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Common Financial Problems Start-Ups Face And How to Solve Them

StrategyDriven Managing Your Finances Article | Entrepreneurship | Business Financial Problems | Common Financial Problems Start-Ups Face And How to Solve ThemAs an entrepreneur managing a start-up business, there are many common financial issues which businesses have to face. From start-up capital to a lack of investment, there are many potential aspects which can become mismanaged. However, although it may not be possible to avoid these issues, there are ways that you can solve them to maintain your financial security for the future and ensure that your business is least affected as possible.

1. Bad Credit Scores

One of the greatest stumbling blocks for entrepreneurs looking to start up a business is their credit score. A bad credit score can make it increasingly difficult to get loans to increase the funding for your business, among other important aspects. However, a bad credit score is not permanent, and there are procedures that you can follow to increase your credit score, such as bad credit loans. Taking out small personal installment loans for your personal finances and paying it back on time will mean you can increase your credit score and show potential investors that you can manage repayments on a routine basis. Therefore, when you look for funding your business using a loan, you will have an easier time to get one.

2. Lack of Funding

A lack of funding can also be a big hindrance to potential start-ups. Many entrepreneurs look to their own savings accounts to fund their businesses, and you can build up your funds in terms of this by saving a little every month and by choosing a savings account with a good interest rate. If this fails, you should consider getting a personal loan off a friend or family member, as this will be easier to repay and will not affect your credit score. However, if this is not possible, there are many schemes and funds which can help you to increase your fundings, such as government small business funding as well as grants and awards run by investors from large businesses.

3. Invoicing Issues

Another common problem for start-ups is the problem of invoicing. Writing and organizing invoices can become a large issue if your clients are not paying on time or if you have not organized your invoices efficiently to ensure that you know when you are being paid. To solve this problem, you should agree with your clients when you will be paid and create a clause on your invoice, which states this. Not only this, but you should not be afraid to contact your clients via email to follow up on these payments and ensure that you are paid by the expected time.

4. Disorganized Accounting

Many businesses also suffer from disorganized accounting systems, which make it difficult to budget and file your tax return efficiently. To ensure that your accounting is succinct, clear, and updated, you should employ a professional accountant who can help you to clear your accounts and prepare for the end of the tax year. In these cases, you should also consider downloading a business finance app which can help you to track your expenditure, keep copies of receipts and help you to forecast your cash flow and budget in the future.

4 Ways to Make Your SME More Professional

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article | Professional Appearance | 4 Ways to Make Your SME More ProfessionalWhether you have a full-sized office and plethora of staff, or you’re still working from your bedroom and nothing more than a laptop, you want your business to look and feel as big as possible. Even if your social media marketing team is your tech-savvy niece and your warehouse manager is your spouse boxing up a product, there are still ways that you can make your business look and feel bigger than it is. If you’re looking to exude a more professional business persona, then here are some of the easiest and most cost-effective ways of adding that much-needed touch of professionalism to your SME.

Focus on the Digital

If you’re working from a small room, then your digital presence is going to be where you need to make the best first impression. Website design can get very complicated very quickly, so if you lack the skills, then it’s imperative that you source them. Whether that’s through friends or a professional will depend on your budget, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that a free template from WordPress of Wix is going to be enough.

While you may get a slick looking theme, you’ll be lumbered with a web address that ends with wordpress.com or wix.com.

This is not a professional look. It’s also increasingly vital that you have a presence on social media, but don’t panic about registering with them all. Stick to the two that are most relevant for your brand and sector. Make sure that you know how to conduct yourself professionally online, and remember that your digital marketing will be reliant on your ability to create engaging content.

Payments and Paperwork

Efficiency is the key to appearing to be larger and more professional. No matter how small your business might be, make sure that you use free online estimate templates when potential customers need a pricing quote and use similarly themed invoice templates as well. Not only does this make you look more professional, but it also makes it much easier to keep your paperwork in order, and that can help to increase productivity and reduce workflow interruptions.

You should also make it a priority to ensure that all quotes and invoices are sent promptly and that your bills are paid quickly as well.

Word of mouth can damage a business of any size, and a poor history of not paying your suppliers on time will only hinder your ability to perform. Use software to manage your accounts more easily, and make sure that you have a constantly updated calendar to ensure that you know when bills are expected so that you’re not hit by the unexpected.

Improve your Address

If you’re using a home office, then you need to make sure that your business is not negatively affected. Residential business addresses might not be the deciding factor that makes or breaks your venture, but it can have an impact. Ideally, you want a more established address, and there are a variety of options available.

The rise of the managed office space has been very positive for SMEs, and even if you only use the space on occasion, many now allow you to use their premises as your business address.

This is not only better for you in terms of first impressions; it also means that you will have somewhere professional to meet with prospective customers or suppliers. The majority of managed offices are based in cities, meaning that you also get the benefit of a city center address without the expense of your own dedicated office rental.

Dress the Part

It’s not just about wearing a suit and tie (not every SME is going to need that), it’s about presenting your brand to the outside world so that you make the best first impression. While this is vital for your website, it also extends to peripheral elements as well. If you pull up to meet with a prospective client in a suit and tie but in a car that spills rubbish onto the road when you open the door, then you have forever lost the chance to make a good first impression.

Make sure that you focus on the details. Phone calls need to be answered politely and professionally, and you might even consider hiring a remote, virtual receptionist to make your business seem even larger.

The key to appearing more professional is to know what customers are looking for from you. However, get the basics right in terms of first impressions, and you will instantly seem a more dynamic and professional business.

Running an SME can be fraught with challenges and stress, but the people that your business interacts with should never feel that you are struggling. It’s all about having the foundations in place. Get your professionalism looking bigger, brighter, and more on brand than your competitors, and you stand a much better chance of attracting the profits that you need to thrive.

5 Mistakes New College Grads Make as They Enter Entrepreneurship

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article | 5 Mistakes New College Grads Make as They Enter EntrepreneurshipIt’s that time of year again. Thousands of qualified college graduates are getting set to enter the workforce. They were promised that their hard work and diligence will earn them an attractive job and a high chance of success. With ambition, motivation, and dreams, scores of young men and women will forge their way into the business world. Some of them have lofty goals of entrepreneurship. Many are under the impression that whatever works for high profile examples of successful leaders in business will also work for them. Public information and theory are often misleading, and so is attempting to imitate another company’s or leader’s blueprint. According to some experts, new college graduates often make five brutal mistakes as they try to navigate their own potential new enterprise.

1. Recent college graduates think they know a lot more than they do upon graduation. Implementation is different to theory and ideas, so you need to be able to bring operational performance and many other skills to the table. Knowledge is one thing, but true execution will provide the experience you really need.

2. Many do not understand how funding works and the capitol needed in the initial phases of a business. Inexperienced people are misled when it comes to startup funding and what is needed to begin and grow a business. Often young founders don’t think about basic concepts like unit economics, which is selling something for more than what it costs to make. Even some very well funded startups tend to ignore this.

3. Raising funds does not equal success. Many young entrepreneurs are focused on the superficial belief that the more money they raise, the more successful their business is going to be. While it’s true that, everything else being equal, having more money to spend on your business is good, there is a lot more to it than that simple formula. Plenty of businesses fail because they raised too much money and it encouraged them to do things that didn’t make sense. Many other businesses fail because they raised money that they believed would fund all of their dreams of growth, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Other businesses fail because they raise the wrong kind of money, such as debt they can’t repay on time or equity that causes them to lose control of their business.

4. Inexperienced founders often overestimate their own importance and don’t appreciate the importance of the team they build around them. It is not easy to find skilled people who also happen to be a good fit for the culture and mission of your enterprise. This takes a lot more time, effort, and trial and error than many founders realize if they haven’t done it before. You need a great team to build a great team. But that the classic chicken and egg problem you have to solve. You have to be careful, and realize you will make mistakes, about who you hire early in the life of your company. Only offer substantial equity and responsibility to those who have proven themselves. Recognize your hiring mistakes and correct them quickly. Teams often don’t rise to the level of their best people. They often sink to the level of their worst people. Keep that in mind as you build your company.

5. Know and own your limitations. Young innovators especially, though it applies even to more experienced entrepreneurs, tend to lack self-awareness of their own weaknesses. These blind spots can be disastrous. Most highly successful people understand their weaknesses and surround themselves with others who can do what they cannot, who share a similar vision, and with whom they can collaborate. Inexperience can lead to overconfidence. This is an especially dangerous pitfall for early stage startups and new entrepreneurs.

Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is a good example of a culmination of all 5 of these mistakes and what inexperience can do to a business idea. She raised $900 million. Her company was worth billions. She was on the cover of magazines and featured on TV shows and one of the best founders in a generation. But it ended in failure and she may go to prison for her behavior.

There are real world, and sometimes life altering, consequences for making these mistakes. Think through your decisions carefully and be aware of the risks you take as you pursue your exciting and hopefully rewarding entrepreneurial journey.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Christopher GreyChristopher Grey is the co-founder and COO of CapLinked, and enterprise software company offering an information control and risk mitigation platform for the sharing of confidential or sensitive documents and communications outside of the enterprise. Previously, he was a senior executive and managing partner in private equity and corporate finance for 15 years and directly involved in the deployment and management of billions of dollars of debt and equity investments in various industries. Christopher founded two companies, Crestridge Investments, a private equity firm that made debt and equity investments in micro cap and middle market companies, and Third Wave Partners, which made debt and equity investments in distressed situations, and was managing director of a subsidiary of Emigrant Bank, the largest privately owned bank in the country. Most recently, he is a co-founder of TransitNet, a platform for security token issuers offering title verification, chain of ownership tracking, and other post issuance tools for improving the security and reliability of security token ownership.

5 Effective Strategies for General Contractors to Cut Costs

StrategyDriven Managing Your Finances Article | 5 Effective Strategies for General Contractors to Cut CostsContractors need to devise ways to cut costs in order to remain profitable. With increased competition, the need to cut costs has become important now more than ever.

Eliminating people is not the right way to cut costs. This will only stifle the ability of your firm to make a profit. Instead, you should look for other ways to cut costs and boost profitability.

1. Cost Audit

The first step in cutting costs should begin with a complete audit of the existing expenses. You should consider ways to reduce operational expenses.

You can relocate the office to a location where the rent is lower. Also, you can consider the shift from in-house to cloud operations to cut overheads.

A lot of contractors subscribe to different software services yet don’t use most of them. Consider whether the services really add value to your business by saving time or improving efficiency. If not, it’s better to cancel the subscription.

2. Time and Contract Clause

Instead of Under-the-contract-price, you should consider adding the add-to-exceed clause. In the former case, the owner of the project only has to pay a fixed cost that includes overhead and profit. This is not necessarily the most cost-effective approach.

Instead, you should consider the time and materials contract. This is a type of contract consist of the following three terms.

  • Actual material costs
  • Actual direct labor costs at a specific hourly rate
  • Agree on add-on to cover profit and overhead

The main benefit of this type of contracting is flexibility. This cost structure allows you to adjust requirements, replace features, and cater to changed user requirements without taking a hit on the bottom-line.

3. Seek Multiple Bids

When working with a sub-contractor, you should consider multiple bids. This may take additional time, but the effort will be worth it in the end.

You may have to send lots of emails and hammer the phones. But this will allow you to lock in on subcontractors that offer services at the least costs. This extra work will help in significantly reduce the internal expenses.

4. Inspect Your Schedule

You should keep an eye on your schedule for any potential stacking or acceleration of activities. Compressing the schedule will allow you to squeeze cost advantages. Time is money and any time that is saved will have a positive impact on the company’s bottom-line.

5. Financial Prequalification

You should prequalify all subcontractors to reduce the risk in case of cost escalation. This is particularly important if the subcontractor will bear most of the risks. It will help in absorbing any deviances in a project that result in increased cost.

By financial prequalification, you can get assurance that the subcontractors will be able to absorb any costs overruns. Some of the criteria that you should consider include pipeline, days of cash, and work in progress.

The above tips can help in greatly reducing the contracting costs. Consider adding an escalation clause in all your projects as well. This will pass on the risk of cost increase to the project owners.

The Importance of Business Intelligence Software and Why It’s Integral for Business Success

StrategyDriven Tactical Execution Article | The Importance of Business Intelligence Software and Why It’s Integral for Business SuccessIn the digital-first, customer-centric world we live in today, managers and business owners must deal with information overload. That is the reason why they are always looking for ways to derive greater intelligence, control, and understanding from their data. Adopting a business intelligence (BI) strategy is one of the best ways to deal with this problem, but most organizations have been slow to integrate it within their business systems. This is mainly down to a lack of knowledge, as businesses still don’t know, where to start, what it involves, and how long it’ll take for them to see any benefits.

There’s no denying that business intelligence software is crucial in helping organizations make reliable and timely decisions about their operations. It ensures that the business can access reliable information and make insightful decisions by reacting in real time. Business intelligence software has played a major role in helping organizations meet their challenges like narrowing margins, high customer expectations, and global competition.

Most businesses are still using traditional methods, which makes it harder for them to make decisions, as the information is stored in separate applications and databases. How quickly and accurately a company responds in this technology-driven competitive market is the main difference between success and failure. Business intelligence technologies have several functions that improve their performance, and one of them is reporting. It plays a key role in business intelligence, as it allows the decision makers of the enterprise to support their work. The discovery of essential data patterns (analytics) is also done through reporting, which is another key role of business intelligence.

Some of the standard functions of business intelligence technologies include predictive and prescriptive analysis, business performance management, text mining, benchmarking, and online analytic processing. Business intelligence refers to the application, tools, and good practices that are used to access and analyze data to optimize or improve the performance of the business. It converts raw data into relevant information that enables tactical and strategic insights to make effective decisions.

Business intelligence software is a technological process, which collects and processes data to attain actionable information. It allows users to acquire information quickly and transfer them to the proper personnel to make the right decision. Business intelligence tools have been around for a long time, but it was only accessible to large enterprise, who had the infrastructure and resources to implement this technology.

However, thanks to the advancement of technology, even small enterprises now can access business intelligence software through cloud computing.

The Main Benefits of Business Intelligence Software

Any organization that wants to remain relevant in the competitive market of today must adapt fast and real-time integration of business intelligence software. Most organizations today have changed their modes of operation so they can adapt to modern business intelligence technologies. However, there are still plenty of organizations that are under the assumption that business intelligence software isn’t user-friendly and is complicated.

That’s a misconception about business intelligence software since it is user-friendly and can be adopted quickly by an organization, while it ensures maximum profitability by smoothing the decision-making process. Businesses that have adopted this technology in their systems are thriving in all the challenges they are facing at any stage of their projects. Business intelligence software also allows small and medium-sized enterprises to reduce their cost of operations by identifying areas that have higher costs of expenses and finding measures to reduce them.

The best thing about business intelligence software is that it allows businesses to have agile operations and is often the difference between operating on profits or losses. To give you a better idea, we are going to discuss some of the main benefits offered by business intelligence software:

1. Better Business Decisions

When a business adopts business intelligence software, its management can easily identify all the financial and customer data, production data, current data, and business aspects of the organization. This information will allow the management to synthesize and analyze the products and investment reports, which will help them make better business decisions that benefit the organization.

2. Enables Faster and Accurate Planning, Reporting, and Analysis

Business intelligence software offers real-time information, which helps it provide accurate reporting solutions as it can connect with an extensive range of data. The software can plan and analyze informed business solutions, which reduce potential risks and allow a business to achieve faster growth.

3. Enhanced Speed of Decision-Making

Business intelligence software not only helps businesses make better decisions but also helps increase their decision-making speed as well. Without business intelligence software, an organization will be spending a lot of time implementing decisions, since they’ll need to cover business aspects one by one before making any decision. This is a time-consuming process, and with business intelligence software you cut down on the speed of decision-making.

4. Increased Business User Satisfaction

There is increased user satisfaction for the software because business intelligence offers better decision-making, reporting, and accurate analysis. It helps the business maximize its limited resources by using cost-effective solutions that allow business growth and enhance user satisfaction.

5. Customer Behavior Insights

Business intelligence software holds the key for identifying customer behavior patterns, as it determines customer responses and helps the business achieve market profitability by helping it retain customers and attract new clients.

6. Accurate Decision-Making

The best part about the business intelligence software is that it not only allows real-time decision-making but also enables accurate decisions to be made that will benefit the business. For instance, if your competitor decides to reduce the prices of their products, you’ll need to come up with a counter price for your product that is lower or similar. This decision will take some time to be implemented, as you’ll need to determine the impact of your profits after the price reduction. However, when you’re using business intelligence software, you get rapid and informed decisions that allow your business to stay on top of its game.

7. Increased Collaboration between Business & IT Units

Business intelligence software and systems have enabled growth collaborations between IT and business units. Any organization that aims to grow its operation must ensure that its business and IT units are working together, and this can be achieved easily with business intelligence software.

8. Offer Personalized Services

Business intelligence software is user-friendly and comes with a feature that personalizes information or data by making it easier to use and understand. The feature also ensures smoother collaboration between users in the organization and ensures a smoother transfer of data.

9. Track KPIs with Notifications and Alerts

The business intelligence software tracks the KPI by evaluating the current status and metric value against a target using specific measures that will send alerts to the user. These notifications allow users to come up with the right solutions or measures.

10. Identify Opportunities for Revenue

Revenue growth is essential to all organizations, and it is one of the main purposes of business intelligence software. Finding new revenue opportunities opens new doors for business and allows it to thrive and transform its operations. The software analyzes marketing strategies and campaigns to create important reports and insights on the best sources of high returns on investment.

11. Reduced Cost

Enterprises that struggle to sort out their financial statements are going to struggle in the long-run, and that is where business intelligence software plays such a major role. It helps find areas where the organization can cut down its costs, and the software helps to collect raw data on areas where there are high expenses and provides solutions to bring them down.

12. Better Operational Efficiency

Every business is striving to improve its operations, as it helps them take the next step in their development. However, to do that, businesses must monitor and measure their performance, and business intelligence software helps businesses come up with different activities that help drive business success. The software covers highly used metrics like productivity, performance, and employee satisfaction to ensure better operations in the organization.

13. Higher Quality Data

Data comes in all shapes and sizes, and some can be more complicated to understand and operate, which makes it difficult for organizations to take advantage of data-driven insights. There is a data visualization tool in business intelligence software, which allows for easier recognition of data. This feature is incredibly useful since it allows data to be converted into a better method or quality, which can be easily accessed.

14. Create a Data Culture in the Organization

A lot of organizations are guilty of data clustering, which leads to data manipulation and data loss. Business intelligence software is extremely useful when it comes to handling the data of a business since it allows easy collaboration and communications among members whenever data is updated. Users can also track data and its changes since notifications are sent to everyone.

15. Self-Service Culture

One of the biggest things about business intelligence software is that it promotes a culture of self-service in the business. Users can easily access data and easily manage it even if they aren’t familiar with the statistical analytics. Adding, creating, and manipulating data is easy, and this ensures cooperation between the different departments in the business.