Mindfulness Tips for Small Business Owners To Reduce Stress & Anxiety

mindfulness tipsIncorporating aspects of mindfulness and meditation into your daily work routine can benefit your business in a great way. Mindfulness is an important tool that can keep you focused and even minimize the tendency for perfectionism. Reducing stress levels and improving sleep quality with meditation practice can boost creativity and productivity. Letting go is major part of mindfulness and meditation, something that many business owners can find challenging. However once this ability has been harnessed, there opens up plenty more room for progress in self-awareness and compassion. Try these mindfulness tips each day which should only take a few moments of your time, and very well worth it.

Mindful Tip #1 – Make it a mindful morning

Starting your day off right really sets the motion for the rest of the day. Take some time to breathe. Some advocate getting a timer, but taking a few minutes to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth is a good place to start. Begin by breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 4 additional seconds and then exhaling for 6 seconds. With repetition this practice this can become more natural, while safely building up to more extended breaths. Cycles of deep breathing stimulates physiological relaxation, a state of body and mind that can keep you mentally prepared. Remember, it all starts with just one breath in the morning.

Mindful Tip #2 – Take a moment to use your senses

Wherever you may find yourself throughout the work day – on a bench outside or at your desk – be mindful of the moment. Becoming mindful of your surroundings can be done anywhere. Instead of staring at your phone while having lunch, put it away – let yourself enjoy your meal. While outdoors, take a second to be aware of the scent of freshly cut grass or the feeling of a crisp breeze. If you can appreciate the small things, you will find yourself having much to be grateful for. One trick we like is called the “5 Sense Check In”. This mindfulness tip is easy – simply stop and ask yourself what you’re seeing, what are you smelling, what are you hearing, what do you taste and what do you feel (physically and emotionally). Simply being aware of this continuously throughout the day can reduce stress and anxiety tremendously.

Mindful Tip #3 – Make time to meditate

Many professionals find that making meditation a priority can be life changing. If you’re stressed, take a moment to disconnect from your devices and rebalance. Set aside 1-5 minutes to sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Thoughts will naturally come to mind, but when this happens, just observe them without judgement and let them go. A great app to have on your phone is “One-Moment Meditation”, recommended by many for its ability to get you meditating quickly. Making time for more in-depth meditation sessions will provide faster results. Take advantage of quiet spaces such as a meeting room at work, or inside your car. Make your mental balance a priority and you will find that much more gets done. Consistency is key to notice a life change; witnessing the changes that meditation brings will keep you motivated.

5 Best Smartphone Apps for Small Business Owners

best smartphone appsSmall business owners are turning to mobile apps to grow their business while on the go. With thousands of Android and iOS apps on the market, we’ve identified the best smartphone apps for improving workflow and increasing communication.

  1. Google Drive – Free (Android & iOS)

Every small business owner will find that it is imperative to keep documents organized. Google Drive has been a great solution for small businesses for quite some time due to its multi-platform accessibility and ease of use. All documents and files can be edited, stored, backed up, exported and accessed from any device with internet connectivity. In Google Docs, users can write, create presentations or fill spreadsheets. All revisions in documents are saved for future review or for any quick undos. At no cost, this app will bring a more seamless experience to document access, organization, and collaboration.

  1. Quickbooks Online – Free, plus subscription (Android & iOS)

Regarded as the best accounting software for small business owners, especially those without accounting experience, Quickbooks Online is practical to use. With advantageous tools to monitor and manage finances, this app is perfect for the need to send out invoices, or review finances. If any troubleshooting is required, there is free live support available via chat or phone. Using a well-utilized tool is another benefit, especially for bringing on accountants and bookkeepers. Other features include the creation of budgets and financial statements; inventory tracking; and payroll.

  1. Slack – Free (Android & iOS)

For keeping on top of communication with the team, Slack has become the go-to for many small businesses. Collaboration with colleagues has never been an easier task, with enhanced messaging and app integrations all in one place. Slack’s tools range from sharing to-do lists and collaborating on documents, to getting projects off the ground quickly and efficiently. Users rave about how much easier, yet more productive, their work processes have become. With availability on all devices, employees can get in touch with team members quickly, from anywhere. Integration options are available with platforms such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Salesforce and Zendesk. This is one of the best smartphone apps in our opinion.

  1. Trello – Free (Android & iOS)

For those looking for a greater focus on productivity, Trello is the perfect app to organize tasks from a high-level perspective. Focusing on building business rather than spending time with status update meetings is what makes Trello so beneficial. Via the use of boards, workflows can be organized independently or with team member collaboration. To-do’s and tasks can be added, assigned and commented on. Boards sync automatically, and working offline is easy. Integration with external apps make it a perfect central location for task management and project visibility. With the added ability to upload photos and videos, users can also attach files from Dropbox and Google Drive.

  1. Hootsuite – Free (Android & iOS)

Syncing all social media accounts to Hootsuite and managing them via the dashboard makes it simple to manage social media. For up to 3 social network accounts, businesses are able to benefit from its usage without any added cost. All features of publishing, uploading photos, and auto-scheduling posts are available with this free version. Another great feature is the Ow.ly link shortener, a quick way to track click-through report analytics. For both posting and monitoring, Hootsuite is the top all-in-one social media solution for smart phone apps.


Debt Financing vs. Equity: Which Is Best For Your Business?

debt financingWhen it comes to raising money for your small business, there are many options to choose from. Small business owners can raise money from angel investors, obtain debt financing, or invest their life savings into the business. Ideally you don’t have to put up funds to keep your business going, which brings into question, what is best for your business, incurring debt or selling equity? First, a brief overview.


Debt vs. Equity: High Level Overview

When you take out a loan for your business, you incur debt and must pay back your lender. When you sell equity, you give up a percentage of ownership in exchange for the funds. Sometimes equity deals require you to pay a portion of profits to the investor, but usually the investor just receives their percentage of the sale price if you happen to sell your business.


Debt Financing: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Debt financing has many advantages and disadvantages, depending on your situation. The advantages include:

  • A vast array of products to choose from
  • Non-dilutive, you do not have to give up any equity
  • Debt financing is the cheapest pricing available for small business owners – cheaper than equity, cheaper than alternative funding products like merchant cash advances, and cheaper than using your own money.
  • Although there are many covenants and promises contained within any loan agreement, there are less strings attached than those you have with an investor.

One of the main advantages of debt financing is the vast array of products you can choose from, that best fit your business. The following are all debt financing products:

  • Small business loans: general working capital for your business operations (6-18 month terms)
  • Term loans: 3-5 year loans for expansion, acquisition of a competitor or opening up a new location
  • Lines of credit: funds you can draw upon as you need them, collateralized by inventory or accounts receivable
  • Invoice financing: advances against an asset called accounts receivable
  • SBA loans: 5-10 year loans for expansion, acquisition and general working capital.
  • Equipment loans: funds from the lender are specifically used to buy equipment, which serves as the collateral for the lender (i.e. you do not have to have any collateral to obtain the loan; the equipment purchased with the loan proceeds is the collateral itself. This is called a “purchase money security interest” or PMSI deal).

The disadvantages of debt financing include the repercussions associated with default and the potential damage to your credit score. Most debt financing products require a personal guarantee, which places any personal assets you own at risk should you default on the loan. Although the lender has the right to take your business assets as well, they don’t have to go after your business assets first in the event of a default. They can go after your personal assets or your business assets in any order they choose. Additionally, defaulting on a business loan can affect your business and personal credit, thus making it more difficult to get a loan in the future.

As a general rule of thumb, you should only incur debt if you have a proven and successful business model, and a clear path to revenue with the new funds (i.e. acquiring a new business with the loan proceeds, the cash flow of which can service the debt payments).


Selling Equity: Good for Some, Not for Others

Like incurring debt, selling equity has its advantages and disadvantages and these depend on the business owner’s goals and aspirations. The biggest downside to selling equity is that you give up a percentage of future profits for life, including proceeds from a sale.

If you’re looking for an investor, make sure they’re a strategic investor that is going to create value for your company – by doing things like introducing you to potential customers and referral partners. What you don’t want is an investor who doesn’t contribute anything. These are normally called “silent investors”, and you effectively work for them because a percentage of your profits is theirs forever (technically).

However if you have investors that are increasing the size of the pie for everyone – including your share – then it becomes far more palatable to give up a portion of profits for life.

Also, another downside to investors is that they often want control. Be careful when reading the legal documents to make sure that you will still have the freedom to operate with discretion in the day to day of your business. The last thing you want is to have to run everything by your investor, as they can severely hinder your growth if they try to protect their money with an iron fist. You need an investor who trusts you, believes in you and your business model, and will give you the freedom to operate (within reason, of course). The upside is that if things go south, that’s the risk the investors are willing to take (unlike a lender, who will take your assets).

You must weigh these options and interview both lenders and investors as if you’re interviewing a new hire. Drill them with questions to find out if they’re the right fit for you.

Slow Season Survival Tips for Small Business Owners

slow season survival tipsSlow seasons can be difficult for small business owners. Seasonal setbacks can arise that take a toll on stretched budgets and exploring new growth opportunities. Below are some slow season survival tips for small business owners used by various clients of ours. We hope you find them just as useful!

1. Offer products/services that are applicable all season

A good way to generate extra revenue is to bring on new products/services that extend beyond the seasons. Many business owners can find consistent sales difficult when certain products or services are seasonal. Services such as tanning salons find a higher uptick in the winter, with less volume in the summer; similar can be said about selling patio furniture in the winter months.

In order to circumvent a drop in sales over seasonal products and services, small business owners have traditionally used creative ideas to keep sales up during the off-season. Landscaping business can turn to tree and snow removal services in the winter to keep things running, and food trucks and seasonal restaurants can introduce new menu items to reflect the change of season. Retail stores can rotate new product lines, putting their off-season products in storage (or sell them to resellers and off-price stores) to make way for the upcoming months.

It’s important for small business owners to listen and learn about their customer’s habits. By identifying new areas of opportunity in their daily routine, businesses can sell new seasonal products and services to keep the revenue balanced throughout the sales year.

2. Spread operating costs and other expenditures out.

Seasonal businesses usually find finances to be most strained just before the prime season begins. It is always good for business owners to make a calendar-based budget to keep track of all steps along the way. Points to note should include personal tips such as the best times to hire staff, make business purchases, etc. This allows the business to allot necessary funds proportionately based on prior knowledge, efficiently and with ease. Viewing the budget on a monthly basis, or only focusing annually, is not the best way to ensure a business’ cash flow runs smoothly. Rather, budget for the year ahead, with view of the years to come – as this way the business owner can keep funds in their pocket to buffer any slow seasons ahead.

3. Try to negotiate contract terms with suppliers

It can benefit to speak with suppliers and make an attempt to negotiate contract terms. Talking to suppliers and vendors can help create more favorable credit terms, or to even modify existing contracts so that they work better for the business.

An example would be changing annual advertising contracts to seasonal contracts – saving a lot of money and giving more control over finances. Remember, it doesn’t hurt to ask! Many businesses find that suppliers are willing to grant seasonal businesses extended payment terms or offer similar arrangements to assist during slower business periods. Good relationships with vendors can help make this a possibility, especially when payments are made on time, sales volume is high, and when there has been a long history of business together.

4. Secure flexible working: #1 of all slow season survival tips

My financing institutions prefer to fund businesses just ahead of their busy season, because they know they will collect their money. Similarly, business owners prefer to have funds available just prior to busy season because they can deploy funds into revenue-generating activities. This allows the business owner to pay the financing institution back with new customer money (instead of having to tap into existing cash flow). Please let us know if we can do anything to secure you flexible working capital.