Tips to overcome financial problems and difficulties

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We have all been there. Financial woes and challenges happen to everyone at some point, and the stress and worry can be overwhelming. The most common financial problems and difficulties are:

Cash Flow
Economic Cycles
Funding
Unforeseen expenses
Poor financial management

Lets look at each in turn.

Cash Flow.

Keeping track of what money is coming in and going out of your business is essential. Remember, profit isn’t the same as cash flow. Your business may generate a large profit margin and you may experience strong growth, but if your money is all tied up in stock you may not be able to pay your suppliers.

Send out invoices promptly and be quick to chase overdue bills. Set out clear payment terms with suppliers. Get to know your customer payment dates and don’t ignore irregularities or delays — a poor paying customer might be about to go bust.

Efficient stock management. This is just as important as managing cash flow. Regularly reconcile your stock records. An efficiently managed stock control system will have a positive impact on your cash flow because you will never be holding too much stock, or have all your money tied up in it.

Stay on good terms with your lenders and keep them informed of any unforeseen outgoings or changes in forecasts. By developing a good relationship, based on trust, with banks and lenders, they’ll be more likely to treat you favourably should your business need future financial assistance.

Economic Cycles

Planning for cycles is largely a matter of recognizing that they exist. This may mean not assuming that the current good times will go on forever.

Plan for tougher times by limiting the costs you add to your business. In particular, be wary of paying higher recurring expenses such as rent.

Entrepreneurs tend to take on unnecessary expenses when times are
good, but this can sink you if a recession strikes. Look out for overly lavish expense accounts, over-reliance on high-priced professional advisors, products that don’t carry their weight, and even marginal customers you’d be better off without. Trimming these costs when times are good will help your profits now and may make the difference between success and failure when the cycle turns the other way.

Also think twice before adding expenses that may be hard to cut, or even cost more to cut than they do to keep. Chief among these costs is people. It can be emotionally as well as financially painful to lay off workers in the event of an economic downturn. And the costs for severance pay, unemployment insurance, outplacement and retraining may also be steep.

Remember: Even if your income statement and balance sheet are strong now, you have to practice cost containment to be ready for the next recession.

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Funding

Firstly I need to point out that “The best finance is no finance” however few of us have the luxury of no Finance.

Bank Loans
Normally this is the first place the young entrepreneur thinks of. Since the Financial Crisis in 2008, Banks lending standards have got a whole lot tougher. However some Banks have set aside funds for Small Business Lending. It is always worth contacting them, and compare their Terms and Conditions with other forms of finance.

Equity Funding
Is the process of raising capital through the sale of shares in an enterprise? It can be anything from a few thousand pounds from Mum and Dad to billions from giant “initial public offerings”. The concept is the same. You give up a part of your company in return for cash. Giving up part of your company may be a big ask but being too possessive can kill an idea before it has taken off.

Venture Capital
Is a type of private equity, provided by firms or funds to small, early-stage emerging firms that are deemed to have high growth potential in return for Equity or a stake in the ownership?

Friends and relatives
Can be a controversial method. Always consider that you are risking their financial future and jeopardizing important personal relationships. Offer up a strong business plan. This will show them that you are taking their money seriously, and always make them aware that they could lose everything!

Angel Funding
Or seed investor, is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start up, usually in exchange for convertible dept or ownership equity.

Crowd Funding
Is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people. Debt-based crowd funding, also known as peer to peer “P2P” is where borrowers apply on line, generally for free, and their application is reviewed and verified by an automated system. Investors buy securities in a fund that makes the loans to individual borrowers. Investors make money from interest on the unsecured loan, the system operators make money from taking a percentage of the loan and a loan servicing fee.

In the years that I have grown my own business www.zzap.com I have learnt that in order to attract other peoples hard earned cash make sure you can tick each of these boxes:

1.Be an expert in your product and the market you are attempting to enter.
2.Don’t just follow the latest Fad. You need to show passion for the idea \ product, rather than just jumping on a bandwagon.
3.Keep the investors up to date. This is often overlooked.
4.Add experience. Surround yourself with people you trust who can fill in the gaps. No one knows it all.

There are many ways to raise capital but they all come at a price. Taking calculated risks is part of being a businessman. Be truthful with yourself, do your homework, know your market. Before anyone will invest in you they have to be convinced that you are a good bet. You will only convince them if you truly believe in yourself. You may be interested in my article “Learn your own way. The most underrated key to success.

Unforeseen expenses

Office Space
Before renting office space or purchasing property, think about how much space you need now and what you’ll need once your business starts to grow. Does your business require more than a home office can provide? Will temporary office space work?

Equipment & Maintenance
Don’t buy the latest model if you don’t need it. Remember to include basic office equipment in your budget, items like computers, copier, paper, scanner, desks and chairs. Use second-hand and discount sites such as eBay, Freecycle, Gumtree and surplus sales.

Employee benefits
Provide perks. It’s more cost-effective to retain good employees than recruit new ones. These perks don’t have to be pricey; benefits such as flexible schedules, telecommuting and casual dress codes can do a lot to boost retention.

Insurance
At a minimum, you need both employer liability and public liability coverage. It’s also a good idea to carry insurance for negligence, property, illnesses and injuries.
Negotiate with your insurance providers. Periodically review your coverage to see if it still meets your business needs. Talk to your provider and other insurers to get the best rates and best coverage.

Poor Financial management

Specialists can save you money and time. Legal professionals can untangle red tape and advise on legal challenges. Accounting specialists can translate tax codes, help maintain accurate payment and inventory records, and find grants to help fund your endeavours. Although expensive they can make that all important difference.

In conclusion

If you want to run a successful business then there are times when you will take calculated risks. This can lead to success or ruin. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You must realise that there is almost always a way out, and before you sink into deep depression you must explore every avenue. I hope I have shown you how to overcome some of financial problems and difficulties and hopefully ease your stress. One size does not fit all. But, by taking a positive approach there is every chance you will succeed.

5 Ways to Effectively Increase CTR in an E-Commerce App/Website Through Data Tracking

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As an e-commerce site administrator, one cannot ignore the power of user data collected during different stages of activities on your site. Many organizations collect and store these data, but they do not put them into good use, such as using them to increase the conversion ratio on their website.

Many users will visit your site and never comeback for further activities. However, if you properly use the data they submitted to your database during registration, you can effectively increase their return rate by 50% or more.

The purpose of every business is to maximize sales. One of the best ways to maximize sales is by getting your customers perform certain task, and those tasks can only be done when they are visible to the customer.

As an e-commerce administrator how can you use all that big data you’ve collected? In this article we shall be discussing how to properly utilize the customer and consumer data you collected to increase the conversion ratio.

What Kind Of Data Should You Track?

With the right analytic tools you can track the following information from a user; whether they carried out a transaction or not.

  • Email address.
  • Phone numbers.
  • Age and gender.
  • Residential Address which will give you clues on the region they live.
  • The pages they visited.
  • The links or product they clicked.
  • The keyword that brought them to your site.
  • The amount spent and product bought during last visit

1. Use Tracked Data to Create a Personalized, Shopping Experience For Customers

A study done by Infosys study, shows that 70% customers will spend 13% or more, if they are confident that the company selling to them has a superior service.
Through the personal data you collected from your customers or site visitors, you should be able to personalize certain recommendations to inform your customers about product and services they might have an interest.
The data you have tracked can also be used to study what certain customers from certain region prefer. This will help your target other audience from the same region effectively.

2. Use Your Tracked Data to Customize Special Offers and Promotions

One thing that drives traffic to an e-commerce site is special offers and promotions. According to Brendan Wilde, marketing manager at Domain4Less, “A mass audience promotion will not get you the customers you need to increase sales; you should also conduct special promotion that targets a particular audience.” For instance, if you are selling winter coat your promotion should be targeted at your audience that experience winter or during winter season.
Using the data you collected you can send email notification or SMS to your audience whom you know are living in areas that experience such season, clearly stating reasons they should buy winter coat even if they have one. Such customized offers will increase the number of daily visitors you get and the same time your CTR.

3. Use the Tracked Data for Product Feedback

The information you get from your customers, especially during period of huge sales should be used to improve your product and services. For instance many customers will leave negative reviews on some products. You should not take these reviews as a bad signal, rather as an avenue to improve on your services and increase sales.
You can ask your reliable customers who are willing to carry out a survey about your services such as features or products they would like you to add. You should also watch out for product review sites to study how certain customers react.

4. Use Tracked Data to Improve Your Marketing

Your business can not succeed without proper marketing. While many startups fail to properly utilize the data they gathered to improve their marketing department, the data serves as an avenue for marketers to understand the behavioral activities of prospects that become customers.
This implies that with these data, they see the journey of a prospect and target campaigns to influence and convert them to customers. In other words, your advertisement campaign will be targeted at the right audience.

5. Use Your Data to Create Sharable Content

One thing many e-commerce site administrators forget is creating blog content. While many see this as a job that should be left for bloggers; creating a blog section on your site and including helpful tips will increase your CTR. Many visitors will convert to customers if they read articles from your site about certain product or service. In a case where you sell Jewelries, offering tips on how to maintain them will increase your site visitors which in turn will convert to customers.
Conclusion

The data you gathered from your customers when properly utilized will serve as a source of increasing your conversion rate at the same time increasing sales and maximizing profits.

Awesome Productivity Tips for Small Business Owners

Disclaimer: Gabriel Nwatarali, from Tech Help Canada, submitted this entry. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Cloud Books.

22 Awesome Productivity Tips for Small Business Owners

In an age where distractions reign supreme, staying productive has become a lot harder to do. This is particularly evident for business owners or entrepreneurs who are responsible for most of their day-to-day operations. These 22 actionable productivity tips for small business owners may be just what you need to take your productivity to the next level.
In truth, many of us try several times to become more productive and fail at it before we got it right. Implementing just some of these productivity tips will be beneficial.

1. Commit to Becoming More Productive
The first step in any goal is to commit and productivity is no different. You have to commit to becoming a more productive person.
You’ll need to be dedicated to your goal and the activities that are necessary to meet it.

2. Focus on Income Producing Activities
What are the activities that can make you money?
Focus on the activities that are needed to generate revenue for your business. Income producing activities may not generate income all the time but you have to be consistent.
Do you need to make cold calls? Can you reach out to potential clients on social media? Should you be sending “InMails” on LinkedIn?
These are only some examples of income producing activities.
Your focus should be balanced. There should be at least 50% focus on income generating activities and the other 50% on everything else.

3. Use The 2-Minute Rule
The two-minute rule crushes procrastination and can help you stick to good habits.
The general idea is that anything that will take 2 minutes or less should be completed right away. Whether it’s papers that need filling or a quick response to an email, you should do it if it will take 2 minutes or less.
Most of the tasks that we procrastinate about aren’t actually as time-consuming as we think they are. The 2-minute rule will help you start and finish tasks that you would normally put aside for later.

4. Set SMART Goals
SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
By setting SMART goals, you can manage expectations and increase the likelihood of being successful.
Specific – Your goal should be well defined.
Measurable – You should be able to measure success in some way.
Attainable – Make sure that your goal can be accomplished.
Realistic – Your goal should be within reason, available resource and time.
Timely – Make sure that you have enough time to archive the goal but never take too much time.

5. Use a Checklist
Checklists are old school but they still work. Before you start your day, make a checklist of the most important things that you need to do that day.
As you cross off things in your checklist, you may find that you get a huge sense of accomplishment. This is a good thing because it’ll make you happier throughout the day.
A checklist should keep you consistent and ensure the completeness of each task.

6. Make Time for Critical Things
This seems simple enough but more often than not, we fail to set time aside for really critical things like taxes. The result is that we end up having to rush our work.
Develop a habit of setting time aside for urgent or critical activities.

7. Create a Plan for Managing Your Time
No matter what kind of business you run, you should have a plan for managing your time. Decide on your day-to-day business operations and manage it effectively to increase productivity.

8. Use Tools to Boost Productivity
Use software like cloud books to help you improve productivity. Software tools are great for increasing the overall productivity of businesses.
Truly productive small businesses use tools to prioritize tasks, communicate clearly, delegate, for invoicing and record keeping. Tools also help employees produce more for the organization.

9. Schedule Things
You should schedule most things and only change your schedule if it’s important. Having a schedule will help you stay on track for completing your most important tasks for the day.
Give yourself some extra time to complete each task because as a business owner, you’re probably in the public eye and people may just want to talk to you.

10. Track Your Results
Tracking your results will help you measure your success and change things that may not be working.

11. Use Email Strategically
Do you need to respond to emails as soon as they arrive? Should you send an email or make a phone call?
Emails can take up a lot of your time if you don’t set boundaries. It may be a good idea to setup a very good auto responder and only check email once a day.
For other business people, it’s a good idea to ensure that you’re not sending out emails for things that can be easily solved by walking to a cubicle or an office.

12. Pick One Thing and Do That
Having a down and out day? Well, we all have these moments once in awhile. On days like this, you need to pick one thing and do it!
Pick the most important thing that you can do for your business that day and focus on that.

13. What’s Your Work Environment Like?
You can’t time manage effectively if your environment invites chaos.
Try to work in an environment that invites creativity and organization. If your work environment makes you feel like working a whole lot, it’s a good thing.

14. Create Sustainable Habits
Pick habits that you can sustain. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll be in every networking event in your city but is it sustainable?
When picking habits that will benefit your business, make sure that you can be consistent with it. Many things lose their effectiveness when they’re inconsistent.

15. Delegate Tasks
Delegation is arguably the earliest form of automation. By delegating tasks that are important or mundane, you can create time for the really important stuff like generating business income.

16. Avoid Procrastination
Easier said than done but procrastination can kill a business if it persists. As mentioned earlier, use the 2-minute rule to avoid procrastinating on those small but necessary tasks.
Whenever you feel like putting off an important task for later, remember that time doesn’t wait for you and tomorrow is never certain. This alone is a good enough motivator to start for most people.

17. Take Breaks
This is where many small business owners struggle!
As owners of businesses, we’re so accustomed to working that we often forget to take breaks. Whenever possible, take breaks after each task or set aside time for it.
Breaks can serve as creative fuel, a way for you to step back and give your mind room for more creativity.
If your work involves a lot of sitting down, breaks can help you avoid mental stagnation and being physically inactive.

18. Stay Organized
Organization is very important, especially in business. Avoid spending too much time looking for things by keeping your office space organized.
Additionally, a cluttered work environment can quickly make your mind feel cluttered too.

19. Prioritize Tasks
Prioritization allows you to focus on the most important tasks first. A good rule of thumb is to do the hardest tasks first.

20. Working “On” Your Business vs. “In” Your Business
Are you working on your business or in your business?
For many small business owners, they’re doing both and you may be too. Working in your business is necessary but spend at least 1 to 5 hours a week working on your business.
Working on your business involves making long-term investments. Things like finding ways to make your processes more efficient, developing systems and creating a vision.

21. Set Aside Time for Yourself
A business is a reflection of the owner or entrepreneur and if you’re not happy, it can hurt how you conduct business.
You should make time for yourself. Designate one day of the week where you can go and have fun doing something else. Whether it’s fishing, boating or binge watching your favorite TV shows, do it if it makes you happy.

22. Manage Your Expectations
Finally, you should manage your expectations!
We often want to accomplish a lot of things in one day but the reality is that we can end up hurting our productivity because we lose some focus.
Rushing to complete things quickly, often removes the focus required for it to be remarkable. Remember this whenever you’re tempted to over fill up your day.

Author Bio

Gabriel Nwatarali is a digital marketer and designer. He works as a consultant for businesses that want to improve their web presence. He is the founder of Tech Help Canada, a design and marketing agency. He currently resides in the beautiful city of Ottawa, ON. When he is not working, he is having fun with his passions – SEO, websites and logo design. (more…)

Biggest differences between iOS and Android devices

One of the biggest differences between iOS and Android devices is their messaging capabilities. iOS
devices come with a feature called iMessage, which is essentially a built in messaging app that allows
its users to send messages, images, videos and more to other iOS users over the internet, free of
charge. An Android device on the other hand does not come with this feature. Google has yet to decide on the one best messaging app that comes built into to Android devices, therefore users have to make their own decision on which they wish to be their default application. As a result of this, it is commonplace for user to have to repeatedly switch between apps when talking to different people.

Although it is not the most user friendly solution, it is one that Android users have to deal with.
WhatsApp is definitely an app that is worth considering to be made a default messaging solution for
an Android device. In addition to being able to send and receive messages, images, videos and
documents for free, it also allows for free phone calls just as long as you have Wi-Fi. For people that
travel a lot this is a vital feature as it allows them to communicate with people all over the world
without paying a penny. Additionally, it was one of the first messaging apps to be created, therefore
a lot of people have it on their phones ready to be communicated with.

Facebook messenger is also key app to consider as chances are you already have a Facebook
account, and therefore an extensive contact list ready to communicate with over the app instantly.
However, the app will also support contacts through adding a phone number, so people you want to
communicate with don’t have to have a Facebook account. This app has a few fun features that sets
it apart from other apps such as a huge collection of stickers, online games that you can play with
friends and the ability to take part in large group chats. In the future, it is looking likely that
Facebook messenger will also introduce company bots, so that users can communicate with
companies that they want to purchase products or services from.

Other potential apps that Android users could download include Line, Viber and WeChat. Depending
on where you live in the world, different messaging apps are popular, so it is best to consider what
apps are popular around you before making a decision about which will be your default. There are
thousands of apps out there to choose from, each with various feature and benefits that sets them
apart from others. There is also nothing stopping people from having multiple applications to use if
necessary. The method to make an application your default various between devices.

Although some people may not like the fact that Android phones come without one set way to
message, it can also be argued that it gives users the freedom to choose the app that is perfect for
them.

Beginners Bookkeeping For Small Business Owners

On the road to building a viable business, certain things are not to be compromised. Your small business needs a robust foundation and a great deal of support to thrive.

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The foundation is made up of important pillars such as a flexible workforce, a digitally-savvy marketing team, a knowledgeable IT desk, a business website hosted on servers with sufficient resources and featuring a domain name that communicates brand values, business insurance and a well-rounded leadership structure.
Equally important though, is a robust bookkeeping process. Regardless of how all the important fragments enumerated above line up, poor bookkeeping can hinder the business from making any progress. In worst case scenarios, the business will fail.
Profit tracking, cash flow and paying tax are important aspects of a business, and are the key reasons why you must keep an eye on your bookkeeping. A lot of businesses that fail do so because they overspend and don’t track their cash flow closely enough.

Sorting through receipts, invoices, taxes and other bills may seem like a lot of work in the early days. To help you stay in control of your bookkeeping, here are guides especially for you.

Create a system for proper documentation:

It is very important for you to always send out invoices and issue receipts when due. You need to also keep tabs on all the bills that you have to pay and be in control of your company’s finances.
The good news is that there is help to keep up; you can make use of tools like our online invoicing software right here on Cloudbooks.

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Time to Organize:
No! It is not sensible for you to keep stashing those receipts together in a basket besides your desk as your business keeps expanding.

Make it easy on yourself by sorting the different documents out in files. Start by getting
a) A lever arch file
b) Plastic punched pockets
c) A set of dividers, labelled for each month

Religiously keep each document where it belongs- invoices, bank statements, employee expenses, phone bills and whatever other documents you use in your line of business.

You could also create an Excel sheet. it may seem like a lot to ask to do daily entry, but once you make the habit of making a record of every transaction, it becomes easier to keep track of all you do. Using software like the Microsoft Office 365 makes it even easier for you to enter data anywhere, on any of your device.

It will also save you a lot of mental stress to use an online document management services to help you keep your house in order. You may then customise the categories or use their pre-set categories as you file away.

Be careful how you handle your cash:
It is tempting to use the cash you have at hand for daily expenses. If the cash is from your business sales, ensure you remit it to your business bank account.

Aside from the discipline it gives you as a money manager, it makes it easy for you to also keep track of your sales.
It is absolutely imperative that you have a true record of your business ins and outs.

Separate your accounts

It is easy to muddle together personal expenses with business expenses, especially when you just start your business. It will save you a lot of stress to separate your finances by keeping your personal expenditures out of your business expenses. This is sure to save you a lot of trouble. To start with you need to have a separate account for your business. If you do not have separate accounts, then you should be disciplined enough to carefully highlight what you spend on your business and record it accordingly (in the appropriate journal or sheet) going through your bank records. Plan to get a business account as soon as possible.

If you keep separate accounts, then your work is partly done. You may, however, still find yourself drawing from your business account for personal use or using your personal funds for your business. The key thing here is to have a record of all these transactions. Beginner bookkeeping suggested making regular weekly or monthly drawings in the form of a wage/salary to meet personal needs, instead of withdrawing frequently or at random times, which makes it hard to keep track of the withdrawals being made.

You should also keep track of when personal funds are being used to fund business supplies or services. If you need to fund the business from personal money then consider it a loan to the business, and do it in a lump sum, rather than ad hoc.

Reconcile your accounts

Having a properly reconciled account is the ultimate goal in bookkeeping. Reconciling your account is when you compare two accounts and make sure they are in agreement. This is what you do when you compare your bank statements with the financial records you have been keeping.

It is important that there are no discrepancies between the numbers you have recorded and the ones from your bank statement.
If all this seems too much for you, there are lots of great tools and resources to facilitate and educate. Technology has made keeping the books easier than ever; so make use of it!