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5 Things Business Owners Need to Do Before Summer Starts

Posted by Rieva Lesonsky

Apr 24, 2014 7:00:00 AM

78160653By Rieva Lesonsky

One thing you’ve probably learned as a small business owner is that there’s no such thing as planning too far ahead. Yes, we’re still enjoying the calmer months of spring, but before you know it summer will be here. Depending on your industry, that means either your business will be heating up (so you need to increase stock and staff up) or slowing down (so you need to conserve working capital). Whether you expect your summer to be busy or slow, here are five things you can do to make the summer months smooth sailing:

  1. Get social! If the Polar Vortex kept you hunkered down in your business this winter, now is the time to out in the community and make some important connections. Join a local networking group or attend a Chamber of Commerce or association meeting. See what plans your city has for the summer. Are there any events you can attend, sponsor, volunteer at or host a booth at? Don’t forget to keep up on economic development issues in your city to learn about programs your business can benefit from.
  2. Get more social! If you’ve been busy and neglected your social media channels as a result, you’ve probably lost some followers. Win them back by revealing upcoming promotions, offering coupons or asking for feedback. Check out who people are following, what kind of activity your competitors have on social media and who the major influencers are online.
  3. Make over your marketing plan. Don’t plan the same old promotions you do year after year. Develop some fresh ideas by looking around your community, asking employees for suggestions and investigating what your competition is doing. Take a hard look at your logos and marketing materials. If they need a new look, ask a graphic designer to take a swing at it, and then get feedback from business colleagues, customers and employees.
  4. Take a class. Before summer begins, take a class at a local community college, through a business development office or even online. Maybe you need to learn more about SEO or social media. Perhaps you want to shoot videos to add your website or maybe you don’t really understand accounting. You can find free workshops hosted by your local SCORE office on just about anything small-business related. (Disclosure: SCORE is a client of my company.)
  5. Get to your to-do list. Make it a point to take 30 minutes out of each day to do something that’s been gathering cobwebs on your to-do list. Replace office light bulbs with energy-efficient ones, research new business insurance, call a landscaper to redo your front entrance…whatever the task, it will make you feel so much more productive to see that dreaded to-do list get smaller.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+   and and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.


Topics: working capital, small business owners, women business owners

What’s the Big Idea?

Posted by Rieva Lesonsky

Apr 22, 2014 7:00:00 AM

76750107By Rieva Lesonsky

The entrepreneurial brain is, frankly, a little manic. But having a little ADHD can be a good thing if it helps you generate ideas—as long as you know how to focus on a winning business idea you can present to your small business loan officer. If you haven’t narrowed your million business ideas down to one yet, here are five ways to start: 

  1. Assess your skills and interests. To find a business idea that’s a good fit for you, start with a personal inventory. First, write down your skills and experience. This should include not just job duties or skills, but also skills and experiences from your personal life. Next, write down your personality traits. Are you organized? Creative? Are you a “people person” or do you like working on your own? Finally, write down your strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Learn to think creatively. Boost your creativity and approach the challenge as a kid would, without preconceived notions of what can or cannot work.
  3. Use brainstorming to get ideas. You can brainstorm alone if you have to, but generally, brainstorming works better if you’ve got about five people. To make your brainstorming sessions productive, hold them in a place where you won’t be interrupted, and somewhere that’s both conducive to creativity and free of distractions. The goal of brainstorming is simply to come up with as many ideas as you can, without worrying about how good they are.
  4. Assess your idea’s viability. You may have a great idea, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a great business. You’ll need to do some in-depth market research to make sure your idea can fly in today’s economy. Check with industry experts and research the demographics in your community.
  5. Be aware of the trends. Start with yourself, your co-workers, your friends and your family. What trends do you see in their lives? Next, look at the wider world. Watch popular TV shows, go to popular websites, visit local malls, read magazines and newspapers to get a sense of what people are doing, talking about, eating, reading and thinking. Finally, get beyond your “bubble” and talk to, observe or read about people who you’d never normally come in contact with—whether it’s urban teens or Florida grandparents. This will not only give you insights about trends, but also spark creative thinking.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+   and and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.


Topics: small business loan, small business loans, small business owners

Business Structure Basics

Posted by Rieva Lesonsky

Apr 17, 2014 7:00:00 AM

475457451By Rieva Lesonsky

When you’re starting out on the road to owning your own business, you have many important decisions to make. But you can’t attract investors, open a bank account or apply for a small business loan until you choose your business structure. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of different business structures.

Sole Proprietorships: The most common and simplest form of business formation is a sole proprietorship. The business is owned and managed by an individual proprietor. It’s easy to form with less paperwork than other structures; the owner also pays taxes on income from the business as part of his or her personal income tax payments. Downside: The proprietor is personally responsible for all debts and liabilities incurred by the business. In addition, sole proprietorships are considered a risky investment and attracting investors may be more difficult.

Partnerships: There are two types of partnerships: General Partnerships and Limited Partnerships. General partnerships have two or more partners and all of the partners manage and are responsible for the business’s debts and operations. Limited partnerships have both general partners and limited partners; the limited partners are investors and not liable for the same day-to-day responsibilities as the general partners. Partnerships are easy to form, and the business does not pay tax on the company’s income; instead, all profits and losses are passed through to the partners. The downside is the same as a sole proprietorship: The personal liability for all the businesses obligations and debts falls to the partners. In a limited partnership, however, a limited partner’s liability for the partnership’s debt is limited to the amount of money or property that individual partner contributed to the partnership.

C Corporations: C corporations are the most costly and most difficult to form in terms of regulations and paperwork, but because the C corp is considered a complete separate entity, owners and shareholders are not held responsible for any of the corporation’s debts or lawsuits brought against the company. A corporation can also sell stock or shares, and if you ever plan to go public, you must be a C corp. Other advantages include being able to provide an employee stock sharing plan and to split profits and losses between the business and the owners to create an overall lower tax rate. Downsides include more paperwork and costs due to state and federal filing fees and possible double taxation on earnings and dividends.

Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC has some requirements of a corporation and some elements of a partnership/sole proprietorship. It protects owners and shareholders from personal liability in case of judgment or debt. Although an LLC must file articles of organization with the state, it’s a more flexible management structure than a corporation. Also, an LLC can choose whether or not it wants to be taxed as a sole proprietorship, partnership, S corp or C corp. Although LLCs do not deal with “double taxation,” they do incur “pass through” taxation in that profits and losses are reported on each owner’s individual tax return.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+   and and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.


Topics: small business loan, small business owners, Legal, small business taxes

7 Ways to Attract Employees to Your Small Business

Posted by Rieva Lesonsky

Apr 15, 2014 7:00:00 AM

466090541By Rieva Lesonsky

You know your small business is a great place to work, but will talented workers feel the same? With 60 to 80 percent of all new jobs coming from small businesses, you might not think you’ll have trouble hiring any new employee you want, but don’t be so sure. Even if you have enough working capital to hire new employees, sometimes it’s a challenge to pitch your business to attract the right type of worker. Here are some advantages you can promote:

  1. Creativity. There’s no question your small company has the flexibility to encourage more creative thinking than a bigger business. Startups tend to be more receptive to new ideas and open to brainstorming to build and improve the business. 
  2. Team player. Small business employees have the advantage of working with a small team to constantly improve their products or services. Employees become part of a team where the goal is to become an industry leader. Plus, employees atf a small business are often treated more like family than just coworkers.
  3. Skill-building. Startups tend to have everyone do a bit of everything, which gives employees the opportunity to develop a variety of valuable new skills.
  4. Room to grow. Since most successful U.S. companies started out as small businesses, working in a startup with huge growth potential can be very rewarding. Smaller companies can offer advantages that larger ones cannot, such as the chance to advance with the company and the opportunity to play a central role in the growth of the business. 
  5. Potential for success.  If your company goes public someday, employees could be sitting pretty based on taking part in the humble beginnings. Talk to your attorney and accountant about how to offer employees stock, equity or bonuses.
  6. Perks. Offer creative perks to your employees, such as telecommuting, time off for community volunteering, a “bring your kids (or pets) to work” day, onsite child care and more.
  7. Community. Impress job candidates with how much your business is involved in your local community. Workers want to be proud of their employers, so make it a point to contribute to local causes in any way you can.
  8. Sense of pride. After the hard work of launching a startup is over, your employees can take pride in the company’s success and the role that they played in it.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+   and and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.



Topics: working capital, small business owners, small business management

3 Startup Tips to Get Your Business Off on the Right Foot

Posted by Rieva Lesonsky

Apr 10, 2014 7:00:00 AM

467342271By Rieva Lesonsky

Whether or not you get a small business loan, you need to focus your startup efforts so you have a better chance of surviving those crucial first five years. Here are three tips to help you:

  1. Figure out where to sell your product. Are there specific stores or e-commerce sites you’d like to get your product into? Start by finding out where these retailers buy their products. They may purchase through manufacturers’ sales reps, directly from manufacturers, or from regional buying co-ops. Once you have this information, you’ll know whether you’ll need to hire a sales rep, find a distributor, or if you can sell your products directly. You can also look at trade publications or websites for your industry; most will have ads for new products. Contact noncompeting companies that are advertising new products, and find out how they distribute their products. Since you’re not a competitor, you’ll be surprised how many of these business owners will be happy to talk to you. 
  2. Be prepared for publicity. You try and try to get press, but you never know when it’s going to hit. That’s why, even if you’re not actively seeking publicity, you need to be ready in case it comes. A mention in a blog that you don’t even know about could draw hundreds of new visitors to your site—including a reporter who then decides to write a big article about you. Being prepared for media attention means knowing how to deal with press inquiries; having a press kit and suitable photos ready to send out at a moment’s notice; being sure your website can handle increased traffic without crashing; being prepared to fill a sudden rush of orders; and having enough product on hand to meet demand. Depending on the results of your 15 minutes of fame, you might even need to hire more staff—or at least temporary workers. Create a “publicity plan” that covers how you will handle all this. 
  3. What’s your unique position on customer service? Customer service is where your small company can truly distinguish itself from the big guys. What steps do you take to make doing business with you memorable? It could be the friendly greeting that clients receive when they enter your office, the refreshments you offer in your waiting area, or the way even the smallest purchase is carefully packaged in a gift-worthy bag when they leave the store. Do you take the time to listen to what customers want? Are your employees empowered to make clients happy—even when it means breaking the rules? Customer service boils down to attitude, so make your business a friendly place where people want to come back.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+   and and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.


Topics: small business loan, small business loans, small business owners

4 Tips for Building Your Employees’ Skills

Posted by Rieva Lesonsky

Apr 8, 2014 7:00:00 AM

77734922By Rieva Lesonsky

What will happen to your business when you are no longer at the helm? Will the people who are next in line know how you want the working capital spent? Do you even know who your next in line is? A survey of U.S. and Canadian business leaders found that although they believe succession is more important than ever before, only 14 percent say they are well prepared for a sudden loss of leadership.

You need to build your company’s bench of knowledgeable and skilled employees. Who will take over if you get ill? And who will take over that person’s job? And even if no one gets sick, there are still vacations to deal with, new projects to handle and more. Here are some ways to build your winning bench:

  1. If you have go-getter employees, now is the time to stretch their skill levels and give them more responsibilities. Delegate some of the duties that take up your precious time and can add to your employees’ areas of expertise. Maybe an employee never thought he or she could write a good press release or handle the delivery of an important shipment. Push them to learn, be understanding of mistakes, build their confidence and watch them shine.
  1. Encourage your employees to sign up for seminars, webinars and teleseminars. There are many free ones out there and some can be taken 24/7. Also, if you want your employees to take a class, education expenses related to improving your employees job skills are tax deductible.
  1. The more employees know about each other’s jobs, the better (and smoother) your company runs. Plus, this helps employees not feel stagnant in their jobs and learn new skills. So how do you begin? Start by asking your employees what jobs they’d like to be cross trained in. Some might hem and haw about doing more work, but the ambitious ones will see this as an opportunity to increase their skills and get noticed. Then ask your top employees who they think would be good at their jobs. When you’re working side by side every day, employees get to know each other well. Mary might know Joe in accounting is interested in graphic design, when Joe might have been too shy to let you know. 
  1. Finally, be encouraging! Building your bench takes a certain amount of trust in your employees and in yourself. If you’ve hired right, you’ll build a confident and skillful team who’s willing to step up at a moment’s notice.

 Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+   and and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.


Topics: working capital, small business owners, small business employees

Movin’ On Up! Negotiating a Lease for Your New Office

Posted by Rieva Lesonsky

Apr 3, 2014 7:00:00 AM

177009175By Rieva Lesonsky

Working from home has been great, but your business has grown so much it’s time to take it out of the kitchen and into a real office. Whether or not you have the spare working capital for office space or you need to get a small business loan to move out, negotiating a lease is not too scary—if you know what to ask. Here are five tips:

  1. Come prepared. Know the lease costs in the area you’re looking at before you talk to the agent, so you don’t get ripped off.  Know what you need, not only in terms of space, but also what kind of utilities you need, such as high-speed Internet.
  2. Is the price right? Ask what the cost is per square footage and if there are any Common Area Maintenance (CAM) costs. What all is included in the total costs? Is it just the basic finishing (white walls and concrete floor) or more? What about property taxes, site maintenance such as the parking lot, and landscaping? Don’t forget utilities, property insurance and trash collection. If the landlord doesn’t cover these costs you’ll need to add them to your monthly budget.
  3. Traffic numbers. A good commercial real estate agent who’s familiar with the area should have car counts and demographics. Do you need foot traffic or is your business one where people will need to park and stay awhile? Are there any large anchor stores to draw more traffic in or is the anchor a competitor to your type of business? In most cases, a popular anchor store is a good thing to have in the vicinity, and you can benefit from the activity it creates.
  4. Lease terms. Think about the future before you sign on the dotted line. Is this space big enough for the coming year, or do you think it could last a few years? If you don’t plan on expanding and won’t need more space, the longer your lease, the more bargaining power you have with the landlord. If your expansion includes hiring more staff, is there room to put all these new employees? Make sure your landlord can’t double or triple your rent once the lease is up. It would be disastrous if you were settled in and had to leave because of skyrocketing costs.
  5. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask! Especially in this sluggish economy, the bargaining power lies with you. What do you want? Free rent for the first few months? Help with tenant improvements? Adjustments to rent during slow seasons? It never hurts to ask, and if the landlord doesn’t seem open to bargaining, there’s always another space somewhere else. Be sure to have an attorney look over the lease to confirm you’re getting what you asked for.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+   and and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.



Topics: working capital, small business loans, small business owners

How Can Big Data Help Your Business’s Marketing Efforts?

Posted by Rieva Lesonsky

Apr 1, 2014 7:00:00 AM

458860773By Rieva Lesonsky

You may have heard the phrase “big data” being thrown around but ignored it, believing it’s got to be something for the big guys. However, a 2013 survey by Intuit showed big data could actually help small businesses level the playing field. Big data is the collection and analyzing of enormous volumes of data. If you had to do the legwork yourself, it could cost you all of your entire working capital, not to mention take all your time. The truth is, data is changing all the time so how can you ever hope to keep up?

Luckily there are ways that won’t cost you tons of money, but first let’s see how big data can help your small business. Consider these five points:

  1. Build new products and services. If you are able to collect real-time data on what customers want, need and are buying, think of all the ways you can modify your current business to fit those needs.
  2. Improve processes and save money. With specialized information at your disposal, you could streamline many of your procedures and perhaps eliminate waste.
  3. Gain a competitive advantage. With big data on your side you can adapt to changes faster than your competitors.
  4. Increase customer loyalty. Big data results allow your business to respond to customer demand quicker and more efficiently.
  5. Increase sales. Of course, the bottom line is big data could be your solution to more sales and more profits.

Now, how to find, acquire and analyze big data for your small company? Try posting a temporary fact-finding job on TaskRabbit or Be clear about what you expect and how long the project will last. Outsourcing to someone else can save you money by not having to hire a full-time employee.

You can also contact data brokers directly for the information you’re seeking. Companies like DataLogix track the spending habits of millions of households using sources such as store loyalty cards. DataLogix also partners with Twitter and Facebook to assess social media users’ spending habits. Although data brokers have come under a lot of scrutiny from consumers wanting their privacy, many data brokers partner with big companies that are acquiring your information anyway, such as Experian and Equifax.

Finally, you may already have tons of data at your disposal because you have been diligent about tracking your marketing efforts. If you want to have an expert analyze the data, you can do that, too. Google’s BigQuery lets you upload and store your data and then gives you real-time insights on what it all means.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+   and and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.


Topics: working capital, Rieva Lesonsky; small business marketing, big data

3 Low-Cost Benefits Your Employees Will Love

Posted by Rieva Lesonsky

Mar 27, 2014 7:00:00 AM

179005004By Rieva Lesonsky

If you’re looking to save a little working capital but still want to create a supportive environment for your employees, you obviously can’t shower them with expensive benefits. Here are three low- or no-cost benefits you can offer your employees without emptying your bank account.

1. Flexibility. Whether employees use flextime to attend a child’s school play, work for a charity or just take time off, offering a flexible work schedule is a great perk that doesn’t cost your business anything. And flextime isn’t just a benefit that working parents appreciate. A survey conducted last summer showed 40 percent of Gen X said they would quit a job, or turn down a job offer, if it didn't include flextime. Flextime shows your employees you trust them to get their jobs done even if they have to leave early a few days a week. You can offer flextime and keep the chaos of different schedules to a minimum by asking for a week’s notice, using scheduling software or asking workers to post their hours on a company intranet.  

2. Community involvement. Sometimes getting out of the office is just what the business doctor ordered. Schedule one day a month for you and your employees to volunteer at a local homeless shelter, pick up trash on the beach or participate in some other local event. A change of atmosphere is always good to get the blood flowing and if you’re volunteering you’re doing something good for your community. Check with your local community activists or city business development office for some ideas.

3. Food and other small perks.

  • Bring in bagels or pizza for the office once a week.
  • Plan a company bake-off contest and let everyone share the desserts.
  • Have a “bring your kid to work” day or “bring your pet” to work day.
  • Offer your employees optional pet insurance; the cost is minimal.
  • Send employees to conferences or seminars to improve their job skills and knowledge.
  • Bring in a yoga instructor once a week to encourage workplace wellness.
  • Supplement gym memberships.
  • Match employee charitable contributions (tax write-off for you!)
  • Bring in a financial advisor to help employees save for retirement, plan for college, etc.

 Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+   and and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.



Topics: working capital, small business owners, small business management

How to Determine if an Unsecured Business Line of Credit is Right for You

Posted by Brittni Abiolu

Mar 26, 2014 8:00:00 PM

unsecured business line of creditIf you’re taking the time to read this blog post, chances are you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner. And, you might be considering a business line of credit or business loan to satisfy your capital needs. If you are unsure if an unsecured business line of credit right is for you, this article will contribute to helping you make the appropriate decision. There are three important questions you should ask yourself (and answer) to determine if an unsecured business line of credit will be right for you:

1)      Have you been treating your personal credit as an asset? If your answer is yes, then chances are a business line of credit with no collateral could be a good option to finance your business. If your answer is no or you don’t understand what it means to treat your personal credit as an asset, then that's ok. Let's talk about it.  Treating your personal credit as an asset means to protect and preserve it your credit. You can protect and preserve your credit by building and maintaining a good credit history. The most important factor in building and maintaining a good personal credit history means making timely payments on the credit accounts that you already have in place. This could be a personal credit card or auto loan. Making late payments greatly affect your personal credit score and can make it difficult to acquire an unsecured business line of credit. In fact, your payment history makes up 35% of your overall credit score.

Another key factor that can make it difficult for you to obtain an unsecured line of credit for your business is having high balances on your personal credit cards. If you have personal credit cards, keep in mind that lenders prefer you to keep your balances low. For example, if you have a personal credit card with a $10,000 limit, then if your balance on that card is in the $3,000 to $6,000 range then you are in the grey area.  Your utilization may be too high for some lenders to approve you if you are applying for a credit card or some other form of unsecured line of credit.  High utilization on personal credit cards is one of the biggest reasons people find themselves unable to get approved for unsecured business lines of credit.

2)      Do you want to separate your personal credit from your business credit? If you want to separate your personal credit from your business credit and start building your business credit profile, an unsecured business line of credit can help you do that. It’s actually a good thing to start building your business credit, especially during the early stages of your business. There are many lenders that offer unsecured business loans and lines of credit that will not report to your personal credit history (unless you default), and help you build your business credit history. Obtaining unsecured business credit to use as capital for your business is a better idea than using personal credit cards. Personal credit card usage will always report to your personal credit history, hurts your credit profile, lowers your FICO scores, and is usually not a good idea.  Using a business credit card, for example, to pay for business expenses instead of personal credit cards is a good way to preserve and protect your personal credit while building your business credit history.

 3)      Are you going to need continuous access to capital for the life of your business? If you know you’ll have an ongoing need for capital, obtaining unsecured business credit is a good option. Unlike a loan with a fixed interest rate and term, a business line of credit has an open-ended term, and often times has a low introductory interest rate of 0%! This means that you can:

(a) have access to it for the life of your business as long as you properly maintain it and the lender wants to continue the relationship with you and

(b) obtain it for the lowest cost possible (i.e. 0% interest for the first 6 to 12 months).

Having continuous access to low-cost capital may be just what your business needs to grow and sustain itself.  Having access to funding is one of the top three things you can do to lower your chances of failure. Read more about those reasons here and best of luck to you and your business!

Brittni Abiolu is the Owner & Publisher of Through her website, she serves to educate entrepreneurs and small business owners on how to increase their chances of obtaining capital in the simplest way possible and how to find and connect with the most appropriate funding sources. You can connect with Brittni on LinkedinGoogle+TwitterFacebook, and Pintrest.

Photo credit here


Topics: Unsecured Business Lines of Credit

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