Are you familiar with Clubhouse? This social media platform is still pretty new, but currently picking up steam. Perhaps one of the easiest ways to describe Clubhouse is like this: When you were a kid, did you ever hold a glass to a wall with your ear glued to it in order to hear the conversation in the next room? Clubhouse is kind of like that, only scaled and organized.

Clubhouse is an audio-only platform where you can start a room based on a topic and others can join the room and conversation. You can bring people up to the “stage” who have raised their hand. The platform supports multiple languages, and at any one time, you can see rooms in Russian, Spanish, Mandarin, German, Japanese, English, and many more.

Think of Clubhouse this way: It’s like an interactive live podcast. The platform hosts both personal and business conversations, so there is a lot of noise to wade through, but that’s true of every social app. Many people love the lack of video that is so pervasive on other platforms.

The main newsfeed in Clubhouse shows active rooms that you might like. To join a room, just click anywhere on the room description. Once in a room, you should hear the speakers talking, or you might hear music if it’s a concert. You are muted until you are invited on stage.

In a room, everyone can see everyone else’s avatar. Clicking on other people’s avatars is encouraged and brings up a bio and direct links to the person’s Twitter and Instagram accounts.  You have lots of space on Clubhouse to build an extensive bio, and this is primarily how other people in the room can get to know you, along with hearing what you have to say if you participate.

Clubhouse is an entirely new and fresh way to market your business and let people know about your products and services.

When it comes to running a successful business, how important is it to be organized? In a word: very. Now, how would you rank your organization skills? Honestly, the answer really doesn’t matter. We can always get help from technology, and this is where Airtable comes in.

Airtable goes beyond spreadsheet solutions when it comes to tracking teams, projects, tasks, dates, and other information in your business. Cloud-based, Airtable allows you to organize information in a database – they call them bases – of tables. While databases can be complicated, Airtable makes it easy because it looks just like a spreadsheet.

Airtable allows users to create a flexible database that fits their particular needs. Some of the use cases include project tracking, product development, event management, team collaboration, lists, planning, pipeline management, calendars, and so much more. Templates are available to jump-start your project.

Because Airtable is like a spreadsheet, it has been compared to Microsoft Excel®. However, it is important to remember that Airtable is like a spreadsheet and like a database. Further, Excel can function only as a traditional spreadsheet, while Airtable gives its users more options, especially when it comes to customization.

Getting into the details of Airtable, fields can even be added for attachments, long text notes, checkboxes, links, and barcodes. It provides options for filtering, sorting, and grouping data.

Airtable also provides for integrations with other applications in case you need to move information from one place to another or add functionality.

Airtable has both free and paid plans.  You can find out more here: https://airtable.com/

All small businesses need cash to operate, and there are many ways to generate the required cash. The most common way that many businesses get started is when the owner makes an investment from their savings or other personal cash. But what if it’s not enough? In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the more common ways to finance a business.

Community banks

Most community banks are big proponents of small businesses, so this is a great place to start. Establish a relationship first by opening business checking and savings accounts. Then apply for a line of credit, which is a pre-approved loan that you can tap when you need it.

If you plan to purchase a building or equipment, you should be able to get a loan by using the asset as collateral. Business expansion loans are possible too; you may be able to borrow against your accounts receivables or other contracts with guaranteed income.

Beyond community banks, there are also many online lending agencies, banks, credit unions, and community development financial institutions (CDFIs) to apply to for a loan.

When applying for a loan, you will likely need a good personal credit rating and either a strong business plan or audited financial statements to show the financial condition of your business.

Partners and investors

Investors such as angel investors or venture capitalists can provide cash in exchange for either a debt or an equity position in your business.  Obtaining financing this way is a big decision since you are no longer the sole owner of the company if you give away some of your equity.

Another option is to bring a partner into your business. Typically, the partner will provide cash as well as management or other skills that complement yours and be active in running the business with you.

Government support

There are many government programs to help with small business financing this year due to the pandemic. The Small Business Administration has loans and programs available to small businesses on a consistent basis. This year, they are also managing the forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, economic disaster funding, shuttered venue operator loans, and restaurant relief grants, to name a few.

You might also want to see what’s available from your county, city, and community governments. Last, organizations like the Small Business Development Council (SBDC) can provide space, funds, and training to small businesses in their area.

Nonprofits and educational institutions

Your business may also be able to benefit from nonprofits and educational institutions that provide grants, scholarships, and other funding opportunities to businesses and business owners in certain categories. For example, your local chamber of commerce may have programs and funding options available for local businesses.

Factoring

Factoring is an option for businesses with accounts receivable balances. A cash advance can be made with the accounts receivable balances as collateral.  This type of loan is common in the retail fashion industry where items are ordered months in advance of when they are sold, causing a cash flow gap.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding has been made popular by platforms such as Kickstarter. A business can apply on these platforms for funding, and individuals can make contributions. Sometimes the business will promise goods or services in exchange for funding.

Credit card advances

It’s common for owners to put startup expenses on and use cash advances from their personal credit cards. This is one of the most expensive ways to fund a business and should be used as a last resort.

The fine print

All financing options come with fine print. Terms and interest rates vary significantly. Sometimes, there is a cliff, where you have to pay everything back all at once. Be sure to carefully read any agreements you sign and run them by a lawyer if you don’t understand them. Your personal financial situation could suffer greatly if you aren’t careful.

For example, businesses that got a PPP loan and later received a buyout offer may not be able to sell because the loan agreement prohibits them from doing so. If they didn’t read the fine print and sold the company anyway, they are now personally liable to pay back the PPP loan proceeds.

If you have questions or want to discuss financing options, please feel free to contact us anytime.

In accounting, a key term to know is “internal control.” Internal control is the series of processes and procedures that are performed within the organization to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the financial information and reporting of that organization. Internal control is very important to consider in order to protect the business owners, employees, vendors, investors, and other stakeholders.

In a small business, maintaining good internal control is often a challenge since staff size is smaller and resources are limited. Yet, it is essential to understand so that the business owners understand what risks they are taking every day in their businesses.  A good system of internal controls can help the organization reduce the risk of fraud, safeguard against loss, and demonstrate good business practices.

Key Concepts

Segregation of duties is the first of three key concepts of internal control. It means that tasks should be assigned to different people when there is a risk that having everything assigned to one person could hide errors or even theft.  For example, the person who opens the mail and receives checks should not be the same person who applies the check to the correct customer in Accounts Receivable.

Delegation of authority is the second key concept of internal control.  While the owner has ultimate control, they cannot do everything. They must delegate to staff. Staff have the responsibility to maintain internal controls in their area of responsibility.

System access is the third concept of internal control. Access to documents, rooms, computers, applications, and other items should be on a need-to-know basis to reduce risk. While one person might have system access to enter a transaction, they should not also be the one to have system access to review or approve that same transaction.

Business Operations

Every aspect of the business should be considered while setting up the company’s policies and procedures.  In a small business, an easy way to develop internal controls is to review each major transaction flow and implement the controls needed.

On the customer side, this includes receiving the customer order, sales contracts, shipping, invoicing, managing accounts receivables, collections, bank deposits or merchant reconciliations, and cash management. It can also include customer service, pricing, and promotional activity.

On the vendor side, the process includes adding controls for vendor selection, purchase orders, receiving, bill pay, managing accounts payable, payments, managing travel and expense accounts, and company credit cards.

Depending on the company, additional areas that need to be reviewed for internal control include inventory and supply chain management and government contracts, if any.

When hiring, the process of hiring, onboarding, training, evaluating performance, and payroll should be considered.  Safety is also an important consideration.

A very large part of internal control development should focus on the information technology operations of the company. Areas include user access and controls, password management, naming conventions, physical security, disaster recovery, and network and applications development, updates, and change control. Data entry should also be considered and is best included when developing controls for the customer, vendor, and employee functions.

Additional functions that need internal control processes include treasury and financing; financial reporting, budgeting, and planning; records storage, access, retention, and destruction; asset management; and insurance.

Internal controls can be applied to small businesses as well as large organizations. It’s all about being able to feel confident that your business is operating with financial integrity, accuracy, efficiency, and a reduced risk of failure. If you have questions about how internal control applies to your business, be sure to reach out to us any time.

Sometimes it’s hard for business owners to know how to take their businesses to the next level of growth and profitability. If you’ve been stuck at the same revenue or profit level for a while, it could be because knowing how to scale your business is not a skill in your skillset — yet.

Enter a classic management book on scaling: High Output Management by Andrew Grove, ex-chairman and CEO of Intel. While it was written in 1983, it has made a recent comeback in Silicon Valley but is still not well-known outside of the Bay area. Many people who have read it say it’s the best management book they have ever read, life-changing even. It is certainly a timeless and invaluable read for business owners and managers.

In the book, Grove applies the principles of engineering and manufacturing production to management. It’s all about process: developing processes and procedures so that you can track what’s going on and measure the results, or output, every step of the way.  Only then can you improve the process so that it leads to high output.

Measurement is an important concept in the book. No matter what business you’re in, you can apply the ideas of developing processes, measuring them, and improving upon them in your business.

Grove gets into how managers can motivate their team members and affect production outputs. He talks a lot about leverage, which enables scaling both positively and negatively, and how it can affect employees’ output. One example of positive leverage is when managers can add a “nudge” activity to enable their employees’ work. A negative example is when managers meddle and get in the way of the employee making progress.

In the section on meetings, Grove breaks them down by purpose and lends his ideas on how to run each type better. He touches on other key topics such as decision-making, planning, motivation, performance reviews, and values.

One significant highlight from the book is that if you’re motivated to become a better manager, and wish to improve the output of your organization, then there is nothing more important than training yourself.

Reading this book is a wonderful way to spend time learning new business skills you can use and benefit from immediately.

We’ve been in a pandemic for what seems like five years now, right? All joking aside, if you’ve been lucky enough to work from home this past year, then it’s possible that you are in the process of going stir-crazy. Or maybe you’re simply ready to shake things up a bit.

Working from home has its benefits. Yet, if you are someone who enjoys going to the office every day, chatting with co-workers in person, attending meetings that aren’t all virtual, and having a little spontaneity each week, then we’re here to help. Here are five tips to boost your WFH (working from home) environment.

  1. Take Short Breaks

Taking regular breaks throughout the day is so important, and more so now than ever before! Without a doubt, these breaks will help you mentally (that is, keep you from going stir-crazy), but they can also help your work productivity and quality. These breaks don’t need to be—and shouldn’t be—long or strenuous.

Walk the dog. Stand up and do some light stretches. Run up and down your stairs. Go outside into your backyard. Dance to a song. Do a quick chore, like emptying or loading the dishwasher. Call a friend. Or choose your own favorite break activity.  The goal is to get the blood flowing and the fog cleared from your mind.

  1. Switch Up Locations

Get creative and switch up your location. If you have a yard or patio of some sort – and good weather — that allows you to sit outside and work, perfect! If not, try working from the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, even the bedroom. The idea here is to change your surroundings a couple of times a week so that you don’t feel stuck or get lost in the monotony of a daily routine.

  1. Treat Yourself with Lunch

Everyone needs something to look forward to, and what is better to look forward to than food? Depending on your budget, treat yourself to a special lunch once a week, every other week, or monthly. Consider trying new restaurants, different foods, places that you’ve always wanted to eat at but haven’t had the opportunity to do so. Not only will this be fun for you, but you will also be supporting small, local businesses. Win-win!

  1. Dress for Success

We can probably all agree on one thing: sweatpants are comfortable! As such, it can be difficult to trade in the sweats for jeans or dress pants every day. After all, if you’re working from home and there’s no dress code to enforce, it can be hard to dress for success. Yet, doing so can give you a little burst of inspiration to get through the day. You can keep your outfits casual just as long as you have fun getting dressed. For example, you could have Sandal Mondays or Blue Shirt Fridays. Again, just have fun with it!

  1. Create a New Playlist

Does music motivate you? Are you able to work and listen to music at the same time?  If so, create different music playlists to listen to throughout your day. Try listening to various genres or new artists, anything that keeps you alert and stimulated, even excited about your workday. Depending on the type of music you enjoy listening to, you can even get up periodically and take dance breaks (Tip #1)!

Keep your day fresh, and boost your productivity and mood by using your imagination and trying the tips above.

A great way to start 2021 is to take a fresh look at your business finances. Many things changed in 2020, and if you are in the habit of spending on the same items year after year, it’s the perfect time to decide what is essential and what can go.

There are only a few ways to increase profits when you think about it in black and white terms. You can either raise revenues or cut costs. Let’s take a look at where we can potentially cut costs.

Publications

These expenses tend to be monthly or yearly, and we tend to just let them automatically renew time after time. But do we really need them? Take a look in your Dues and Subscriptions account to evaluate what you really need to stay informed, and cancel the rest.

Memberships

If you are a member of an organization or two, what benefits are you getting from your investment? Does it raise revenue for you? Do you use everything the membership offers? If not, it might need to go on the chopping block.

Memberships are especially tricky if the organization provides a local meeting component as a benefit and your state or county has been shut down. There’s a tradeoff right now between supporting the organization so that it’s still there when we can freely meet again and being responsible about your own business costs.

Office/Store Rent

With many employees working from home, the question has come up in many businesses about how much space they really need. As leases expire, consider how much space you really need. Some employees may love to work from home permanently, which frees up space.

Retail stores that have moved their business online may be able to cut back on customer-facing space but might need more inventory storage space. A restaurant that has successfully transitioned to pickup and delivery orders might be able to get by with a smaller seating area.

Software Apps

Are you paying for any technology applications that you are simply not using?  This is a good place to look for cuts.

Some applications charge by number of contacts.  Keeping your lists clean inside these apps will avoid increases and cut costs in some cases.

Office Supplies

Do you really still need things like staplers and scissors on everyone’s desk? If your business is going paperless, you can save a lot on office supplies.

Printing

Do you need to spend money on printing, or can the printed item be delivered electronically?

Shipping/Postage

While information can be delivered electronically, physical goods still need to be shipped.  Make sure you have the best deal with your shipping vendors based on your volume.  You may also need to consider building your shipping costs into the price of the product or add a shipping fee to the bill if you don’t already.

Marketing

A great way to increase profits is to become more intentional about your marketing costs. Are you able to measure what’s working and what isn’t? Or are you doing the same thing year after year?

Marketing has changed so much, even in the last few years. It might be time to implement digital marketing methods, which can be more cost-effective than older, outdated methods.

Labor

Make sure employees manage their time effectively by providing the right training and supervision. This should help to reduce labor expenses.

Telephone/Internet

Has your business changed?  Do you need all those extra features you are paying for?  Could you do without those extra lines?  Would another phone plan save you money on long distance or international calls? Many telecommunication companies will often bargain with you or offer you a new deal just for checking in with them.

This gives you ten places to look to cut costs and correspondingly increase profits for 2021. If you need help reviewing your income statement, please reach out.