If you need capital for your business, a grant may be a source of funding to consider. Every year, more than $80 million in funding is given out in the form of grants. And unlike loans, grants do not have to be repaid. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to start applying for grants.
Benefits of Small Business GrantsThe great thing about grants is that they offer generous amounts of funds which, unlike loans, do not have to be repaid. In fact, every year more than $80 million is given out in the form of a grant. Some of the most common reasons businesses apply for grants include:
- Asset purchases
- Hiring new staff
- Working capital
- Improvement of current products
How to Qualify for a Grant?Applying for grants is a competitive process. Therefore, candidates should prepare accordingly:
- Review and update your business plan. A good business plan describes your company’s mission and roadmap for success. As a result, this is the tool you have to convince others to invest in your business.
- Audit financial statements. These will reflect your company’s overall financial health over time.
- Thoroughly review the grant requirements. It's common for grants to require further documentation such as reporting throughout a period of time. Will you have the time and resources to collect the information needed?
- Become familiar with grant writing. Most grants require a well-written proposal for consideration. You’ll want to tailor your proposal to communicate your plans and ideas clearly.
Available Grants for Small BusinessesThere are several organizations that offer grants to small businesses. the Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal agency that provides counseling and funding opportunities to small businesses. SBA grants are available for businesses promoting scientific research, management assistance, and community organizations that support entrepreneurship. Grants.gov is a database of thousands of grants offered by various government agencies. Opportunities are available for companies from a wide range of backgrounds. Small businesses located in low-income areas which were severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic can qualify for grants like the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant. Additionally, for a larger breakdown of other grants available, take a look at this list from the US Chamber. While the grant process can be extensive and tedious, securing a grant can go a long way to help reach your business goals.
Employees form the backbone of any business. Businesses are dependent on their staff especially in the absence of automated processes. Small businesses often face the challenge of retaining staff during uncertain times. Employee loss leads to disruption of normal operations. You may ask yourself, how does my company deal with such a situation? In this blog, we’ll explore some tips to deal with staffing shortages.
Common Reasons for Staffing ShortagesThere are several factors that often lead to staffing shortages such as:
Job InsecurityWe are going through uncertain times with economic instability. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses are facing many challenges such as maintaining steady cash flow. This has led to irregular salary disbursements, which ultimately have led to attrition.
Lack of a Career Growth TrajectorySmall businesses often struggle with business expansion due to resource constraints. On the retention side, motivated employees are often looking for what’s next career-wise. It can be hard to answer that question without a growing business. On the hiring side, many candidates ask what positions are down the road for an entry-level role.
Job ExpectationsEmployees' expectations have dramatically changed after what they’ve experienced during the pandemic. There has been a growing demand for flexible working hours, the ability to work from home, and better awareness and handling of mental health. Therefore, If your business has the flexibility to provide those accommodations, staffing is easier. However, some of those benefits are not realistic for many types of businesses.
How to Deal with Staffing Shortages?Staffing shortages are a limiting factor for the success of a business. Rather than quick fixes, long-term strategies are crucial for mitigating a crisis. Below are tips to address shortages in the short and the longer term.
Process & Operations Automation:Technology and automation are gradually replacing manual work in many industries. For instance, If you are experiencing a staffing shortage, you might consider it a prompt to double-check that you aren’t missing opportunities to use automation for what used to require an employee, or reducing the time it takes to do the work. Merging various verticals helps in streamlining processes. Additionally, it reduces over-dependence on manpower.
Employee Retention Strategies:Without upskilling and training options, employees often lack motivation. Offering extra perks such as learning or certification opportunities helps in retaining employees. Indeed offers an extensive list of high-demand certifications. While not all companies may be able to offer comprehensive perks, there there are many other perks you can make available to your employees that have little to no cost. Some examples include:
- Flex day offs
- Summer hours
- Paid volunteer time
Trends for Recruiting New TalentOver the past year and a half, companies have had to re-examine their talent acquisition strategies as employee expectations have changed. To ensure success in the hiring process, we suggest trying these strategies for attracting new talent.
- Outsourced recruiting
- Short-term gigs for specific requirements
- Performance-based incentives
- Internal hiring
- Remote onboarding
Diversity in the workplace contributes immensely to not only the success of the organization but also the overall national economy. As the world continues to become more ethnically diverse, there is growing pressure on companies worldwide to reflect that diversity through their hiring practices. Assembling the right mix of employees on your team can be quite rewarding and challenging at the same time. In this blog post, we have rounded up some crucial tips for managing diversity in your workplace and building a positive environment.
Increased Exposure to Different PerspectivesDiverse cultural backgrounds mean willingness and openness to different learning styles, opinions, and different means of problem-solving. New perspectives help your organization to appeal to a broader customer base, solve different types of problems and open up possibilities in other ways.
Choose InclusionAs you inch closer towards becoming a more diverse organization, do a deep dive into your existing workforce practices. An effective diversity management process requires amending system-wide existing policies and creating new ones for recruitment, performance evaluations, and promotions.
Prioritize Sensitivity TrainingInstead of resorting to damage control in times of crisis, consider investing in sensitivity training to prevent a problematic situation from arising. There may be some resistance from older employees. However, sensitivity training for managers and employees can add more value to your organization. For example, awareness among managers and employees helps create a workplace that is free of discrimination and harassment.
Invest in More Than Just Hiring PracticesWhile weaving inclusion into the fundamentals of your recruitment process can be very impactful, don’t simply stop here. Confirming that all your personnel policies represent the company’s commitment to diversity will give employees a sense of connectedness to the company. Building a diverse organization involves an undying commitment. The companies who succeed will find themselves ahead of the curve and reap the benefits in the long run.
The terms accountant and bookkeeper have been used interchangeably but both have certain differences which are important to know. A bookkeeper is someone who keeps records of all financial transactions that happen in your business. They maintain information such as expense receipts in a general ledger while also generating invoices, coordinating payroll, and recording income. An accountant, on the other hand, generally has more formal training and assesses data maintained by the bookkeeper and offers financial guidance pertaining to your business. They examine business trends, perform audits, develop financial reporting records, and verify financial data. Whether you need a bookkeeper or an accountant depends on the size and needs of your business.
Differences Between Accountants and BookkeepersAccountants require an educational degree such as a bachelor's or master's degree in accounting. It is possible to substitute these degrees with an associate degree in finance. On the other hand, bookkeepers are not required to have certain degrees but have to be knowledgeable, methodical, and accurate. While accountants may obtain further qualifications such as a CPA, bookkeepers are not eligible to avail of professional certifications but can get licensing and accreditation. Accountants are more involved in working with senior management professionals in reporting their analyses, whereas bookkeepers are not directly involved. Since the work of an accountant demands specialized skills, they are more capable of making sound financial decisions. Bookkeepers, however, do not make similar decisions on the basis of their record maintenance work.
Accountant or Bookkeeper: Which is Best for Your Business?Ultimately, both accountants and bookkeepers can benefit your business. With technological advancements, both functions are becoming more efficient. When you start a business, you will need to perform accounting tasks which can be simplified if you allow a bookkeeper to keep records of your financial data. Your growing business will eventually need the expertise of an accountant for making complex financial decisions. Oftentimes, the decision between the two comes down to your comfort with interpreting financial data. While a bookkeeper will enter transactions and ensure your books are up to date, an accountant can provide deeper insight into your financial results. If you are comfortable with reading financial statements and understanding cash flow, then a bookkeeper may be what is best suited for you. However, if you would like guidance on financial matters, an accountant can provide this service.
Small businesses have become more prevalent than ever. With more and more people starting their own business, a common question that arises is whether health insurance should be provided by your company.
Is Your Small Business Required to Provide Health Insurance?Under The Affordable Care Act (ACA), small businesses with less than 50 employees are not required to provide health insurance to their employees. This means that your company will not face a tax penalty for not providing insurance. However, if you decide to offer your employees health insurance, you may qualify for a “Small Business Health Care Tax Credit.” There are a few requirements in order to receive this credit, such as:
- The company should have less than 25 full-time employees
- Average salary of workers should be lower than$50,600 per year
- The company should pay at least 50% of the cost of an employee’s health insurance premium
A Few Reasons Why You Should Consider Offering Health Insurance:
Improved Hiring and RetentionA major benefit of being employed is the health insurance that comes with it. Without health insurance, the out-of-pocket expenses for an individual can get very hefty in no time. In fact, many employees would choose health benefits over retirement benefits if only one were offered. Without a doubt, offering health insurance improves retention rates. There are several different health plan options to choose from depending on desired coverage and cost. A great starting point to research health insurance plans in your area is by visiting healthcare.gov.
Lower Payroll TaxesA financial advantage of providing health insurance through your small business are the tax benefits. Typically, pre-tax dollars pay for health insurance. This means your taxable income decreases. A lower taxable income results in lower business payroll taxes and lower income taxes for employees.
Healthier EmployeesA healthier workforce results in increased productivity. In fact, striving for a healthy workforce proves to your employees that you care about their mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. When your employees know that they are covered, they have less mental fatigue and can live their life without worries. Many health insurance companies offer additional wellbeing programs to employees at no additional charge. These programs are designed to promote health and fitness. The programs reward your employees by offering discounts or even cash rewards for participating in health challenges and similar programs. Deciding on health insurance options is a big decision for any company. The most important step is to research which coverage is best for your company and employees.
If you are contemplating starting a business in 2021, there are several factors that you might consider prior to launch. The pandemic has brought about widespread change in the ways in which businesses operate and the types of services that people require most of the time. It has also transformed the manner in which people consume products and services. Thinking about how your business would adapt to the “new normal” could enable you to identify the right type of business to launch in 2021. With that in mind, let’s look at a list of top small business ideas.
Online TeachingIn 2020, lockdowns and social distancing protocol caused schools to close and education to take place remotely. As a result, a rise in demand for online tutoring services increased. An online teaching business gives you the flexibility to choose a subject that you have knowledge in and teach students from a remote location.
ConsultingConsulting services are required in almost every field. You can select a field in which you have interest or expertise (such as business leadership, financial services, social media marketing, etc.) and offer your services as a consultant. You can start as the sole consultant and as your business expands, recruit other employees.
Medical Supply ServiceOffering doorstep delivery of healthcare products is a service that experienced high demand during the pandemic. You can start a service that delivers any type of medical product including laboratory results, medical equipment, and so forth.
Freelance MarketingFreelance marketing companies also experienced high demand for their services during the pandemic. As a freelancer who is starting a business, you can choose to offer the kind of service that you are good at. This could include copywriting, graphic design, social media marketing, translation, photography or videography, etc.
Virtual Accountant/BookkeeperThe job market for virtual accountants, bookkeepers, and auditors is expected to continue to grow within the next few years. More businesses are beginning to hire virtual accountants due to budget constraints. Companies save large amounts of money by hiring virtual rather than full-time employees. This is a great opportunity if you are looking to work in a flexible environment. If you are looking for ways to get started, joining the accounting/bookkeeping network at FINSYNC is a great way to begin to grow your business.
App DevelopmentIf you are experienced in software engineering, consider offering services related to app development. Mobile apps are highly popular due to the fact that most people today rely on smartphones for communication. Developing apps for cell phones or virtual reality could thus prove to be a profitable entrepreneurial venture. Starting a business takes a lot of work and dedication. However, with the right tools, mindset, and guidelines, you can launch your business in no time.
Small businesses are extremely important. From providing employment to boosting the local economy, they create tremendous value. In order for businesses to reach optimal growth, they must track their financial transactions carefully. Bookkeeping activity can help businesses in recording their daily financial transactions with supporting documents. Consistent bookkeeping helps in financial tracking and in the preparation of accounting statements. However, most small businesses struggling with bookkeeping due to time and resource constraints. Without proper or professional guidance, many small businesses commit bookkeeping mistakes that turn out to be costly. Next, we’ll identify some of these common mistakes and learn tips to avoid them.
Common Bookkeeping Mistakes:
- Failure to Keep Receipts: Many bookkeepers fail to classify and file relevant receipts associated with transactions. This happens mainly in the case of small value transactions, for example, food receipts. A proper record of them is necessary for proof of expenses. Especially, in the case of an audit, having receipts is crucial. To avoid this, it is advisable to keep a special folder for filing these receipts. Also, make sure to train your bookkeeping staff about the importance of recording every transaction for long-term use.
- Wrong Category Entries: Bookkeeping involves the categorization of every transaction in a suitable account within your general ledger. These accounts are typically numbered. This will be a great help for your accountant in analysis while preparing financial documents. If your organization doesn’t have a proper chart of accounts, it can confuse the bookkeeper. For example, common mistakes include using the wrong expense account. The primary solution to this mistake is to have a solid chart of accounts based on your organization’s business activity prepared for you and train on it. When you come across a transaction that you don’t know how to categorize, put it in a special account for review. “Ask My Accountant” or sometimes this account is referred to as a suspense account. You’ll let the pros tell you where that one goes.
- Lack of Data Backup: Today we live in a digital world. It is always good to digitize your bookkeeping activities using software such as FINSYNC. It’s recommended to make sure to have a backup option in the form of paper printouts or a second cloud storage device where copies can be stored. A lack of such backup might cause you trouble in the case of any technical failure or data loss. For example, the practice of taking daily transaction printouts from your software will be helpful in case your online backup collapses.
- Reconciliation with Bank Statements: Human data entry errors are inevitable during bookkeeping. Errors such as entry reversal (credit/debit), wrong transaction value, typos, etc. are very common. The only way to rectify this is by cross-checking entries with your bank accounts. For example, an income of $300.00 wrongly entered as $30000 can adversely affect your entire understanding of your business’s health. Make it a habit to reconcile your accounts as soon as new bank statements become available.
Emails are an important communication tool. In fact, many customers visiting a website or purchasing a product have done so after receiving an email from a company. Sometimes this happens even though they did not open the email, just from seeing the name in their inbox. This makes email one of the most powerful marketing tools and it’s also cost-effective. In today’s digital world, a healthy email list goes a long way in ensuring the success of a blog, online sales platforms, or even sales leads. However, in order to get an engaged email list, you need to follow some basic email marketing practices that are sure to make your campaign a successful one.
Email Marketing PracticesMaking your email marketing campaign successful is an art as well as a science. Follow these simple practices to navigate the complexities of the same.
Send Test Emails to YourselfThis helps in ensuring that there are no typo errors and the email looks great both on on both smartphone and desktop applications.
Never SpamNever buy customer lists. Those are associated with a high rate of people who report spam reports and unsubscribe immediately. If you get too many complaints, you could even get banned by the email provider.
Make It Easy and Enticing for People to Subscribe to Your EmailThis can be done in different ways such as tweeting the link, adding the signup form on a Facebook page, or embedding the signup calls-to-action on your blog or website. As a best practice, remember to send the first email within a day of subscription.
Set a ScheduleSchedule your email smartly and decide on the right time of the day to send your emails. This should be done according to your customer set. After deciding on the timing, decide on the frequency of the emails. Though much of it is automated per the customer actions, you should always keep in touch with customers at least once a month. In order to do so successfully, prepare an email calendar corresponding with the event marketing, content marketing, and promotional calendar of your brand.
Details MatterFocus on creating a convincing subject line that entices the customer to open the mail. How will you email stand out from the others waiting to be read in the recipient's inbox? Another important point is to keep a personalized sender name. This is because default sender names with no names are often frustrating and look impersonal. The body of the email should be kept as simple as possible and designed for scansion. You need the reader to immediately understand the who, what and why of your email without having to ponder. Always remember to add the alt text to the email buttons and images. This helps the readers in understanding what they are reading if the HTML does not work properly or if the images are blocked by default by the email client. When it comes to styling you should keep the email colors and font true to your brand and be sure you have a transparent version of your logo that is a small file size so it loads fast. In order to create a successful email marketing strategy, always remember to follow these practices. Delight your readers by providing value in each email and optimizing it for any mistakes before sending them. This will help you in having a great email marketing campaign. Need a Newsletter Provider? Here Are Some with Free Versions Mailchimp: Helps small businesses do big things, with the right tools and guidance every step of the way. Constant Contact: Create branded emails, sell products, build a website, and make it easy for people to find you—all from a single platform. Hubspot: Create, personalize, and optimize your marketing emails without waiting on designers or IT.
While the FINSYNC platform receives smaller enhancements every week, we recently released new capabilities that merit mentioning in a blog post. In addition to time-tracking capabilities from a mobile phone, we now have mobile-friendly payments, making the platform even more convenient and efficient. Version 1 of FINSYNC's mobile payments makes life easier for you and those with whom you do business by allowing you to run your business payments from a mobile device. Thank you to our users that gave us feedback during beta testing!
Additionally, your customers can now pay your invoice, and your vendors can now accept a payment from a smartphone making doing business with you more convenient as well.
What’s Included in Version 1?As a FINSYNC user, you may now login to mobile payments and complete these workflows from your smartphone:
- Add/edit customers
- Create and send an invoice
- Add/edit vendors
- Create and pay a bill
- Review your outstanding and past invoices and bills
How Do I Access Mobile Payments?FINSYNC Mobile Payments is a browser-based mobile experience. You do not have to download an iOS or Android application. You’ll find links to the mobile experience when you head to the traditional FINSYNC login screen, and you may also wish to bookmark or even add a tile to your screen pointing to: http://app.finsync.com/mobile We hope you enjoy the new capabilities, and please be on the lookout for more enhancements as we release future versions.
For many small businesses, getting found online became even more important with Covid-19 restrictions causing people to stay home and avoid public places. While online marketing can be complex and involves quite a few cryptic abbreviations, we’ll help you get the lay of the land. You may decide to tackle some of these initiatives yourself, and if not, you’ll be better equipped to speak with a digital marketing professional. To begin with, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and what that refers to is specifically organic search (as opposed to paid search). More specifically, the optimization that businesses conduct is specific to Google as 88.1% of online searches conducted in the United States are on Google. The trailing pack includes Yahoo, Bing and DuckDuckGo, making up roughly 10% combined. A successfully optimized site will start to generate organic traffic. When you type in a search term in Google and hit enter, Google’s algorithm tries to give you the best fit result in position 1 and then follow that on with other great results in sequential order. When someone clicks your listing in the search results, that is organic traffic. You have probably noticed that when you run many searches, Google also displays listings at the very top with the word “Ad.” If you pay Google for an advertisement and receive clicks, you’re getting paid traffic. Optimizing paid traffic is a whole different project. The goal of SEO is to get your site listed as close to the top of the results as you can. Each time Google shows your site, you’ve earned an impression. Each time that impression gets clicked, you’ve earned a click. Each click is a real person that is now on your site that is now counted as a unique visitor. You’ll then hear people talking about conversions. What is generally meant is someone on your site taking an action that puts you in touch with them:
- Purchase of an item on e-commerce site
- Completing a form or otherwise identifying themselves on a service-based website
- Starting a free trial on a software site
So How Do You Get Your Site Shown?The first step is to be sure that Google is aware of your site and its various pages in the first place. You can check this very easily by opening google and seeing how many of your pages it has indexed. Simply follow the format below: In this example, we asked Google how many pages of the site called “mysite.com” are indexed and it returned 66,100 individual pages. If putting in “site:” followed by your url doesn’t return any results, fear not. Share it to Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or other social media and Google will quickly find it and index it.
How Do I Get My Site Ranked on the First Page?Broadly, Google relies on two components to decide what pages should get top placement in its search results: On Page - On page optimization includes many factors that you can improve upon:
- Readability - Is the copy legible, broken up into easy to scan sections, well-written, informative? Google wants to suggest pages that will make the search user happy to be sure your page is easy to read and informative.
- Originality - If your page is a copy of someone else’s, you’ll actually get penalized and other pages within your site may even suffer. Be sure your content is original.
- Load speed - Google will not serve pages that load slowly as users will simply leave and try something else. Be sure you use images that are optimized for the web. You can check the speed of individual pages on your site and get recommendations for free here: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
- Mobile-friendliness - Web searches are more and more happening on smartphones. Android is the #1 operating system globally. Google wants your page to be responsive: easy to read on a mobile device.
- Tagged Correctly - Google asks you to supply some data points to help it summarize your page: ○Page Title - This is what you see in your browser tabs. Include your company name and a blurb about what this specific page is about. ○Page Description - Expand on the page title by giving the searcher more info about the benefit of the page. Google shows this in the search results. ○Header Tags - Google puts extra emphasis on text you label as H1, your top-level headers so be sure these are informative and specific to the page in question. ○Image tags - In addition to text-based search results, Google returns image results. Be sure to clearly label your images using both the Alt and Title tags to tell Google what the photo contains. ○Navigation - Google wants websites to make it easy on the visitor to get between pages. Use clear navigation to help users get around your page. ○Relevance - Google will rank sites that are continually being updated higher than sites that rarely see updates. Starting a blog is a great way to keep your site relevant.
- Create social media profiles and be sure each profile links to your website.
- Share content to social media and be sure each piece you share links to a specific page of yours.
- Claim your profiles on review sites: Google My Business, Yelp, Tripadvisor, OpenTable, etc. are great places to get profiles that link back to your site and may generate direct conversions of their own.
- Make it easy for visitors to share your content. Installing social share buttons is an easy way to make sharing easier for your site. The more your visitors share, the more links and impressions you get.
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