Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Take Full Advantage of Services Offered by Your Payroll Vendor

Most business owners realize the obvious benefits of outsourcing payroll, such as saving money—outsourcing can save your company up to 30% over the cost of in-house processing—and saving time. But you may be unaware the many things your payroll service can take off your hands, from annoying little tasks, to key procedures, such as:

  • Paycheck processing for multiple company locations can be easily handled by your payroll supplier. Some vendors have a branch in every major city. Smaller suppliers will distribute paychecks to multiple locations via an overnight delivery service.
  • Direct deposit, a feature that most employees appreciate, and that smaller businesses are unable to offer through an in-house system. Funds deposited directly into employees’ bank accounts are often available a day earlier than a paper check would be.
  • Check stuffing, for those employees who prefer a paper check; your payroll service will handle the time-consuming chore of printing checks and placing them in envelopes.
  • Special reports. Ask your payroll vendor for a list of their report-writing packages. This service can be of real value if your company needs any type of specialized report. Again, many in-house payroll systems do not have this capability.
  • Data backup. You won’t need to be concerned about losing payroll information, because most payroll providers back up their data regularly.
  • New employee reports. The law in most states requires businesses to file a report for each new hire. Your payroll service can compile the data of all your new employees and submit this information to the government electronically.
  • Tax services. Save yourself the anxiety of possible penalties due to inaccurate tax payments by having your payroll provider remit all employee taxes.
  • Expertise. You will have a team of payroll processing experts at your service. Your payroll provider will usually be able to answer your questions over the phone, and some will even come to your location for a consultation.

These are just a few of the services your company can take advantage of when you outsource your payroll. Your provider can also take over many processes normally handled by your human resources department, such as the administration of 401k plans and other benefits, saving your company even more labor dollars.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Are These Myths About VoIP Holding You Back?

Are you reluctant to let go of your outdated telephone system, even though you know that switching to VoIP would help keep your business in step with the competition? Some persistent but erroneous beliefs about IP telephony are still keeping some small companies from discovering its many advantages.

One common misconception is that VoIP is complicated to install and that making the transition is difficult. The truth is that there is no easier type of phone system to install than VoIP. With no on-site hardware, no set-up costs, and no technician visit required, you will probably find the switch to IP telephony easier than having cable TV installed in your home.

Another myth surrounding IP telephony is that training employees to use the system will consume many labor hours. On the contrary, IP systems are very intuitive. After a brief training session, all employees will be able to use features such as call center routing and auto attendantwith minimal help from management or IT personnel. VoIP technology’s integrated data and communications platform will actually help reduce your company’s labor costs.

Your VoIP provider will automatically maintain and upgrade your system without any disruption of your service. Multiple extensions and remote connections for employees who telecommute can be easily added. In fact, IP telephony systems provide scalability and flexibility that traditional systems have never been able to offer.

According to a report by market research company Dell’Oro Group, IP telephony will account for nearly 60% of new communication systems for small businesses, while installation of analog systems is expected to decline by an average of 10% per year, and the use of traditional systems will decline to less than 5% by 2011.

Small businesses that have already embraced IP telephony and realize the simplicity, ease of use, and flexibility it offers are taking a huge step toward positioning themselves to compete with larger companies.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Simple Steps to Avoid Having Your Merchant Account Frozen

Fear-inspiring stories abound regarding businesses that have had to shut down when their merchant account is put on hold. Fortunately, a little extra diligence on your part can reduce the likelihood of this happening to your business.

Reasons for merchant account holds typically fall into two categories—violation of the account service agreement and suspicion of fraudulent activity.

  • Study your merchant agreement carefully when you first sign up for an account. Many credit card processing providers will ask you to declare the average volume your business will experience each month, as well as the expected average ticket amount. Be sure to make a note of the amounts you project, and be careful not to exceed them because this can cause your account to be frozen or cancelled.

  • Never accept payment for goods or services other than those described in your merchant agreement. Again, it is a good idea to consider carefully what you agree to sell when you sign up for the account. If you own a carpet cleaning company, for example, listing your business as “floor care” will allow for the possible addition of related services. If you plan to sell items that are completely unrelated, you may need a separate merchant account.

  • Excessive chargebacks can also constitute a service agreement violation and cause your account to be frozen. Good customer service and communication will prevent many chargebacks. Some merchants find it worth the effort to call their customers to verify each sale, and customers usually appreciate the extra security measure.

Suspicious processing activity can be more challenging to prevent, there are steps you can take to avoid having your account frozen for suspected fraud. Let your bank know ahead of time if you expect any changes in processing behavior such as a sudden increase in your average ticket amount or if you expect an unusually large single transaction. In this case, you should ask to speak to someone in your bank’s risk department.

Reputable credit card processing providers are as concerned about their customers as you are about yours, and finding such a provider will prevent many future frustrations. Plans and pricing differ, however, and most businesses find they need help sorting though all the variables.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Should You Use an Overseas Call Center?

Increasing numbers of corporations are looking to overseas call centers as a way to cut costs in a tough economy. Aside from the obvious benefit of lower costs, outsourcing your customer service calls can offer a number of advantages to your business.

Call centers, especially those located overseas in countries such as India, take the need to compete with their counterparts in the U.S. very seriously. Many hire well educated and computer savvy workers and provide customer service training from top companies. These centers have acquired substantial bandwidth and have established strong connections to the global networks using satellite links and undersea optic cable.

The best of overseas call centers have committed to providing the best customer service in the industry. It is what they do, and they do it well.

Your business can reap the benefits of their expertise, and at the same time eliminating the expense of establishing your own call center and continually hiring and training workers.

A few things to look for when choosing a call center:

  • Customer references that verify the call center’s reliability and professionalism.

  • An understanding of your particular industry.

  • The ability to forecast and schedule for expected call volume.

  • Technology such as performance management and data analytics.

  • The ability to make changes and readily adapt to market conditions.

  • Above all, excellent customer service.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Is It Time You Outsourced Your Payroll?

If your business has grown to the point where this question is necessary, kudos to you.

Of course, now you realize that in order to keep your business growing, and to maximize profits, you will need to spend your time on things other than bookkeeping.

One way to determine the best solution for your payroll needs is to look at what other successful businesses are doing in that regard.

A recent survey of over 800 businesses overseas found that 86% of these successful companies deemed it wise to outsource their payroll because of several advantages they received by doing so. Many felt that outsourcing gave them more control. It allows managers to plan and analyze this area of business, and to quickly implement changes when necessary. These companies also found outsourcing to be a more cost-effective means of handling their payroll.

Benefits of outsourcing your payroll:

  • You are free to manage other aaspects of your business such as customer service.

  • Payroll service providers can offer professional advise on difficult payroll issues.

  • The cost of outsourcing will likely be less than hiring an in-house payroll staff.

  • You don’t have to worry about your bookkeeper getting a new job and leaving you without payroll help.

  • Many complicated payroll tasks are an automated part of payroll services.

  • Outsourcing your payroll allows you to offer direct deposit to your employees.

  • A payroll service can be an invaluable help when it comes to paying taxes accurately and avoiding tax problems.

  • It eliminates the headaches involved with trying to use payroll software.

If your company is large, and you decide to go with payroll software as an alternative to outsourcing, you will you will need to hire payroll staff to run the program and deal with the many complicated payroll scenarios that can arise in a business with many employees.

If your business is smaller, you could probably choose a less complex software to meet your needs, but you will still need an employee or two who are adept at applying all of the payroll functions. Using payroll software does cost less initially than outsourcing your payroll, but you will want to weigh that advantage against the time spent implementing and using it.

Outsourcing your payroll easily solves all of these issues. Most business owners who make the move toward outsourcing find that their only regret is not having done it sooner..

Friday, September 18, 2009

Don’t Let Excessive Chargebacks Deplete Your Business

Chargebacks, which occur when a customer disputes a charge made to their credit or debit card and asks the card company to reverse the transaction. If you, as an internet merchant, have never experienced a chargeback on a purchase, you can be certain that it eventually will happen.

While chargebacks are practically inevitable, and many merchants view the fees as part of the cost of doing business, excessive chargebacks can put a real dent in your profits, not to mention your good standing with your credit card company. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce their occurrence.

First, provide excellent customer service. Naturally, you want to do this anyway because it’s just good business. But good communication with your customers can go a long way toward minimizing chargebacks. Provide a contact phone number or email, and respond quickly to resolve any issues.

Describe your items or services with accurate details. Your customers should know exactly what they are getting, and when they can expect delivery. When possible, use tracking numbers and signature confirmation when shipping packages, and consider buying postal insurance so you are covered if a package is lost or damaged in the mail.

Most customers only request a reversal when they have a legitimate reason. Some buyers, however, ask for chargebacks fraudulently by making false claims. This happens more with higher priced items. Be alert for purchases where the billing and shipping address are from different countries, or the customer makes partial payments using different Paypal or credit card accounts.

Avoid accepting fraudulent purchases by asking for the code on the back of the card, confirming the billing address with the customer if the billing and shipping addresses do not match, and calling the card holder personally to confirm any orders that seem suspicious for any reason. Rather than being annoyed by the call, most customers will usually appreciate your taking the extra step for security’s sake.

If you accept credit cards at the location of the sale, you have the added opportunity to look at the signature on the receipt and compare it with the one on the card. Check for signs that the card has been tampered with or altered. You can also ask for a driver’s license or other photo ID.

The importance of minimizing chargebacks cannot be overemphasized. Most merchant account providers view any business that has excessive chargebacks as a risk, and will not hesitate to terminate the relationship if your account becomes too much of a liability to them. This can have a serious impact on your sales if customers are unable to make credit card purchases from you while you scramble to find a service provider who will accept your business.

The time and effort you put into reducing chargebacks will be well spent and can only serve to enhance your reputation as a seller.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hosted vs. Premised VoIP

Picking a VoIP service for your business requires an important difference. Should you go with a hosted service or purchase a premise-based system? Let’s look at the difference.

A premise based system requires a PBX, in addition to the phone infrastructure such as routers that are common to either premise or hosted. Some companies prefer premise-based equipment because of the control and possible long-term cost savings. For businesses that don't depend on the ability to quickly manage and configure their telephony system, a hosted VoIP solution might be a better alternative as it less complex, and you don’t

Hosted VoIP internet phone solutions could be suitable choice for many businesses that starting off and/or looking for a simpler phone solution. You usually obtain the hosted solution bundled with the system and the service. The ongoing service for a hosted solution can include unlimited domestic long distance and local calls.

Hosted services can be deployed on a line-by-line basis, which means that they are easily expandable. They allow for flexibility during the transition from premise-based equipment to a hosted service because they can co-exist with previously existing premise equipment. This means that an enterprise doesn't need to transition all of its equipment at the same time, which would usually be the case with a premise-based PBX.

Disadvantages of premise based systems include costly up-front capital expenditures on hardware and software, although there are leasing options available. There are ongoing maintenance fees, software and hardware upgrades and operational expenses.

Each company needs to individually assess their needs and budget and research both VoIP solutions to understand features, control and cost.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Advantage of of Online Payroll Companies

Every company that pays employees needs to ensure they have a system in place for paying their employees (and their taxes) accurately and on a regular schedule. Some small businesses have an in-house employee (usually an accountant) perform the appropriate payroll financial calculations and issue paychecks. However, many small businesses do not have a need for a full-time (or even part-time) accountant to perform payroll functions. In such a case, a small business can save time and money by contracting an outside payroll vendor to handle payroll services.

One of the most cost-effective and reliable payroll solutions for small businesses is online payroll. Online payroll creates an interactive partnership between a business and an external payroll provider, which allows businesses to stay hands-on, but ensures that the business can continue to maximize its efficiency by not having to micro-manage all aspects of payroll.

How Online Payroll Works

Web-based payroll is a payroll solution in which you take care of the initial setup and processing of paychecks, but your vendor handles all of the computations. After the initial payroll setup is complete, cutting paychecks takes just a few minutes, as you only have to enter the pay hours and review the final figures. In such a solution, the online vendor handles all of the difficult aspects of payroll.

These Web-based payroll processing companies also allows you to manage your employee payment methods easily by giving you have the ability to pay employees with printable paper paychecks or via direct deposit. Moreover, all work is handled securely online, so there is no software to install; all you need to run payroll is an Internet connection.

Advantages of Online Payroll

Utilizing a web based payroll solutions is effortless, quick, and provides you with many elements to make your job easier. Web-based payroll systems give you the advantage of having an elaborate payroll processing service without the complexity and expense involved with such a system.

Additionally, online systems help to ensure the accuracy of your payroll calculations; all of the payroll tax computations are handled for you, including difficult year-end tasks.

Online payroll systems offer interactive features that can help you stay organized and efficient. These features comprise of email reminders, free direct deposit, the ability to print paychecks locally, rapidly add or make changes to employee benefits or withholdings, and more.

You can review payroll reports anytime from anywhere by logging onto the secure server for your Internet payroll provider. Moreover, many Web-based payroll services give employees the ability to visit a dedicated employee interface to information about their payroll statistics and history.

Web-based payroll systems are gaining in popularity with small businesses because of the convenience and affordability of such services. We encourage you to start taking advantage of these online payroll services by seeing what a web-based payroll solution can do for you.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

SBA Online Course Helps Companies Win Federal Contracts

The federal government offers $400 billion in contracts annually to small business owners and vendors that can meet a specific need. Many small businesses can grow rapidly if they are able to obtain these federal contracts. In fact, many small businesses establish themselves with the goal of providing services uniquely to the federal government. However, getting federal contracts often requires a good bit of effort and knowledge that can take small business owners time to acquire.

To help these small business owners get accurate information about obtaining federal government contracts more effectively, the U.S. Small Business Administration recently launched its latest free online course, Business Opportunities: A Guide to Winning Federal Contracts.

The online course is designed for all small businesses, especially women entrepreneurs and small firms in underserved markets that have historically had difficulty tapping into federal contract markets. The course uses both written script and audio to provide information about the enormous federal market, including information about contract rules, where to find contract opportunities, and how to sell products or services to the government.

How to Use the Course

The instructional, self-paced guide is available on the SBA's Web site. To find this course, follow these steps: from the SBA's training site, click on the menu of free online courses and then select the first course listed under “Government Contracting.”

After completing the 30-minute tutorial, business owners can earn a certificate of completion from the SBA.

By the way, this Business Opportunities online course is one of more than 24 online tutorials offered by the SBA through its virtual campus at the Small Business Training Network.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Factoring Can Help Cash Flow

Managing cash flow is a major consideration for many businesses. Cash flow, in essence, is a balance of money coming into the business and money going out of the business. Money comes into the business when goods or services are sold. Money goes out of a business to pay for things like inventory, payroll, capital expenditures, and more. Cash flow management can be tricky and even well-established businesses can have a hard time managing cash flow from time to time.

Fact: when businesses extend credit (which occurs anytime a business has to send an invoice for products or services), it will have 10 to 20 percent of its annual sales stuck in accounts receivable. That’s a significant amount of money each year!

When a business needs assistance managing their cash flow, the business can turn to a variety of resources, including banks and other lenders. However, many businesses either can’t get funding through a traditional lender, or would prefer to get funding through alternate means. Factoring is an alternate mean that is very appealing for many businesses. Factoring, in essence, is “cash without borrowing.”

Here’s How Factoring Works

A business sells its accounts receivable (outstanding invoices) to an investor (factor) at a discount rate – usually of about four percent). The factor then collects the money from the customer. Because the business sells the accounts receivable at a discount, the investor is able to collect on the discounted margin. That margin is generally based on a percentage of the total cost of the invoice, but may also be based on a flat rate.

Factoring is a very common practice that has been around for thousands of years, according to Vital Force Factoring. It is generally a business-to-business service, but consumers also use factoring systems anytime they make purchases with a credit card. In the case of a credit card arrangement, the credit card company will pay a retailer for goods when a consumer makes a purchase. Therefore, the credit card company, acting as a factoring agent, serves as a middle man and is in charge of managing payment for a product or service. The factoring system works in much the same way as a credit card system in business-to-business transactions.

Benefits of Factoring

Many company, such as Florida-based First Capital, are in business to buy receivables in exchange for immediate cash – as much as 97 percent of the total amount of the invoice. Some businesses use factoring for funding when they are unable to get bank loans or loans from conventional lenders. In a pinch, some businesses even use factoring to pay for inventory, payroll, and other immediate needs.

Factoring can also help businesses to improve their invoice collection rates as factoring companies handle all aspects of accounts receivable for a company. Some businesses enlist the help of factors if they are unable to collect on an invoice. The factoring company will then use its own resources to collect on the invoice, allowing both the business and the factoring company to receive payment.

Many factoring companies will also perform credit checks on new customers in order to determine the risk associated with engaging in a partnership with the new customer. This credit check can also help businesses to assess a credit amount or interest rate for the new customer.

When looking for a factoring company, look for a company that has a high advance rate for invoices, offers fast payment on invoices, has appropriate invoice management tools, and has a good reputation for collecting payment from customers. It may be helpful to review several different factoring companies before selecting the company that’s best for your needs.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

You Noodle Can Help You Predict Your Business Outcome

What will your business be worth in three years? The sophisticated You Noodle business valuation model analyzes information about business to help predict their outcomes. If you know a business (or own one) you can try it now for free!

What are the benefits of finding out information about a business?

Many individuals and businesses use You Noodle to determine the projected revenue and value of a business when they are considering investing in a business. For example, if you are considering buying shares of a business, you may be able to predict with a high level of accuracy what those shares are likely to be worth in the future using this predictor tool.

This predictor tool can also help you to determine what the outcome of your own business can be. If you are thinking about starting a new business, buying a business, or changing your business services or products, this predictor tool can give you some insight into whether or not your business will be as successful as you imagine. It may also be fun to use this tool to see where your business ranks amongst similar businesses. Are you on track?

For example, if you are thinking about opening a restaurant, this tool can help you to determine whether the start-up costs will be worthwhile – and how long it will take for you to see a return on your investment.

Remember to be logical.

While the You Noodle predictor tool is a fairly reliable way to determine the value of a business, keep in mind that this predictor works by analyzing information from similar businesses and from a business’s own history. While this tool is thought to be rather accurate, it’s important to keep in mind that the success of a business largely depends on the business model, business plan, and leadership team.

Therefore, use common sense if you are evaluating a business for investment purposes – and work hard and smartly if you are trying to realize a certain level of revenue from your own business. The You Noodle predictor is an excellent complement to good old fashion common sense and research!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Women Owned Business Generate $1.9 Trillion In Sales

Since the dawn of the first fur trading businesses in the U.S., the business arena has been dominated by men. However, times – they are a-changing. In fact, women owned businesses are believed to generate nearly $2 trillion in sales annually – and that figure only counts those women owned businesses that are officially classified as such! (Classifying a business as a minority-owned business is always at the discretion of the business owner, and not all business owners go through the process of obtaining a minatory-owned classification).

With more and more women starting businesses and becoming the majority shareholders in already established businesses, it’s important to pay attention to the role that women play in the global business marketplace. Here are a few facts about women owned businesses that may surprise you:

  • 10.1 million firms are owned by women.

  • Those 10.1 million firms employ more than 13 million people, and generate $1.9 trillion in sales as of 2008.

  • Three quarters of all women-owned businesses are majority owned by women (women own 51 percent or more of the shares for the business). This accounts for a total of 7.2 million firms, employing 7.3 million people, and generating $1.1 trillion in sales.

  • One in five firms with revenue of $1 million or more is woman-owned.

  • Three percent of all women-owned firms have revenues of $1 million or more, compared with 6 percent of men-owned firms.

Banking and Finance
Women business owners' satisfaction with banking relationships has more than doubled since 1992 (35 percent vs. 82 percent).
  • More than two-thirds (67 percent) of women business owners choose financial products and services based on their relationship and experience with a lender.

  • Women owners of firms with $1 million or more in revenue are more likely to belong to formal business organizations, associations or networks than other women business owners (81 percent vs. 61 percent).

What This Means to You

In order to effectively work with and market your services to women owned businesses, it’s important to understand how the leaders of these businesses work. As noted in the example above, women tend to make decisions based on their relationships and are more likely to belong to business organizations as they increase their revenue.

Ask yourself a few simple questions about how your marketing strategy, services (including customer services), and products appeal to women owned businesses, such as:

  • How can this knowledge impact your marketing plan and efforts as you attempt to develop relationships with these businesses?

  • How are your services designed to meet the needs of both the business and the business principals?

  • Do you have products or services that appeal to women owned businesses?

  • How can you improve your efforts to develop relationships with women owned businesses based on this knowledge?