off from the worksite. Employers should be as realistic about their own needs as they are about their relationship with their workers. As employees leave the team, their logins should be deleted immediately. Password management software may help with this process. Applications such as Dashlane or Lastpass may prove invaluable in managing IT aspects of any sort of offboarding.

In any case, good business practice demands (1) careful education of employees regarding good security practices, and (2) consideration of the terms of employee separation.  

2) Consider Industry Standards: Different Industries may have Different Forms of Sensitive Information

Some businesses may handle specialized information subject to unique legal requirements. For example, medical records may constitute PHI (Personal Health Information). In such cases, contracting businesses need to adopt practices under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) to ensure compliance. These practices may include seemingly extreme measures including computer privacy screens, injunctions against in-office cell phones, and measures to keep medical records out of the open air. Such measures may seem silly but are important for small businesses contracting with medical organizations that handle protected health information (PHI). Violations of HIPAA may range from medical ridicule to identity theft. These violations may also result in any range of consequences from jail time to monetary fines.

Other similar privacy laws may include the Family Educational and Privacy Act (FERPA). Many smaller businesses handle confidential information under FERPA and HIPAA. Protection of such information is crucial and may require special training under each statute.

3) The “Right” Security Expertise

Many companies now outsource their information technology needs. As these companies become more affordable, Veteran Business Owners should research IT services that best fit their niche. Many independent companies specialize. For example, legal, medical, and educational IT companies may provide the right expertise for various relevant companies. The expertise of such companies may provide crucial expertise for the unique logistical and legal demands of smaller companies handling sensitive online information.

Finding the right security software can present another problem. The tricky landscape of online security can daunt the most discerning business managers. Some online security applications are outright scams. Others may not quite provide the necessary airtight protection against the most skillful breaches. Many small businesses find larger, established companies such as Norton satisfactory. Others choose to do their own research.

The Bottom Line

In sum, honesty and common sense should prevail in the management of company information. The most sensitive information may include private customer information, gatekeeping data such as passwords, and internal proprietary information hidden within company records. In fact, the standard should be airtight security whenever possible, rather than mere due diligence.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/

Emergency Utility Shutoffs for Business Owners

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Shutoffs can ruin businesses when bills are not paid. However, business owners may need to shut off services as emergencies arise. Climate change has increased the frequency of weather events, and events of the past year highlight the challenges of social change as well.

One advantage of a small business is the ability to adapt better than larger organizations. As such, Veteran Small Business Owners should plan for survival in tragic situations. 

Shutting off Electricity:

Weather events could bring a host of problems for the electrical grid. Businesses might need to close due to a variety of local climatic phenomena. Windstorms, brush fires, and snowstorms could each render transportation systems unusable, preventing the involvement of utility companies and first responders. An earthquake could damage the wiring in the business structure itself. 

The first contact in a natural disaster should be the electric company. Use extreme caution before tampering with electrical equipment. Hopefully, an on-site maintenance person can handle any issues. 

Only a worst-case scenario warrants the presence of an untrained small business owner in the utility room. In such a case, wait for instructions from the electric company or fire department. However, shutting off the electricity is actually fairly straightforward. Just remember the danger absent proper safety precautions. First, make sure the power is off. A voltage tester can accomplish this task. Then, switch all circuit breakers to the off position. Finally, do the same to the main circuit or fuse.

Never perform these tasks in the case of flooding. Avoid water in contact with electrical equipment. In such a case, the electric company is the best contact for the long-term resolution of the problem.

Shutting off Gas

As with electricity, the gas should only be turned off on the advice of the utility company or the fire department. Once the gas is turned off, wait for a professional to turn the gas back on. However, everyone should at least know how to turn off the main valve.

The scent of natural gas should be a red flag, as should the sounds of hissing and blowing. Each could indicate a leak. The main shutoff valve, often called the street-side valve, is generally where the main pipe first enters the building, just before the gas meter. A tool such as a wrench is usually necessary in such a circumstance. Additional shutoff valves may be located near any appliances that utilize gas.

Generally, gas companies don’t want consumers tampering with their equipment. Small business owners should only resort to such measures after outright instructions from the company or the fire department. A natural disaster may provide the context for such a situation.

Shutting off Water

Natural disasters may often involve flooding. Dangers from flooding may extend well beyond the water damage to physical property. Contact with electrical equipment could create a deathtrap.

Additionally, turning off the water protects from contamination, and ensures that clean water won’t drain through damaged water lines. In fact, business owners are well-advised to turn off the water during periods of vacancy.

As with gas, the main shutoff valve maybe near the meter. Proprietors may find the meter outside the house or in a basement area. A plumber may help locate the correct meter for use in emergencies. Never confuse the water meter with the gas meter. 

Again, as with gas, individual shutoff valves may be located near appliances that use water, such as refrigerators, toilets, and sinks. These valves are useful whenever these appliances need repairs.

Overall Safety Considerations

Always consider the safety ramifications of tampering with gas and electricity. Generally, only professionals should handle these utilities. Given an emergency or natural disaster, the fire department or utility company should give the green light before the involvement of a layperson. However, an understanding of the gas and electrical systems could come in handy in the event these services become unavailable. 

Smaller businesses have the advantage of tighter understanding and control over their instrumentalities. This understanding should include the last resort in the case of emergencies and disasters. Given changes in the social and environmental fabric, such events may only increase over time.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

Resisting the Urge to Micromanage

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

New business owners sometimes invest their life’s work into business ideas. The possibility of a failed business can be devastating and a hard pill to swallow. The emotional and economic commitment might lead to unhealthy management tactics in the early stages.

The practicalities of meeting the bottom line should govern early management decisions. These practicalities often require interpersonal skills. In other words, the entrepreneur should work with subordinates rather than overpowering them. “Helicopter management” may be off the table as the team develops processes to best exploit human resources within the company itself.

Respect and trust should govern the onboarding process. Management should stay mindful that, when they finally must navigate the hiring process, they are bargaining for talent. Talent merits the respect and should be treated well.

Of course. business owners need to monitor employees. At the same time, never forget the importance of healthy boundaries. Lines must be drawn between the autonomy of employees and the visions of their employers. These lines ensure the proper balance between the employees’ dignity and the employer’s bottom line. This balance could bring about the harmony that leads to the fulfillment of a company’s potential.

From the perspective of an employee, controlling managers cause anxiety that may diminish work performance. However, the temptation to micromanage may overwhelm a new Veteran Business Owner. These new frontline workers, after all, may hold the business owner’s life aspirations in their hands. 

Business owners need good results to stay alive. Good business processes and operations are key to the bottom line. However, employees themselves bring their own skills into the business enterprise, which managers should exploit to everyone’s advantage. In some cases, perhaps establishing a 1099 relationship might allow greater synergy between the needs of the employee and employer. A 1099 relationship may increase the employee’s independence while allowing the employer more flexibility as well until the employment relationship solidifies into something more traditional.

The middle ground for an entrepreneur is to find the right “processes” for your business. “Processes” should lead the business on the most efficient path to its bottom line. However, “business processes” are not the same thing as “red-tape.” For-profit businesses have no business administering bureaucracies that interfere with worker productivity. One function of a new business is to find the right functions and operations to increase efficiency.

Businesses build relationships with their workers as each of them grows into their respective roles, and better understand their needs within each of their own niches of the economy. Good relationships with front-line workers always play crucial roles in a business’s capacity to function. 

Business owners should always stay mindful of the needs of their workers as well as their own needs. Often, new businesses adventure into diverse paths in their roads to viable moneymaking status. Likewise, these workers often bring in their own skills that may function in diverse ways to the benefit of the business. Rather than belittling their front-line workforce, business owners should integrate employees into their developing business processes in a manner that decreases costs while increasing the quality of the workday for everyone.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/

Strategies for Growing Wealth for your Small Business

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Often, business owners find themselves in the midst of a crazy business idea that promises to become their bread and butter. Has your dream come true? The last thing you need at this point is to throw practicality out the window. The first success may be only the start of a crazy growth spurt. Depending on the business itself and your own ambitions, the following considerations may grow your idea into a cash cow.

1) Know your Priorities. . . Budget, budget, budget!

Office supplies and equipment and maintenance can really dribble the resources of a Veteran Business Owner. Business owners should never be pennywise and pound foolish.  Profits don’t come from penny-pinching, 

You know your business better than anyone else. Over the long term, Veteran Business Owners should balance their plans with their resources.

For a successful business, the best profit margins should more than compensate for the overhead. Seek good deals. The tastiest ice cream should more than compensate for the glitter on the cone.

2)  Understand that Money should Make Money

Stagnant money does no one favors. Various resources can provide business owners with the seeds to grow their investments into a harvest that may yield fruit.

Occasionally, a bright idea may pop up in the news that sprouts and sheds its spores. Business owners should consider these situations case-by-case. However, in general, secure investments do the best service for Veteran Business Owners.

The best investment is yourself, and your knowledge and understanding of your own idea. Outside of their own considerations for their own business ideas, business owners need to maintain some sort of corporate veil between their own ambitions and those of their company.

Corporate bank accounts can yield dividends, but business owners should give thought to any opening capital until that money is ready to blossom into the Veteran Business Owner’s dream.

3) Diversify

When a business owner has capital, careful education should guide the management of that wealth. For example, many people confuse stocks and bonds. Bonds are essentially documents issued by corporations and governments that issue certificates that increase in value at a fixed rate. Stocks entail ownership of a share of the company. Bonds generally bank on the security of the issuing body, whether governmental or private. Stocks require care and confidence, and generally function best in a portfolio long-term, after careful contemplation. The health of the company matters. Also, consider the health and future of the industry.  

Also, consider your own resources. Do you own real property? Real estate can be rented, assets can be sold. As for yourself, as long as you have a place to live, consider all options. 

4) Stay in Control

Keep in mind your own “money story.” Business owners should know that they know their own story better than anyone else. Profit often matters more than cash flow. Assuming humble beginnings, strong incoming revenue indicates a healthy company. On the other hand, a large investment requires even greater incoming cash to make the company successful. 

Legally, remember that you are always the master of your own estate. No one can take that control away from you. Veterans should seek counsel in any situation that challenges their feelings about how to manage their money.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

 

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