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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.

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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: 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. 

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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. .

 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.

 

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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. .

 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

Things to Look for in Coworking Spaces

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jul 13, 2016 9:16:22 AM

Dallas Coworking SpacesWorking independently or from home has grown in popularity and feasibility within the last decade. According to the New York Times, the number of telecommuters in the U.S. rose by 79 percent between 2005 and 2012, and grew to include roughly 3.2 million workers by 2014.

These changes can easily be attributed to cost-cutting efforts by many businesses and the development of new technology, which has allowed for the reinvention of workplace standards and greater opportunities for those who don’t fit the traditional 9-to-5 model—or who don’t wish to.

Still, there’s something to be said about office culture and having a reserved working space outside of your home. Still, while that sounds nice, when you’re a sole proprietorship, an employee, or a tiny company with very limited office needs, the realities of cost and availability can shut down those thoughts real quick. Or, at least, they once could.

Now you have the option of leasing a coworking space—a desk or office in a larger building where other small business owners, telecommuters, or freelancers are likewise renting out shared office spaces for reasonable prices. Particularly in larger cities like Dallas, there are actually several of these organizations with a variety of coworking spaces available, at different sizes and prices to suit your needs.

If a shared office space is something you’d consider, start looking into your options. The big five in Dallas are:

  • WELD
  • Dallas Cowork
  • The Grove
  • Common Desk
  • Dallas Fort Work

Each offers a different environment, different coworking space options, and different amenities, depending on your needs.  The key, of course, is choosing the right one.

Whether you’re in Dallas, another city, or another state entirely, the following are the key characteristics you should consider when selecting a coworking space that suits your needs.

  • The right vibe. Each space has it’s own feel. "Given the fact that different people show up to different spaces means every space has its own personality," said Jeremy Neuner, CEO of NextSpace (operator of nine different coworking spaces in California), in a recent article. On a purely surface level, some spaces cater to a more posh look while others stick with the coffee house feel, but, more importantly, each space has its own unique dynamic. Depending on your business’s needs, you’ll want to select the space that feels the best for the work you do. And you can even take a test run, since most coworking spaces offer daily, weekly, or monthly leasing options. If you don’t feel right, you’re not locked in or cornered—a feature that surely appeals to most independent business owners, freelancers, and telecommuters, considering they tend to like their freedom and options.
  • The right people. While each space has a different feel overall, the more important differences will be in the people who coexist in each shared office space. You may prefer to work in a space with others who do the same kind of work you do. Or, you may prefer a coworking environment with an entirely different population—which might reduce direct networking opportunities, but open you up to a culture with less politics and more outside-the-box solutions. A point made in a recent Harvard Business Review article was that the greater variety of workers sharing a space, the more opportunities for creative thinking available, a fact that reportedly increased working satisfaction in those interviewed by the article’s authors.
  • The right amenities. Maybe you absolutely need a coffee shop within your shared office space. Perhaps a desk near a window, or a private office, or the availability of conference room spaces are necessary for your work. With the rate of coworking spaces popping up in major cities, there’s a good chance you can find a space that works for all your needs. Make sure you’re clear on what those needs are, though, before making any larger commitments. Some locations do offer year contracts for a private office space. Make sure the space meets all your needs before signing on.
  • The right price. Do your pricing research. Just because one location sounds like a good deal doesn’t mean there aren’t other options out there that might be better. Dallas Cowork, for instance, offers $298 a month rates for 24/7 access to all shared office space facilities, such as team rooms, conference rooms, and private offices, which can be booked based on availability. On the other hand, The Grove gives you the option of a $375 monthly cost for a dedicated desk that is guaranteed to be available for you. Or, Dallas Fort Work offers a $99 ten-day punch card or $199 per month for full access to the available facilities, though dedicated offices run for $600 per month. As you can see, the prices vary greatly, as do the locations and general atmospheres for each coworking space. Pricing is important, but making sure you’re paying for exactly what you need, no more and no less, is even more vital.

If you’re currently working from home for whatever reason and productivity, distractions, and refrigerator temptations are becoming too much of a problem, consider looking into a shared office space or coworking opportunity nearby. It might be just what you need to maintain the freedom of a non-traditional working environment while still benefitting from the routine and work-focused feel of a true office space.

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About 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 Kris Krug @ Flickr CC.

Tags: telecommute, Coworking spaces

How to Open a Business in Texas

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jul 6, 2016 12:21:31 PM

190423890_238a7456e8_m.jpgOpening up your own business is a little like having your first child—you have almost no idea what you’re doing, you’re about to sink a lot of money into it, and you’ll probably be losing a lot of sleep for a good long while in the near future.

But hey, it’s your baby, right?

And just like with your children, location is vital—and Texas is an ideal place to open up a business. Texas’s top four metropolitan cities—Austin, Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, and San Antonio—have all experienced double-digit job growth from 2010 to 2014, which is well above the 8.1 percent national average, and have all been named by Forbes as “cities most likely to boom” within the next decade. Texas was also named 2nd in CNBC’s rankings of America’s Top States for Business in 2015. The state has held a top spot in several different rankings for its pro-small business policies for more than a decade.

Even with the right location, starting a new business is a long process, one often surrounded by a great sense of hope and potential, but also a lot of fear if you’re not certain how to get started. Those first few years are important and meeting all the legal requirements are only part of the process—but a very, very important part.

So, to make sure you don’t stress too much, below are basics for starting your new Texas business. Certainly, there’s a lot more to it in the long run, but these are the initial steps that every business owner must follow to get his/her business off the ground the right way:

  • Select the right structure for your Texas business

The stucture of your business is selected for tax purposes and to determine the general size and liability of your business. You could choose to open any one of the following, but need to make sure you have a business plan in place to support it, as sizes vary.

  • Sole Proprietorship – this is the simplest form where one individual runs the business and controls all assets.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – this is a smaller, unincorporated business structure and is designed to give its “members” some liability protection in the business, meaning that their financial liability is limited to the amount they’ve invested in the business.
  • Corporations – this is a larger structure where more than one individual or groups comes together to create a business that has its own separate legal identity from its owners. There are C Corporations and S Corporations and you’d need to research both to determine what’s best for your business.
  • Partnerships – in this structure you look to build a business with a specific partner. These can be general partnerships, limited partnerships, and registered limited liability partnerships depending on your needs.

Keep in mind that most of these structures are selected based on how big you want your business to be, how involved others might want to be in helping you grow your business, etc. There are several variables with each structure, so do your research and choose carefully.

  • Pick and register a business name

Once you’ve gotten the structuring down, pick your business’s name—and make sure there are no other businesses out there like it, and not just Texas businesses or local startups. You don’t want to get sued by anyone, Texas local or otherwise. Keep in mind, as well, that this is your business’s identity. Make it something you can live with and that your business can thrive on. Think image. Think brand, logo, and growth potential.

  • Request an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

From there, you’ll need to set up a tax indentity with the IRS. The process is, unfortunately, a lot of paperwork, but that’s the IRS for you and pretty much everything can be completed online these days.

  • Freshen up on tax laws and determine your responsibilities on local, state, and federal levels

Even before you receive you EIN, you’ll want to get started researching your tax laws. Texas states laws are actually much simpler than most other states, but there are still tax laws you’ll need to understand. The Small Business Administration also has a great deal of resources available for understanding state tax laws, as well as setting up your business plan, and other tools.

  • Create a business account

By the time you hit this step, the fun is starting. From here, you select the bank you want to work with for your business’s accounts. Many banks offer different incentives for businesses to stick with them. Look around carefully to select the account type and banking location that will best benefit your Texas business or startup.

  • Make it official with licensing, permitting, and registration

Depending on your startup or business type, there may be special permits involved. Make sure your Texas business is setup right by ensuring all licensing requirements meet local, state, and federal regulations and that your building permits and registrations with any local regulatory bodies are handled straight away. Fines and other financial penalties could result from failing to meet regulatory standards.

  • Research and understand employee requirements

Finally, if you plan to have employees and more than a sole proprietorship, know the laws. This includes tax law, workers compensation law, health insurance laws, etc. The state laws for Texas businesses will have their own standards for employee treatment and management practices. Know your obligations and your employees’ rights up front, so you can avoid any misunderstandings or conflicts later down the road.

Creating a Texas startup or business is actually relatively easy compared to several other states, so don’t let the anticipation or fear of the unknown get to you. If you’re ready to get your own business off the ground, then get started by getting your ideas together and knowing all the facts. From there, listen to the consumers, since they rule the market, and don’t be afraid to get creative and have fun.

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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. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Tags: Texas Small Businesses, New Texas Business

5 Ways to Overcome Mental Barriers to Success

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jun 29, 2016 11:25:37 AM

27648314436_28920795be_m.jpgIf it were easy, everyone would do it, right? I’m sure your mom told you that at some point too—and what do you know, she was right.

Still, the concepts involved with achieving success in both personal and professional pursuits appear, on the surface, to be laughably simple. Child’s play, even.

The reality, of course, is much different.

Whether we realize it or not, many of us set up a thousand different roadblocks along the way, causing us to limit our own potential for success. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Once we realize the habits we are indulging that might be limiting our abilities, we can take steps to eliminate the problems and overcome any mental barriers we might unconsciously be placing in our own way.

  • Have a vision. To achieve success, we have to have a clear idea of what success means to us. It’s not going to be the same for everyone, and scrambling about in the dark trying to grab onto some vague notion of success isn’t going to help us achieve anything. We need to establish clear goals and a clear picture in our minds of what we hope to accomplish. The vision, of course, is the bigger picture, but it’s important to establish smaller steps along the way. If the vision is to be financially comfortable and able to retire at 60, we need to take a clear look at savings and spending goals within that time span and do our best to stick to the plan.

  • Don’t give into emotional impulses. As human beings, we are all ruled by emotions. Sometimes they can be overpowering, and it’s important to recognize when those times arise. Challenges in daily life, an argument with a friend or business partner, a death in the family—all of these can have significant impacts on our ability to make sound judgments. Sometimes, we need to step back and divorce ourselves from these strong emotions to make the right choices. If our vision is strong and clear, we can often stay on the right path more easily.

  • Seek perspective. One of the more important aspects of success is having the right perspective. This is easier said than done, I understand. This can be challenging when taking a chance on a risky venture or trying to discern which things take a higher priority over others. Before making any choices, it’s important to gain perspective on what we’re doing and what we hope to accomplish. This means thinking beyond our gut impulse. We need to do research, seek information, discuss the decision with any and all key shareholders—even our teenagers might have some perspective we find useful. We don’t know it all, but neither does anyone else. But we can try to know as much as possible about the challenge at hand, before making any big decisions.
  • Expect failure. As most of us have already discovered, failure is a part of life. Regardless of our vision, sometimes we’re going to experience setbacks. It’s ok. It may not be ideal, but it’s temporary, and we can always learn something. Maybe we’ve set a goal and failed to meet it. This does not mean we give up trying. We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off keep at it until we’ve accomplished what we set out to do. Failure is just one stepping stone along the path. It does not have to be the end, unless we allow it to be.
  • Embrace doubts, but don’t let them rule you. Doubt, like fear, is healthy. It’s designed to be a warning mechanism. Heed it, but only in so much as it pushes us to be cautious. That does not mean that we shouldn’t make that entrepreneurial leap and try something new. It simply means that before we drop the funds or reserve the building, we need to know that we’ve assessed all the possible risks and that we are prepared for both success and failure. Doubts allow us to develop contingency plans and to test the ground we stand on.

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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.

Top Photo Courtesy of Abhijit Bhaduri @ Flickr CC.

 

 

Tags: business success, business tips

Government is NOT Laughing at Payment Jokes

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jun 22, 2016 12:22:12 PM

13859755804_3f99bf33c8_z.jpgSo you’re buying that last round of drinks, joking about your plans to take over the world, and you happen to carry over the joke into your payment memo line—and suddenly your payment is flagged and you’re under investigation for possible terrorist connections.

Seem implausible? Well, it’s actually happening. Banks and other financial institutions across the U.S. are taking any possible mentions to terrorism or its affiliations very, very seriously.

According to the Dallas Morning News, one man in San Francisco, Bruce Francis, was flagged by his bank for trying to pay his dog walker. Apparently, the dog’s name appeared in the memo line and was flagged for its similarity to an alternative name for ISIS. The dog, Dash, is not in any way affiliated with Daesh, the ISIS-affiliated term, and, according to his owner, “Seriously, the only thing Dash could terrorize is a roast chicken.”

According to Claes Bell, a mobile editor for bankrate.com, this type of thing is happening constantly. In order to assess industry trends, Bell regularly checks online social media and other commonly available information. According to the research, flagged and blocks payments have surged in recent months.

I went online to Twitter,” says Bell, “and looked at the mentions of customer service problems for financial institutions. More and more complaints started popping up from people saying, I tried to pay my friend back for some Cuban food we bought the other day, and the payment got flagged.’”

One mobile payment app, in particular, seems to be getting hit the hardest, due to a social trend of adding jokes in the memo lines. The Venmo app is best known for allowing customers to make quick and easy payments between individuals. The app is a creation of Paypal and users can link up bank accounts safely in order to quickly transfer $10, $15, or $20 to pay someone back for picking up the bill when cash isn’t easily on hand. It’s a brilliant idea, but the memo lines gets used by customers for all kinds of emojis, inside jokes, and silly slogans.

One of the more controversial situations came from a complaint made by Arman Ghorbani, a neuroscience researcher from Los Angeles, CA who used the memo line “Persian New Years Celebration” when paying back a friend using the Venmo app. The payment was rejected, as were any additional attempts that included the words “Iran” or “Iranian”. In an effort to test the boundaries of Venmo monitoring, Ghorbani issued a payment using the words “Hookers & hard drugs”. The payment went through without problems.

While it’s admirable that Venmo and U.S. banks are looking to err on the side of caution, situations like those described above are beginning to interfere with consumer payments and business as usual. The reality is that references to ISIS or any of it’s associated names are unlikely to be linked to actual payments for terrorist activities.

For consumers and business owners moving forward, the best steps to take in avoiding any interference with payments or financial processing is to avoid any and all references to terrorist organizations. In creating memo lines, being general and non-specific is probably for the best. For financial processors and app developers, hopefully we can get a handle on the appropriate triggers and concerns for tracking real terrorist activities.

Until that’s sorted, it’s probably best to keep your sense of humor tucked far away from any financial matters or memo lines—no matter how tempting it might be.

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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. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Nicolas Raymond @ Flickr CC.