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5 Things That May Be Hurting Your Business

Posted by Ashley Choate on Sep 21, 2016 1:02:24 PM

business tipsThere’s no fool-proof method for running a business. Unfortunately, you don’t get a user’s guide when you file for a business license, and there’s really no fully comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts that will guarantee ultimate entrepreneurial success.

The fact is: every business is different. What works for one business might not work for another. As any good entrepreneur can tell you, success is about observation, creative thinking, and adaptation.

Part of adaptation is the elimination of processes or policies that are no longer working. Many businesses fail to do this, either because they are so used to the rules that no one thinks to question them, or because they fail to realize the damage the old status quo is doing.

It all goes back to paying attention and observing. Of course, as with most things, that’s easier said than done. So, here’s a list of five common areas of trouble for many businesses. These are aspect of business as usual that perhaps shouldn’t be so usual after all—especially since they may be doing more harm than good.

  • Excessive Meetings

How many hours a week does your team spend in meetings? And what is really accomplished during that time? Not every business has issues with this. In fact, some probably don’t have enough meetings, and their business may be suffering from an overall lack of communication.

For many businesses, however, the meeting schedule can get a bit excessive. Try to cut it down by setting a clear agenda of items to be discussed. Then, make sure everyone walks away with a task or a goal from each meeting, so you can see a measurable accomplishment from the interaction. Otherwise, you may be wasting time that is better spent elsewhere.

  • Too Much Time on Email

According to 2012 article in the Washington Post, Americans spend roughly 28 percent or more of their workweek reading, writing, and responding to email. That is literally hundreds of hours per year working on emails.

While they are especially useful in many circumstances, emails are not always the answer to internal communications. Most, especially, long emails are rarely the answer to inner-office interaction, since they are often not thoroughly read anyway. Sometimes, it’s best and faster to just pick up the phone.

  • Red-tape and Roundabouts

Another major time-waster in many larger business offices is an excessive need for approvals for an employee to take action on a project. One reviewer and approver is perfectly reasonable, but when an employee has to go through three layers of management to push an action through on a project, there’s definitely a problem.

With business, there’s always another way, and this case is no exception. There is a less roundabout way to get the job done and ensure it’s still at the expected level of quality. You just have to figure it out. Especially in cases where the approval process has become mostly cursory, let it go. If it’s not absolutely necessary, take it out of the equation and use that time for more productive tasks.

  • Underutilizing Your People

Unless you’re doing it alone, employees are a huge component to your business. They are the lifeblood to getting the job done. Unfortunately, many leadership teams today have forgotten that. With so many aspects of business being run by computers and measured in numbers, it’s easy to forget that you’re dealing with real people day in and day out.

A good entrepreneur builds his business more around the people than around the processes and policies. Good people will be what makes the different between failure and success, so find them and be good to them. They will be the core of what makes your business strong, if you motivate them and use their talents accordingly.

  • Stifling Management Team

One final aspect that can be a problem for some businesses is the attitude of the management team towards employees. A good manager can turn an entire office around, while a bad one can run it into the ground quickly—even with highly capable employees on staff.

Usually, however, the problem is somewhere in between. How management approaches employee ideas and brainstorming, how open they are to listening without judgement, can make a big difference in morale and productivity. Strong, highly effective managers encourage their employees without judgement and will listen to ideas with an open mind. The right attitude can make all the difference.

While your business may or may not be struggling in the areas listed above, there could be other areas of weakness within your organization. Look for time-wasters and common activities that are not producing the results they were intended to produce. Then, do what any good entrepreneur would do—get rid them and find something that does work. Adapt and step outside of the status quo, and you might find the key to your success along the way.

Six Business Functions on an iPad

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Automotive Social @ Flickr CC.

Tags: entrepreneur, business tips

5 Things to Know About Accepting ACH Payments

Posted by Ashley Choate on Sep 14, 2016 1:34:55 PM

ACH PaymentsPayment processing is all about ease, reliability, and options. American consumers like to be able to make purchases and payments in the way they most prefer—and in fact, they expect it.

Some don’t trust payment cards and prefer cash, while a few are still wary of online electronic payment systems. Then, there’s the rest of us, who just want to be able to use whatever method we have on hand so we can walk away and check the pay bills box on our to-do list as completed.

On the business side, of course, you want to be able to take those payments, regardless of whether or not your customer left her card at home today or the unfortunate time when he is short on cash and forgot to hit the ATM. You never want miss out on taking a customer payment because you didn’t have a method available—especially if the customer is ready and willing to pay.

For that reason, most business owners are wisely expanding their payment options. While cards, checks, and cash are well-known, another type of bill pay option is electronic payment via ACH, or Automated Clearing House. The benefits of this type of payment can be very appealing for many small business owners looking to find new ways for customers to easily and conveniently cover bills or purchases.

If you haven’t heard about this type of payment, here are five very important Q & A’s about ACH payments that you’ll need to know in order to understand why most businesses should consider adopting it as a bill pay option.

What is ACH?

This type of payment allows merchants to accept payment directly from a customer’s bank account, instead of having to take checks or cards. ACH payments can be used for recurring billing, direct deposit, B2B transactions, and online payments. The system was originally started as a way to replace paper checks and has increased steadily in usage, with more than $38.7 trillion being transferred by ACH payment in 2013 alone.

How does ACH differ from debit and credit cards?

Because these payments bypass the card system entirely, they also bypass the assessment fees usually charged by credit card networks and processors, although a flat fee per transaction applies. While debit cards and ACH both draw directly from the customer’s bank account, the debit card is subject to the same rules and fees as a credit card because of how it’s processed.

What methods are used to process ACH payments?

There are several methods for processing ACH payments, but some are more difficult to use than others and have different fees associated with making payments. Converge is one example of an easy-to-use payment system that offers ACH, as well as a variety of customizable payment options.

Can my business benefit from ACH?

Most businesses will benefit from offering an ACH option for customer payments, but the businesses with the most to gain are those offering products or services that require a payment schedule. Most ACH payment systems offer automated bill pay as an electronic payment option, which will automatically withdraw a set amount from the customer’s account each month. This process makes regular payment schedules both easy and convenient for businesses and customers. ACH is also useful for any type of online or mobile payment, and with the right system, you can easily store the customer’s information on file in a password protected account where they can easily make future payments with a few clicks or a phone call. Even better, ACH processing is typically more affordable than most other methods of electronic payment, which can save your business money over time.

How do I sign up ACH payment processing services?

You will need to speak with a merchant services provider who can answer your questions about an ACH system and other payment options that work for your needs. With the minimal fees and the diverse functionality of ACH electronic payments, many businesses would benefit by offering the option to clients who need either one-time or recurring bill pay capabilities that don’t involve payment cards.

As a business owner, only you can determine the right steps for expanding and growing your business. Accepting ACH payment is one natural step for growing your business’s capacity for meeting customer needs. If you haven’t already explored the capabilities of an ACH system, take a moment to review the risks and benefits today so you don’t miss out on a low-cost, convenient option to expand your company’s ability to process electronic payments.

  Texas Credit Card Processing Services

 

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.

 

 

Tags: electronic payments, ACH

Solutions to Top Financial Challenges for Legal Firms

Posted by Ashley Choate on Sep 7, 2016 3:17:31 PM

law firm revenue managementBilling and collections are important, if deeply unliked, parts of business in every field, including the legal industry. Law firms face the same cash flow management issues as other businesses when it comes to unpaid or past due bills. Unfortunately, small to medium-sized firms are not always able to devote the manpower to make a real change in their overall numbers.

According to a recent LexisNexis survey of more than 300 law firms in the U.S., roughly 73 percent of firms struggle with past due accounts. In that same survey, almost half the survey participants, 45.6 percent, indicated that after 90 days, those past due accounts are “unlikely” or “very unlikely” to ever be paid.

Considering the general cost of retaining legal counsel, the financial challenges a small law firm will experience due to unpaid accounts can be significant, especially as they add up. Taking into account the survey above, where surveyed law firms reported that between 10 and 39 percent of their overall customer bases had outstanding or unpaid bills, the occurrence is far too commo. That’s thousands of dollars in some cases that are going uncollected.

Now, of course, two questions remain: how is this happening and how do you stop it?

The causes will vary for each situation, of course, but one source could be from a lack of focus on collections and billing in your firm. With so much going on in a law firm, all the research and the time devoted to obtaining and retaining clients, sometimes the details of collecting on unpaid or past due bills can be lost.

Fortunately, there are ways to make the collections and billing process easier, as well as a few tools and solutions available that can help you bring accounts current quickly and efficiently. While there’s definitely no cure-all for bad debt and past due accounts—you’ll always have a few—minimizing the total number of past due accounts at your firm can help remove financial challenges and improve cash flow.

  • Card on File – As with any business today, the legal industry thrives on consumer satisfaction. Since consumers expect businesses to accept debit and credit cards, most legal offices would understandably have the capability to process payment cards. What they might not have is a card on file option, to make it even easier for clients to pay retainers or other standing legal fees—and the easier you can make it, the happier most clients will be. Storing client information will also save on time and paired with online or phone payment options, can ensure easy and efficient payment access for your clients.

  • Recurring Billing – An even more promising option for efficient cash flow management is recurring billing. Particularly for clients who either have payment plans or have enlisted your firm for repeated or long term service, recurring billing will ensure that regular, hassle-free payments are made on-time each month. This option is easier for clients and more reliable for helping reduce your firm’s financial challenges.

  • Multiple Account Options – One important consideration for the legal industry is the versatility of payment methods to meet legal standards. In cases like Texas’s laws regarding Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) and other legal requirements pertaining to separate accounts for holding funds, systems like NTC’s Converge can be especially helpful for cash flow management that meets legal standards. The Converge system allows law firms to accept payments and direct those funds towards different accounts, instead of standard payment card programs, which only direct money into one primary account. The ability to direct cash flow into the appropriate accounts will help law firms meet legal industry requirements and client needs efficiently and beyond reproach.

Every industry has its challenges, and the legal industry in particular is held to a high standard due to the sensitive nature of the work many lawyers perform. Your clients need to be able to trust you and your team to do an effective job, and much of your time will be devoted to nurturing that trust and providing the best legal services possible.

Don’t let a lack of focus on billing and collections be your downfall. With the right technology, cash flow management within your practice can become easier and far more efficient, improving your bottom line in a way that will benefit not only you and your team, but also your practice’s overall financial success.

  Texas Credit Card Processing Services

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood.

Top Photo Courtesy of Ken Teegardin @ Flickr CC.

 

Tags: legal industry, billing and collections

Making the Hiring Process a Creative One

Posted by Ashley Choate on Aug 31, 2016 2:30:12 PM

creative hiringHiring the right people for your team can be challenging. Job posting sites and hiring agencies bring in huge numbers of resumes, all of which you or your Human Resources (HR) department have to sift through to find candidates that meet the basic requirements. Then, you have to further sort and interview to find one or two people who are “right”—and even then it’s easy to make mistakes. 

Today, employers have learned the value of finding candidates with the right attitudes and perspectives regarding the work and the work environment. This outlook on hiring is wonderful in the long run because it means new employees tend to stay longer and be more productive, since they actually like what they do and fit in with the team. The downside: the process can be long and grueling.

To reduce the headache, maybe it’s time to get creative. 

Hiring doesn’t have to be painful. If you expand the ways you find candidates and open your mind to new sources, you might be amazed at who’s out there and excited for a new opportunity. Step outside of the job-posting-site box  and consider that the best candidate for the position may not even be looking at the moment, or perhaps they simply don’t frequent the site you’re looking at. Or, maybe you’ve even met them before in a different context, and all you need to do is make an offer.

Below are some cost effective and creative methods for finding and hiring the right person for your team.

  • Encourage employee referrals. Who better to help you find candidates who will fit with your team that people who are already on the team? Your HR team can eliminate any unqualified candidates, but personality cannot be determined by facts on a piece of paper and coworkers with friends on staff are more likely to be satisfied with their positions for the long term.
  • Use social media, particularly LinkedIn. When you can’t find someone through direct referral, use social media. Sites like LinkedIn are particularly helpful, since they give you a glimpse into the professional background of potential employees along with a taste of personality. Other sites, like Facebook and Instragram, give you a more full picture of personality and can help you single out candidates for hire that will fit in your organization.
  • Be visible at places and events where your ideal employees might be. Either through online forums and blogs or through real-time events such as conventions or trainings—no matter your field, there are both virtual and physical gathering places for people with the talents you’re seeking. Be there and seek them out.
  • Consider Facebook targeted demographic ads. Facebook has consistently proven itself to be a powerful outreach tool. You can get your HR-approved job description out there more effectively by utilizing the demographic-based ad tool on Facebook, letting your open position appear on the screens of only those candidates with interests similar to your selected target demographic.
  • Review who you know. Sometimes in hiring, it’s best to stick to what and who you know. Whether it’s someone you’ve worked with in the past or a friend of a friend who you had a great conversation with at last year’s cocktail party, your impression of people outside of the hiring process is usually even more effective than the impression they push upon you when they want the job.
  • Keep your eyes open: talent is everywhere. Most importantly, pay attention to the people around you. You could meet someone at a football game or your kid’s soccer tournament. You never know, and you will not want to miss a good hire when they’re staring you in the face and might be open to the position you have to offer.

Hiring can be a difficult and tedious process, but it’s a vital one to keep your business functioning at its best. Stay positive and trust your gut during interviews and meetings, and avoid talking yourself into hiring someone based only on resume qualifications. Even someone you have to train is often better than someone whose attitude brings the whole office down.

When in doubt, keep looking. The perfect candidates are out there somewhere, just waiting for you to find them and offer them the opportunity to join your team.

Texas Credit Card Processing Services

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Simon Frasier University @ Flickr CC.

 

Tags: hiring

5 Ways to Better Manage Accounts Receivable

Posted by Ashley Choate on Aug 23, 2016 1:59:38 PM

creekIn business, your cash flow is your livelihood, and anything that disrupts that little river of green should be eliminated immediately.

Similarly, the absence of good accounts receivable (AR) practices—a lack that can seriously damage your revenue stream—must be remedied. Firm, consistent policies have to be adopted if you hope for your business to thrive in today’s economy.

Effective AR practices revolve around more than just taking payments. With AR, you need to build an effective system of clear communication, consistent follow-up, and adaptable policies that will also coordinate to help you ensure earned revenue goes exactly where it should—into your business’s bank accounts.

The following steps will help you build a strong plan for your AR team to live by, one that ensures your business’s cash flow doesn’t get clogged up or redirected somewhere along the way.

  • Do your homework. Before you get into an agreement with a client, particularly one that might require a payment arrangement or monthly compensation for services, make sure you know who you’re working with. Check the person or business’s credit, do a little digging into their backgrounds, and generally double check to make sure you’re not getting yourself into trouble by expecting them to ever meet your payment requirements. You do everyone a disservice if you set up a contract or arrangement that the client cannot hope to meet.
  • Get it in writing. If you’ve decided the client is worth the time and risk, make sure you have a contract written up that includes reasonable and clearly defined expectations. The contract will also need exact details about the consequences of not meeting contractual obligations. If the client checks out and appears confident they can meet the contractual expectations, then you’ve done your due diligence to ensure that your time and energy will not be wasted. Ultimately, that’s all you can do, and even then it might not work out—which is why you always set up contingency plans for collecting the money that is owed to you.
  • Stay on top of payments and clients. As part of the contingency plan I mentioned above, your AR team will need to be in constant communication with all your clients who owe funds to your business, whether it’s simply an upcoming payment or a past due account. Regular invoices, clear phone conversations, text messages, and emails should all be part of your arsenal for working with your clients to ensure that funds are paid on time. While not all of your clients will make payments after you’ve reached out to them, many will respond to a simple reminder of their obligations.
  • Don’t be afraid to ditch policies that don’t work. If signing a contract is still getting you a large chunk of clients who are slacking on their obligations, attach a deposit to the initial requirements. If automated payments get a better response in the long run for your contracts, set up an incentive to encourage clients to take that route. Even if it’s a small monetary loss for you, the overall total of bills paid will likely increase enough to make it worth you while. In short, be creative. If something isn’t working or you’re still not getting the results you want, consider making changes, explore effective practices from other organizations, and study your clients’ behaviors for a clue on how to motivate them to make their payments consistently on time.
  • Make it as easy as possible to pay. Ultimately, one of the most effective methods of encouraging your cash flow through AR is very simple: make it easy. That means offering a variety of payment methods and options to your clients. It means allowing for online bill pay, paperless statements, and often automated statements in some cases. The majority of your customers aren’t missing their payments because they don’t want to or don’t intend to pay you. The majority either forget or get distracted. Or the method that you are allowing for payments isn’t as simple as they prefer. Accept credit cards, allow for direct transfer, etc. Give them as many options as possible, and you’ll be surprised how much your cash flow opens up.

Money is the marrow of any business, but it still needs the backbone to support its creation and progress throughout your organization. Effective AR strategies are part of that backbone, so don’t neglect them in your money management plan—especially if your past due numbers are adding up. The right adjustments to your AR practices can make a big difference in your company’s overall success.

Texas Credit Card Processing Services

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

Tags: business management, Payments

Beware of Chip Card Scams

Posted by Ashley Choate on Aug 17, 2016 12:32:51 PM

chip card scamsWe all knew it would happen sooner or later: cybercriminals have found a way to use EMV chip cards to their advantage—except it’s not quite what you might think. Even better, wary consumers should be safe from their schemes.

According to CBS News, cybercriminals are using the roll out of EMV chip cards, and the confusion among consumers about when they should receive their cards, as bait in a phishing email scam. The New York Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are warning consumers to be wary of the any emails asking for personal information in exchange for new EMV chip cards. The emails reportedly contain a malware virus that uploads to the user’s computer or mobile device when the link to “continue the process” is clicked.

Phishing scams have been a popular form of fraud for several years now, so many consumers are already wary of emails coming in from unknown senders—which means few probably fell for the ruse. Even so, the New York DCP warns that EMV chip cards are still vulnerable to some types of fraud, particularly if a card is lost or stolen.

Fortunately, there are fewer methods for hacking the cards, and they’re apparently already having an impact on overall fraud numbers. According to USA Today, Stephanie Ericksen, Vice President, Global Risk Products, reported an 18.3 percent drop in payment card fraud (at the point of sale) during the final quarter of 2015 when compared to the same time in 2014.

Still, even EMV chip cards aren’t perfectly infallible. The most important protection is good decisions on the part of consumers, who must decide what and who to trust when it comes to their electronic and mobile devices, and when it comes to their private information.

Consumers should take the following precautions to avoid identity theft, fraud, or falling prey to other scams like phishing and malware:

  • Do not, under any circumstance, provide your credit card number over email. No legitimate companies will ask you to, so anyone who does ask is suspect.
  • Be wary of any and all links in emails. Often, you can tell when an email is legitimate based on the contents, so be suspicious. When in doubt, contact the individual or company directly before clicking anything.
  • Don’t respond to phishing emails and do not be afraid to ask questions if you receive suspicious phone calls. Make the company wait, if you need to, so you can verify information, particularly with phone calls. If it seems weird, out of the ordinary, or strange, don’t give them any personal information.
  • Be wary of any online payment card transactions, even EMV chip cards. While they are protected by the embedded chip for in-person transaction, online transactions where you type in the account number do not enjoy the same protections. Be cautious and check the site carefully before trusting the business with your payment information.

Ultimately, the best protection against fraud is discernment on the part of the consumers, and a healthy dose of suspicion when it comes to your payment card information. Don’t let hackers, scammer, and cybercriminals make a fool out of you by being caught unawares. Remember: it’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you. 

Texas Credit Card Processing Services

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Richard Patterson @ Flickr CC.

Tags: EMV, fraud scams, Chip Cards

3 Ways to Make Your Business More Tech Savvy

Posted by Ashley Choate on Aug 10, 2016 9:27:04 AM

business technologyBusiness is a lot like chess—you have to think ahead to outmaneuver the competition. In the modern era, getting ahead in business depends entirely on staying informed about advances in business technology.

Every year, new apps, business software, and innovative hardware stream into the market, giving entrepreneurs a veritable feast of options to inspire new ideas.

If you’re intending to take your business down the road less traveled, you’ll need the right business technology tools to see you through the figurative dark of the unknown—and onto the path to success. Much like a good explorer needs a strong flashlight and a big knife when embarking into unexplored territory, a good entrepreneur needs targeted business software and reasonable step-by-step goals to ensure the success of any business venture.

Below are some major business technology trends that cannot be ignored if you hope to get your business up to speed or ahead of the competition.

1) Go mobile - Mobilizing your business is unavoidable in today’s market. Your website, your payment options, and especially your marketing plan all need to appeal to an increasingly mobile consumer population. Make sure you choose software that translates to mobile devices, use mobile credit card readers to accept payments, make sure your website is mobile friendly for both apple and android devices.

2) Automate inventory - Use software that allows you to track inventory electronically. Let’s be honest: time really is money. Or at least, using your time wisely helps you save money. So then, why spend time organizing and tracking your inventory manually when there are advanced business technology tools to do it for you? With the proper integration of information and system coordination efforts, facilitated by business software solutions, your days of finger counting and paper tallying inventory could easily be over. Let the technology work for you.

3) Take your marketing online - It’s incredible, isn’t it? The most amazing business technology tool in this modern age is also the least expensive. Using the internet effectively is essential to any strong business plan—and probably the least expensive way to market yourself in the history of business. Take advantage of it. Start collecting email addresses and launching online email and social media marketing campaigns to bring in new customers and build relationships and loyalty among returning customers. Be smart, fun, and interactive with your customers in a way that past generations of business owners would envy.

Making your business tech savvy starts with laying the right technological foundations, and the suggestions above are really just the minimum steps you need to take to bring your business up to speed. From that point, there are a thousand other amazing business software and hardware options to explore.

New advances in business technology are popping up every day, so keep your eyes and ears open, subscribe to tech forums, and communicate with other business professionals. Know your options, know your “enemy”, and don’t let a lack of business tech keep you locked onto the same old well-trodden path, while your competitors find new, quicker shortcuts to helping their businesses thrive.

Six Business Functions on an iPad

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Talech.

Tags: business software, business technology

Decadent "Liege Style" Waffles Join DFW Food Truck Lineup

Posted by Ashley Choate on Aug 1, 2016 3:16:00 PM

waffle food truck dallasThe first time Bryan Lewis encountered the sweet, decadent taste of “Leige waffles” during a trip to Europe with his wife, he probably didn’t realize how much the delicious Belgian treats would affect his future.  Four years later, Lewis and his brother are now the proud co-owners of Press Waffle Company, the first authentic Belgian waffle food truck in Dallas, Texas.

Press Waffle Company specializes in a variety of Belgian waffle treats that include Nutella, strawberries, whipped cream, and/or bananas, as well as coffee and espresso drinks with beans sourced from locally-owned Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters. Currently, the company is still working to build momentum and will not officially open its “doors” until after its Kickstarter campaign ends on August 14.

After that—well, you’ll have to get in line.

The idea for Press Waffle Company began taking shape when Lewis and his wife returned from Europe and started planning their wedding.

“When we came home we wanted to do a ‘waffle bar’ for dessert at our wedding and could not find these specific waffles anywhere,” says Lewis. “We even gave a few caterers some recipes we found online but no one could replicate what we had experienced in Europe. After all that, I knew there was an opportunity.”

From that point on, Lewis began his research for the right recipes and the best structure for his business, finally settling on a food truck due to the lower startup costs. While the inspiration for the company might sound whimsical, Lewis has actually dedicated more than two years of his life to number crunching and market analysis to ensure the viability of this undertaking—not to mention more than a year perfecting the recipe. In short, he saw a need and turned it to his advantage.

Still, Lewis admits that he is very fortunate to have the support of his family in getting his company off the ground, particularly his brother, who was reportedly “dragged into it” once Lewis had made progress with the recipes (what are brothers for, right?).waffle truck DFW

“I am extremely blessed that my business is family-owned in that each member of my family owns a part of the business because they invested in me and the idea,” says Lewis. “That is something I know not everyone has access to.”

Even with the support of his family, however, Lewis deemed it smartest to stick with a food truck model, since start-up costs are closer to $100K as opposed to the $400K typical for a brick and mortar storefront.

It also helps that food trucks have grown steadily in popularity across the U.S. in certain major cities. Austin, Texas, for instance was home to almost 300 food trucks by mid-2015, and is considered one of the top ten major food truck cities in the U.S. Of course, food trucks that specialize in Belgian waffles are still in the minority anywhere you look.

Despite the lower costs, running a food truck business is no small undertaking. “The problem with food trucks is that, at least in Dallas, the infrastructure is not there to support the trucks. The health codes, lack of available commercial kitchen space, and lack of reputable commissaries for food trucks has been extremely difficult to navigate,” says Lewis. “Also with a food truck we are responsible for booking all of our business.”

But Lewis has a plan: social media.

While social media is important for any small business in today’s highly connected society, it’s especially vital for the food truck industry. The ability to quickly update followers, post times and locations to the whole community, and drop in a few mouthwatering pictures of freshly prepared menu items is game changing, allowing the wandering food trucks to more effectively compete with established, stationary restaurants. "We have put a lot of focus into building an audience before we hit the road,” says Lewis.

So if you find yourself in the Dallas area and you are absolutely craving a delicious coffee and a sweet waffle treat, look them up at www.facebook.com/presswaffleco. Or, stop by their grand opening party on August 27th at the Texas Ale Project for free waffles, games, music, giveaways and Texas Ale Project brews. Your taste buds will thank you.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 

 

Tags: Dallas Business, dallas food trucks

What Are the Advantages of Contactless Payments?

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jul 27, 2016 12:25:59 PM

contactless paymentsPayment card technology changes constantly, with the goal of making the process for buying and selling as easy as possible. The newest development, contactless payments, does all that and more.

Using either radio-frequency identification (RFID) or near field communication (NFC), contactless payment systems allow customers to bypass the swipe or insertion methods for making payments. Instead, they simply wave their payment card, mobile phone, AppleWatch, or other mobile device over the contactless payment reader. It’s quick, easy, and convenient—all things that customers love!

Even more, it’s safe—or at least as safe as it can be, considering the relentless nature of many cybercriminals. Contactless payment systems use the same technology as other systems, with chips that are capable of encrypting data. There is some speculation about criminals taking advantage of the NFC or RFID waves by, for instance, walking around with readers and attempting to gather card data, but the cards themselves are generally secured with pre-set limits, among other protections, and criminals could hardly utilize merchant service systems like card readers without being traceable.

The most popular form of contactless payment—and possibly the safest—is available through mobile devices. Secure payment apps, such as Apple Pay or Android Pay, make contactless payments easier and safer by storing and protecting card information with added layers of encryption, pin requirements, or fingerprint identification.

The whole process is designed to make the buying experience as quick and painless as possible.

Below is a list of ways contactless payment systems can benefit any business—and why they’re here to stay.

  • Fast transaction speed – Contactless payments process faster than any other payment card transaction type, especially new EMV chip and pin insertion readers.
  • Easy to use – Just scan and go, and maybe type in a quick pin or fingerprint. The NFC or RFID scanners are quick and simple.
  • Reasonably secure – Nothing’s perfect, and perhaps contactless systems are less so, but they’re just as secure as most other payment types—and possibly more secure with the use of mobile payment apps.
  • Inevitably taking over – According to a survey by PwC, 49 percent of 1,000 respondents admitted to using wearables. Granted, only 27 percent of those wore smart watches, but let’s be honest about the upward trend in America’s obsession with mobile devices—it’s not going anywhere. Contactless systems are just another part of the draw for mobile, adaptable technology, and they’re not going anywhere either.
  • Just plain cool – Who hasn’t dreamt of a sci-fi world where all kinds of cool things were possible—like swiping your phone over a machine and making a payment? You’ve got to admit, there’s a coolness factor there that is only doing good things for businesses who use the systems.

Needless to say, there are plenty of positives involved with contactless payment systems utilizing NFC or RFID technology. While certain fears regarding security are warranted, the threat is no greater than security concerns about any other type of payment card transaction. Unfortunately, these days no form of digital transaction is completely safe.

Even so, contactless payment systems are likely to grow in popularity over the next few years, since there are more perks than drawbacks—and you cannot downplay the coolness factor. Consumers like them and businesses would be wise to take notice.

 

Texas Credit Card Processing Services

 

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of verifoneqa @ Flickr CC.

 

Tags: contactless payments, NFC

3 Great Summer Vacation Books for Entrepreneurs

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jul 20, 2016 2:31:25 PM

books for entrepreneursSummer is in full swing and kicking. The sun is burning hot, the days are extra-long, and you’re probably stuck in an office somewhere wishing you were beachside sipping a cold drink. You’re definitely not alone.

Or maybe a beachside vacation isn’t what you’re thinking of at all. Maybe you’re dreaming of a way to make bigger changes in your life than a temporary adjustment of scenery. If you’re an aspiring or budding entrepreneur, changes and opportunities probably rule your mental landscape throughout most of the day—and it never hurts to get a bit more inspiration.

Whether you’re a successful entrepreneur already or you would like to dip your toes into some new waters, grabbing a few books on the topic is never a bad idea. In fact, more than one individual has picked up new ideas or renewed passion from the right kind of book at the right time. Maybe that’s just what you need this summer, instead of a sunburn.

Below are 3 great choices for entrepreneurial summer reading—the kind of books that offer a bit of inspiration and a whole lot of guiding wisdom.

For anyone who has tried to go against popular opinion, Grant’s book is destined to be a new favorite. In Originals, Grant discusses the challenges of improving the world and the risks inherent in completely supporting ideas in a bid for progress. More, Grant offers real advice for novel thinkers who have a goal but can’t find the right way to make their ideas heard and seriously considered. The books includes real stories of change and innovation across multiple industries, and the deeper insights on how more than one underdog found a way to challenge the status quo. Amazon reviewers gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

  • Grit, Angela Duckworth

From the outside, many successful people appear to have it easy. Or, perhaps they make it look easy. In reality, the path to achieving larger, greater goals is hell, and those who survive the trek, according to Duckworth, tend to have one thing in common: grit. Duckworth defines “grit” as a combination of passion and perseverance that can shape your life more than any other quality, circumstance, or characteristic you possess. As a respected psychologist, Duckworth offers an in-depth and personal analysis of the qualities required for success and the concept of “genius.” Amazon reviewers gave this book 4.4 out of 5 stars.

At our cores, human beings are creatures of habit. In his book, Roth argues that “design thinking,” a process developed by Roth and other Stanford innovators, could be used by everyday individuals to reach their goals and improve general living habits. Design thinking embraces certain patterns of thought that can become habits if reinforced regularly, such as an inclination for action and tracing problems to their root cause, etc. Once they become habit, these approaches can help men and women in many areas of their lives, from weight loss to job productivity—and once achievement becomes habit, success is likely to follow. Amazon reviewers gave this book 4.3 out of 5 stars.

If you’re craving growth and change, either personally or professionally, the books above are right for you—and there are plenty of other options to choose from as well. Don’t let a lack of inspiration or a momentary lapse in direction knock you off course from achieving your goals. Instead, seek the advice of other innovators and forward thinkers by reading about their own challenges, misdirections, and rerouting adventures. You might find just what you need to get back on track and avoid any further delays to achieving your goals.

Six Business Functions on an iPad

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of  Darkangels @ Flickr CC.

Tags: Books for entrepreneurs