Time to cash in on your hard work? – Sell your business!

The past three years have shown a steady increase in the sales volume of small businesses across the United States. The business brokerage firm, BizBuySell recently published sales trend data on small business buy/sell transactions and the numbers point to an average of nearly 6% increase. According to BizBuySell brokers, the 2017 numbers look to continue the growth trend.

2016 Q4 Insight Chart

According to BizBuySell’s December business broker survey, 79 percent of respondents expect transactions to improve in 2017.

If you want to learn more about buying or selling a business, check out the BizBuySell.com website.  The founder’s book on how to buy/sell a business is also a good quick-read primer for those thinking about their future as a business owner.  Pick it up on Amazon today!

 

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Posted in Business Planning & Strategy, Small Biz Resources, Small Business Finance

Before you let that domain name expire, better check it’s value!

Clients have come in with website issues varying from content creation to technical difficulties to general design. In some cases, clients have accumulated so much web “property,” it’s hard to figure out how everything fits together. Web domains for example, can pile up over the years if you are constantly grabbing URL’s that catch your attention or fit a new direction for your business. So, what do you do with all those web names?

The cost of maintaining domain names is relatively low so, it’s easy to justify hanging on to them for, “just one more year” until you get around to using them for their intended purpose.  Over time, however, a long list of domain names can add up, come renewal time.  Most people just switch on the auto renewal or let the domain names expire without giving them a second thought but, there are more productive ways to manage your list of URLs.

Once you decide which URL’s are just too valuable and relevant to your online strategies, you should indeed, turn on auto renewal.  Then, you should make sure each URL is pointed to a functioning website. Most hosting companies allow you to do this at no charge.  By doing this, if someone inputs one of your URLs to their web browser, they will be directed to a website instead of getting a generic “not found” or “under construction” message from the host. You can point as many URL’s to a website as you like.

The URL’s you decide are not worthy of maintaining beyond their expiration date should be assessed for possible sale. Many hosting companies offer the service of listing your URL for sale so if someone comes along looking for it, they will list it with a price for purchase. If your host doesn’t offer this service, there are brokers and sites that offer auction solutions to sell your URL. Flippa.com is an example of this type of auction site.

Some URL’s are more valuable than others obviously. Short, common phrases or brand names are more valuable than long, nondescript phrases that don’t reach a specific audience.  URL’s that have been registered for a long time or, are being sold in conjunction with a high traffic website, will also command higher bids. As an example, the domain name technicaljobs.com was originally purchased for $75 by the original owner. Upon retirement, that same URL was sold for $75,000 after it had already earned the owner a decent living on her website.

Another criteria that affects value is the extension. Since .com is still the most popular extension, phrases without it are just not as valuable. A recent sale of jobs.ca (Canada) brought in $450,000.  According to an article in the Business Journal archives, the broker for the sale, Dave Evanson of Sedo, said if the domain had been jobs.com, it could have sold for 20x that price.

Now, you may not be sitting on a goldmine of URLs but, before you assume there is no value, you might do some research and see if a sale is more sensible than an expiration. Brokers and auction/sales services will take a commission but compared to simply allowing the domain to expire and receiving nothing, it is a good way to bring in a few extra dollars.

If you pull off a successful sale of a URL, let us know!

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Posted in Technology News

And the answer is… NO! Reasons for business loan denials.

Bank money is the easiest, cheapest money to get for most small business owners. How easy or how cheap are relative terms however, and you may not be having such a great time tracking down funding for your small business, especially if it is a start-up. A good consultant or mentor can help you prepare for a business loan and minimize the “gotchas” that stop most applications. These gotchas can also be avoided with just a little preparation before your trip to the bank.

Your preparations should include doing a little research on what you should receive if your loan application is rejected.  Since you are applying for a business loan and not a consumer loan, some of the laws and regulations for disclosure of reasons for rejection are not applicable. You may have to work a little harder to pinpoint the real reasons behind your loan request being turned down. To get specific guidelines on disclosures, consult the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA, Regulation B) or The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

First things first…Personal credit reports vs. Business credit reports

Since so much early-stage lending is based on personal credit scores, you want to check your credit before applying for a loan. This will allow you to catch problem areas before they are an issue. In fact, this may be the only way you learn of personal credit issues if you are applying for a business loan.

Consumer lenders are required to provide an explanation if they reject your consumer loan or charge higher than normal for the loan based on credit findings. This is not completely true for business credit reporting and business lending. While, there are reporting requirements for the lender if they substantially change the terms or loan amount regarding a business loan application, the timing and extension of a counter-offer may determine whether or not you will get a report outlining the reasoning.

You can get your free personal credit report online at AnnualCreditReport.com.  If you have established business credit, you can get summary credit reports at Nav.com.

Just ask!

We have all seen instances of entities providing the minimum requirements outlined by a rule or regulation. This can happen when a lender provides the reasoning for their adverse action toward your loan application.  Regulations may state that the bank only has to provide the contact information of the organization that provided information that triggered the adverse action. The bank does not have to provide the reason or the process used to come to their conclusion.  You may have to call the contact and find that out on your own. This is where knowing your regulations comes in handy.  Regulation B as mentioned above, outlines what you should get in a report.

So, in the event you get the basic information, simply ask for the details. Many lenders are taking a more transparent approach and may simply outline the process and the problem areas that stopped the application.

Focus on the details…

While most of this post has focused on credit scores and reporting, don’t forget the details. Make sure information requests from the lender are handled in a timely manner. Be courteous and professional when working with the bank. Brush up on the financial aspects of your business. Many entrepreneurs run a great business, but don’t understand the Balance Sheet or don’t track the cash-flow in their business. You will have to discuss (or defend) the financial claims you make about your business.

Sometimes, you just can’t avoid the obvious…

Unfortunately, some business models are more “likeable” than others. Some industries have higher business failure rates so, the type of industry you are in and how long you have been in it can be a big factor in getting financing. How often you are making deposits and the average balance you maintain can also be a factor in getting a loan. If it appears you have been on a long winding road, shopping for financing for an extended period of time, you may find funding more difficult to obtain.  While these points may be obvious, they may also be unavoidable since you can’t readily change industries or alter your past banking habits.

All may not be lost…

Once you find out what the “gotcha” was that caused the rejection, consider the solution and the time it might take to correct it. If you can correct the issue in a reasonable period of time, you may be able to re-apply or simply pick up where you left off. Always ask what the process is after a rejection. You might find that a little more time and effort, may be all it takes to go from declined, to accepted.

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Posted in Finding Money, Regional Business News, Small Business Finance

Is your small business circling the drain?

Small Business Health Tips

There are a lot of reasons why small businesses fail. Mismanagement, lack of positive cash-flow, poor hiring decisions, regulatory constraints, no long-term planning, under-capitalization and the list goes on. So what do you do if you see the downward spiral and want to turn things around?

First, stop digging…

As the saying goes, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging!” Many small business owners don’t take time to fully assess a situation and often confuse the symptoms of a problem with the real problem. This is normally caused by a lack of data or poor data quality. Many small businesses don’t keep track of the financial aspects of their business. They don’t track marketing efforts and set goals and benchmarks to monitor sales campaigns. In many cases, owners even fail to keep track of who has been invoiced and who has not paid.

If any of these examples describe your business, you will find it difficult to “stop digging” and analyze the business to find the root cause of the downward spiral. Without knowing the cause, you can’t implement corrective action.  Simply working harder using the same processes that put you in a bad position, will not solve the problem.  At some point, you have to stop what you are doing and ask yourself if the effort you are putting forward is digging a deeper hole or building a ladder toward the light.  In my experience, the first rung on the ladder begins with a detailed review of your business’ cash-flow. If you follow the path of every dollar going through your business, it will normally lead you to the areas that are successful and those that are dragging you down.

Reset your game plan…

Obviously, if the business is tanking, the game plan you started with (which may have been no plan at all!) is not working. You need to determine what part of your original vision is working and which parts aren’t. This will be difficult. Entrepreneurs get married to their ideas and the business becomes their baby. Changing the vision or the path of a business means admitting their baby is ugly.  Nobody wants to do that! The fact is, you have to be willing to change directions, seek new opportunities, hire people smarter than you and fire people who are toxic to your organization.  These steps will be difficult but they are reality when resetting your business’ game plan.

Seek input from others…

If you have employees, they probably aren’t oblivious to the fact that the company is doing poorly. In fact they may know exactly why the business is circling the drain and have good ideas on how to fix it.  Just because you are the owner, doesn’t mean you must have all the answers. Reach out to your staff, peers and business advisors to find a fresh take on your business. Many times it isn’t a major epiphany that rights the ship, its more about fixing the little things that gets things back on track. Reducing inventory loss, improving customer service, revisiting who the target market should really be, and formalizing processes that have gone awry may seem trivial when the business is falling apart but sometimes, these small steps result in great strides toward turning a company around.

Slay the internal dragons…

So, you are standing at the door to your office, keys in hand and literally shaking out of fear of failure.  Everything you have worked for is on the brink of burning down around you. What do you do?  Fear and self-doubt are natural and in many cases warranted.  The key is not to sweep it under the rug and continue on as though nothing is wrong. You must turn the fear around and use it to your advantage.

Chances are, when you started the business, you were scared. You didn’t know if your idea would work, you weren’t sure you could pay your bills and cash seemed to vaporize before your very eyes.  Did you quit? NO.  You kept the passion you had for the business alive and turned that fear of failure into incentive to succeed.  It’s time to do it again.

Re-kindle that passion. Reset your priorities and focus on taking the first steps out of the hole you are in. You may need to work with others to bolster your confidence, you may have to come to grips with the worst-case-scenario and plan your way through it but, you have to go into the journey to repair your business with a positive attitude and commitment to the plan.  Even if that plan is an orderly closure of the business rather than the crash-and-burn scenario you are facing.

Facing a scenario where your business is not everything you hoped it would be is difficult. Allowing that situation to take you down financially, physically and mentally is just not acceptable. The history of business is full of stories of multiple (and miserable) failures.  The entrepreneurs who were able to assess their situation and use solid data to reset their vision, emerged stronger. In many cases, they surrounded themselves with people who could help both operationally and emotionally pull them out of the hole they were in and re-energize them to fight off the internal dragons that would have otherwise caused them to give up.  Righting a business gone bad is not an easy task but, with confidence, a new plan based on good data and a little help from your friends, you might just be able to pull it off and become stronger and more successful than you ever imagined.

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Posted in Business Planning & Strategy, Editorial Comments

Crowdfunding is growing… Up!

Until recently, crowdfunding has been limited to what amounts to “charitable giving” via online platforms. You may have heard of Kickstarter who is currently one of the largest online platforms in the crowdfunding arena. When they arrived on the scene, the lending market for small business was forever changed.

Now, the JOBS Act, which formalizes a lot of the rules and regulations surrounding crowdfunding, has allowed investors to take equity stakes in the companies they fund through online platforms. “Charitable giving” has not been replaced but, it will be interesting to see how much of the giving switches to the equity model. There are limitations on investors (investor net worth, annual fundraising limits and individual investment limits to name a few) and there is a much more involved set up process for small businesses who, at a minimum, must incorporate and set up shares of stock in their company. These hurdles will help slow a mass migration away from the legacy crowdfunding platforms.

Online funding portals operated by intermediaries must also be set up to handle the specialized transactions generated by equity crowdfunding. Each of these intermediaries must be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industrial Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

If you would like to learn more about this new funding model, check out some of the online platforms set up to coordinate these transactions:

SeedInvest.com  ||  StartEngine.com  ||  NextSeed.com  ||  WeFunder.com  ||  JumpstartMicro.com  ||  CrowdBoarders.com

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Posted in Finding Money, Small Biz Resources, Small Business Finance

Got health insurance? Your employees might stick around if you do.

happy employees

Health insurance is a major concern for employers and employees alike. Whether you agree with the politics surrounding the current system or not, healthcare ranks highly with 88% of the workforce so you need to take heed if you plan to keep good employees.  A recent survey by Bloomberg showed that 88% of employees stated health insurance is “extremely important” or “very important.”  In fact 60% of the employees surveyed said they would work for their employer longer just to keep receiving health insurance. And why wouldn’t they? I mean they should be healthier and live longer so why retire?!

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Posted in Healthcare

Solutions for Entrepreneurial Writer’s Block

You need to keep your website fresh if you are going to have any chance of showing up on Google’s radar. You know this and you are willing to participate but as soon as your hands hit the keyboard, writer’s block! Most of the time as an entrepreneur, our brain is fried or chasing the next squirrel-of-an-idea that just popped into our heads. With so much going on and so little time, writer’s block can be a common problem with entrepreneurs.  Here are a few primers to help you get the creative writing part of your brain engaged.

Tell your story – Why did you get into this business?

Who was your first victim?! – Somebody had to be your first paying customer, how did that happen?

What keeps you going? – Every entrepreneur has an underlying motivator, what is yours?

Become an educator – Explain the benefits of your most popular product or service.

Be a newsie – Share the latest developments in your business, industry or community that interest your readers

Step by step – Tell, or better yet, show clients how to use your product or service

Start a dialogue – Ask for feedback, request pictures, seek advice from your clients, make it fun.

Pick (or create) a day – We’ve all heard of national doughnut day, get the picture?

Throw a party – Share your successes and accomplishments. Been open a whole year? Celebrate!

Cover an event – Not all clients can attend or be part of every event. If you go to an event, become the reporter-on-the-scene.

The great thing about writing is it can force you to take a new look at your business, learn something new about your industry or simply give you a creative boost.  Don’t think of writing as a task.  Instead, think of it as an opportunity to take a few minutes to enrich your knowledge of your favorite topic… your business.  (Adapted from @eBizNut blog post.)

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Posted in Sales & Marketing, Small Biz Resources