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Seven Great Resources for Startup Businesses

Posted by Rachida Essadiq on Mar 24, 2015 12:59:00 PM

8409313926_33626e3a62_mCreating a successful startup can be a dream come true for many. Yet channeling your energy through the initial phases is no easy task. The Internet is full of tips and resources aiming to help, but how do you separate the wheat from the chaff? We’ve gone ahead and condensed some resources for the major seven aspects of the startup process.

Legal Advice
When creating your start-up, it’s extremely important to have a solid understanding of applicable laws. Startuplawyer.com focuses on tips for new businesses and offers legal services. LegalZoom.com offers similar business resources. It also serves as an especially affordable means to incorporate- only $99 plus state filing fees.

Finding a Domain Name
Building a website can be a crucial step for your startup’s brand and having no domain is akin to not having a business. Start with leandomainsearch to find an available domain name for your business. Afterwards, move onto Network Solutions to register your new domain.

Read Up
Nick Taranto, co-founder of plated.com, recommends diving into the right books before taking major next steps. Taranto started with Lean Startup and Four Steps to Epiphany. Lean Startup by Eric Reis focuses on how to test the foundational idea of your new business. “Any start-up,” claims Reis, “is an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” Lean Startup provides steps to take to begin to clarify that uncertainty. Four Steps to Epiphany offers more bread and butter advice from current Stanford University professor and Silicon Valley startup creator Steve Blank.

And Continue to Read Up
In addition to books, there are plenty of updated online sites and blogs offering tips for new businesses. VentureHacks.com is one of the most reliable sources of startup resources on the net and is linked to AngelList, an investor resource listed below. Inc. offers similar content for small businesses while adding a big businesses ethos.

Investing
Connecting with investors is a critical business resource for startups. Websites such as AngelList and f6s are designed as a social network for startups and angels alike. Also check out TheFunded to see how investors have rated other startups and to learn their mindset.

Freelancing
Freelancers can provide a much needed service for new companies and nowadays, many freelancers can be found affordably online. Fiverr provides services of all sorts beginning at $5.

Payment Processing
If you want to begin receiving payments on your website, or turn your phone into a point of sale system, you will need to find a payment processing company. Find these and other merchant service options at NTC Texas.

There are hundreds of tips for new businesses out there, which may be overwhelming at first. Add these resources to your list as you get a grasp on what’s available.

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About The Author
Jordan_HooverJordan Hoover is a Dallas native returned home. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. from Loyola Marymount University. He of course loves writing, reading, playing music, and learning new things everyday. Connect with him over LinkedIn, at www.linkedin.com/in/jordanhoover

Top photo courtesy of Helsenberg Media @Flickr CC.

Tags: new businesses, startups, new business resources

Cultivating B2B Customer Referrals

Posted by Rachida Essadiq on Mar 18, 2015 10:14:14 AM

7975205041_7a5e4b65ff_mA recent Small Business Trends study found 85% of small businesses receive customers from word of mouth referrals. This doesn’t mean the process doesn’t require tact, however. It involves trust, relationship building, and awareness. Are you using this strategic line of marketing to the fullest? Here are six ways to shorten your sales cycle and not squander a golden opportunity for generating more business.

Ask at the Right Moment
The first step is to capitalize on peak moments in the B2B relationship. If the process has been going well, be on the lookout for positive moments. For example, the payment period is a built in opportunity to ask for customer referrals if, in fact, you felt that your client was provided excellent service. Don’t hesitate or be afraid to ask for referrals during these times, remember people like to help others. A referral is a perfect opportunity to do just that.

Be Specific
Guerilla Marketing authors suggest that when asking satisfied customers to refer someone, you need to “narrow the universe.” In other words, limit their selection to a particular group. This increases the probability a customer will have a contact in mind. It also serves as a way for your company to be in their thoughts the next time they have a relevant meeting.

Feedback
Another powerful strategy is requesting feedback and testimonials, both written and verbal. Measuring satisfaction lets you improve your product or service and offers yet another opportunity to seek referrals. It’s also a great way to remind the customer that they had a positive experience with your company, creating another peak opportunity.

It’s a Two Way Relationship
In a B2B relationship, find ways to reward customers by returning the favor. This may mean featuring the company on your webpage, or granting them special status at an event. Try to be sincere, not only in regards to quality of service, but with referrals and promotional materials as well.

Stay in Touch
Even a positive B2B experience can wear off fast after the initial exchange has ended. Although small gifts are helpful, non-monetary recognition can do wonders for a business relationship as well. Be open about the process as you move forward. When emailing or starting a relationship with a new business, be sure to keep the original referee in the loop. This lets your advocate know you appreciate the lead and allows them to feel valued.

Soften the Pitch
Always have in mind your competitive advantage. Remember, however, that word of mouth referrals are not cold. When initiating a referral B2B relationship, you don’t have to full force pitch your product, but can ease into the sale.

Customer referrals can be the most affordable marketing tool for your company, so why have any excuse to lose these valuable contacts? Don’t hesitate to ask for these referrals at the right moments and be open about your referral process. Having a thoughtful, well strategized system can create a funnel of high quality leads for your business.

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About The Author
Jordan_HooverJordan Hoover is a Dallas native returned home. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. from Loyola Marymount University. He of course loves writing, reading, playing music, and learning new things everyday. Connect with him over LinkedIn, at www.linkedin.com/in/jordanhoover

Top photo courtesy of Chris Potter @Flickr CC.

Tags: Business, B2B, Business Referrals

Could You Run Your Entire Business From Your Phone?

Posted by Rachida Essadiq on Mar 10, 2015 4:25:00 PM

telephone-586266_640-1Society’s addiction to smartphones is comparable to society’s obsession with smoking in the 50’s. We can’t go a day without them and they’re especially convenient for lulls in social situations. They’ve also become a staple in modern day business. Even more radically, “10% of executives claimed smartphones were their exclusive device for day-to-day decision making,” according to Forbes. But is it really possible, for managers and entrepreneurs to manage a business effectively from a smartphone? Let’s take a look into the increasingly influential idea of a completely mobile business.

Business Focused Mobile Apps

Moore’s Law of increasing processing power is holding true. As smartphones have become stronger, app capability has increased. Business functions like tracking sales and managing inventory are now available. In December, IBM and Apple released IBM MobileFirst for the iPhone, which includes a whole slew of first-rate apps for a “business world…gone mobile,” as the press statement enthusiastically claims. These don’t even include the basics. There are apps that organize your day and email, such as Evernote or Podio, Skype for face-to-face calling, and cloud services that make data easily accessible for various employees. There are hundreds of mobile payment providers, apps such as talech, or NCR Silver. All have been revolutionary for a mobile business.

The Gigging Economy

Grabbing an Uber cab isn’t the only service that is a click away from your phone. Fiverr, a popular freelance website, is a good example of a cheap, quick iteration. Browsing the website, you can find someone willing to write you a song, create a marketing plan, or write code for five dollars. This cuts both ways for mobile businesses. It means those freelancers doing the “gigging” have the freedom to work and communicate off their phones and small businesses owners can have the same freedom in requesting the service. For both sides, it’s a big push for a more mobile business.

Cons

There are still some drawbacks to an all-mobile business. It’s harder to create and review documents. The small screens themselves may make it difficult to navigate at times. Data security could also be an issue, especially when using your personal phone. Hackers are aware that more business is being conducted on phones and are creating new malware for those less protected mobile devices. Phones also tend to get lost more often, which means it is extremely important to have apps that let you remotely wipe and lock data. Doing business from your cell also creates a double edge sword of location flexibility and twenty-four hour accountability.

While keeping these drawbacks in mind, running a business off your phone is certainly a possibility. With more powerful business focused apps, easy mobile payment options, and freelance websites running a mobile business may be in the foreseeable future.

Mobile POS Guide


About The Author

Jordan_HooverJordan Hoover is a Dallas native returned home. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. from Loyola Marymount University. He of course loves writing, reading, playing music, and learning new things everyday. Connect with him over LinkedIn, at www.linkedin.com/in/jordanhoover

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Tags: mobile

Beware of Phishing Tax Scams

Posted by Rachida Essadiq on Mar 4, 2015 1:34:00 PM

4894714911_42f0f50f72_mWhen dealing with the IRS, the first thing they will tell you is they won’t ever “initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media channels to request personal or financial information.”

This means those “official” emails you are getting from the IRS are surely scams. Specifically, an often used email scam called “phishing” that will be especially prevalent during tax season 2015. Although this kind of scam is troublesome, exploiting the power of the IRS to make a quick buck, it is also one of the easiest to spot if you are educated and mindful.

What is Phishing?

One of tax season 2015’s listed “Dirty Dozen” scams, phishing consists of fake emails or websites that are used to steal personal information. Although phishing scams can be conducted by many “phishers” using un-tax related topics, the tax season is ripe for scamming. These emails may claim you owe money or are due a refund and seek additional information as a means of “identity verification”. To encourage participation in the scam, the scammers will promise to either remove penalties or threaten an audit if their demands aren’t met. For example, in a particularly good tax scam from last years’ season, an email stated the payee’s payment was rejected and additional information was needed to remedy the situation. The end goal for the scammer is to get your payment or your personal information which will be used to create a false identity. Most emails allege they come from the IRS, although also be aware of those from related agencies such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS).

Signs to Look For

Although many phishing scam e-mails may pass as official upon first look, there are many simple ways to detect these threats. First, check from where the email is being sent and the reply-to address, do they have a .gov domain? Second, scan the email for grammar. Usually the writing will have mistakes and will seem “off”. Of course, the scammer will also be a lot pushier than you would expect from the IRS, demanding that you take a one-time, immediate action to solve your problem. Some will have links to the scammer’s websites, or will ask you to send sensitive information by following a link on the email. Finally, is there a deal that is too good to be true? If it seems too good, it is.

An example of a typical fraudulent email can be found on the IRS website.

What to do

Be aware, simply opening the scam e-mail may cause your computer to become infected with a virus. However, if you receive one of these fake emails and have already opened it, don’t reply, click on any links, or open attachments. If possible, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov so that the IRS can be made aware of the scam, then be sure to delete the original, or move it to your junk folder.

Tax season is a stressful time for any business. Be sure not to give scammers a reason to make it a whole lot worse. Be aware of phishing and any of the other “Dirty Dozen” schemes. If in doubt, remember the IRS will never ask you for information over an unsolicited email, they prefer to reach you with regular mail.

Download Security Tip Sheet

About The Author
Jordan_HooverJordan Hoover is a Dallas native returned home. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. from Loyola Marymount University. He of course loves writing, reading, playing music, and learning new things everyday. Connect with him over LinkedIn, at www.linkedin.com/in/jordanhoover

Top photo courtesy of Edwind Richzendy Contreras Soto @ Fllickr CC

 

Tags: security

Gaining Business Loyalty From The Elusive Millennial

Posted by Rachida Essadiq on Feb 23, 2015 5:11:00 PM

8424407891_2a321c6345_mMuch has been written about the need to find marketing strategies to the rising spending power of the elusive Millennial (ME) generation. Born from roughly 1982-2004 and representing $10 trillion in generation spending, they are increasingly having a bigger role to play as consumers. They are also redefining marketing trends, one of the biggest being their seemingly nonexistent brand loyalty. There is hope, however. Many brands from Chipotle to the Dollar Shave Club are successfully creating brand loyalty among this elusive generation. Here are some quick tips on how to keep this generation coming back for more.

Not No loyalty. Co-loyalty

Yes, MEs do trade up and trade down. Remember, they grew up in a world where the Internet and globalization have opened plenty of options of where to get a product. Don’t think this means that MEs have no brand loyalty. This new generation simply has new rules. 34% of Generation Y have a bachelor’s degree or higher, up 10% from boomers, according to Pew. Combine that with technology and tough economic times and you get a new mix.

So what do they want? According to Jeff Fromm, a Millennial Marketing expert, Millenials want to be an active participant in the brand. Loyalty comes from the uniqueness of the content and the willingness to let customers “co-create” the brand with the company. Companies that “create meaningful and unique interactions will be the most successful with Millennials,” says Fromm.

Transparency

It’s a major turn off for Millenials when a company seems like they are hiding information to sell a product. Not only is it insulting to their ability to research, it makes them doubt the reliability of the brand.

The easiest way to counteract this is to embrace the wide array of Internet ready information. Use it to your advantage and let customers rate products, comment, and share messages from the brand on their own terms. Be willing to share how you run your business and create products. Advertise your corporate social responsibility efforts as frequently as possible. Millennials like companies that mirror their own values, and showing how your company is part of the community- at events, on social media, or on your website- is a big plus.

Make Your Website Easy to Navigate

Before you embrace the Internet, of course, having a great website is a must. This may seem like an obvious tip, but this is usually a MEs first real interaction with a company. A big mistake would be to assume that just because members of this generation are digital natives, they can figure out any website. In fact, the opposite is true. “Millennials expect technology to just work, so make sure it does,” points out Micah Solomon, a customer service consultant for various generations. To Millennials, the website represents the effort the company is willing to put into their image, as well as how it will treat its customers. Don’t turn them off because it is not as polished, sleek, and simple as possible.

Understand that Generation Y may be changing some of the rules, perhaps for the better. Make sure your brand is interactive and open. Have a great web presence to facilitate co-creation and shareable content… and you may find the Millennial dilemma may not seem so bad after all.

Mobile POS Guide

About The Author
Jordan_HooverJordan Hoover is a Dallas native returned home. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. from Loyola Marymount University. He of course loves writing, reading, playing music, and learning new things everyday. Connect with him over LinkedIn, at www.linkedin.com/in/jordanhoover

Top photo courtesy of Francisco Osorio @ Fllickr CC

Being a Good Boss

Posted by Jackie Clews on Feb 17, 2015 11:21:00 AM

It’s safe to say we’ve all had that one boss, the one that makes you question the decision-making skills of authority figures everywhere, the one whose arrogance is only topped by his/her need to be unquestioned and respected—and the one whose actions set all the wrong examples.

So how do you avoid becoming that person? 

boss-and-leaderFewer of us have ever encountered truly good bosses, though most have probably had at least one or two good experiences. And the good ones—the truly awe-inspiring individuals that few of us have ever encountered—make it look so darn easy. But in reality, it’s a lot harder than you might think to consistently inspire respect and loyalty. We all say that one day, when we’re the boss, things will be different- right? But how do you actually make that happen?

Below are some useful tips on how to become the boss you’ve always wanted to be.

  1. Be a leader, not a boss. In reality, a boss and a leader are fairly synonymous but the words have different connotations—and that difference is an unmistakably important nuance: choice vs. force. A boss is an overlord, a dictator—someone who owns you or your time for a while and seeks to enforce a certain reality upon you. In contrast, a leader is someone whose choices and mandates you trust. Maybe you’re there because you have to be—we are all slaves to our paychecks to some extent—but the forerunning thought in your brain about a leader is that you can trust him or her to make good decisions, to lead by example, and to have your best interests at heart.
  2. Show, don’t tell. This phrase is well-known to writers, but managers, bosses, and leaders everywhere can learn a few lessons from the concept. It’s easy to tell people what you plan to do, to make big, grand speeches about a vision or a path, to attempt to inspire with presentation and gusto, but those will only take you so far. Yes, it’s important to speak and communicate effectively—for a boss, it’s essential—but actions speak best. So yes, outline your plans, but keep it brief and simple. Less is more. Observe more than you critique, ask more than you tell, and do more than you expect others to do. These are the actions of a leader who is worth following.
  3. Know your employees and their jobs. A recent study completed by researchers from three different universities found that employee satisfaction actually quadrupled when their direct boss could actually do their jobs if needed. The concept doesn’t seem all that far-fetched—shouldn’t the person critiquing and gauging your performance understand all the factors of your work intimately? Reality, however, shows that, especially with larger companies, managers often don’t know all the details of how their employees complete their work. In this case, take the time to ask. Even if it means humbling yourself down to spending a few days or a few weeks learning from each of your employees, the interaction will both improve your knowledge of the work they do, how they do it, and what skills they can offer, but also of who they are and what their needs might be. The experience will be both challenging and rewarding, for newer and more experienced managers alike.

By making these tips the principles of your foundation as a leader, you will create a work environment that is open, respectful, and positive. After all, respect must be earned and it is a two-way street. Bosses who do not respect and value their employees will always have a hard time keeping the good ones.

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AshleyAbout 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. .

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Tags: small business, leadership, management

Credit Card Factoring is Money Laundering

Posted by Jackie Clews on Feb 10, 2015 10:26:00 AM

big court roomAccepting credit cards is smart for any business in this era; however it is important to know and follow all of the card industry rules and Federal and State laws that govern card acceptance. While the common belief among society is that money laundering is only the worst thieves moving ill-gotten funds around within the criminal underworld, there is a little known activity within money laundering called credit card factoring that can cause big problems for merchants that accept credit cards.

Below is a description of credit card factoring, how to avoid it, and some of the problems that will occur if you’re not diligent in educating your staff on how to prevent it.

What is credit card factoring?

Any credit card transaction that is processed by a different merchant than the actual merchant selling the product/service or any transaction that uses a different merchant account not directly affiliated with the business can be considered credit card factoring.

The transaction can be as simple as a business using the next-door neighbor’s credit card terminal to process a single transaction because they don’t take credit cards or their terminal is down but more commonly it is a complex series of transactions within a scam.

For example, a fraudulent telemarketer will recruit a business owner or unsuspecting employee of a business that does possess a merchant account to process transactions for them. The customer’s account is charged for the goods or service and the business who will become the victim gives the proceeds of the sale to the telemarketer. However, when the customer contests the charge on their statement as a chargeback because they didn’t buy anything from the victim, the bank will have to refund the money to the customer and processes the chargeback against the merchant account. It becomes the responsibility of the victimized business to go after the telemarketer for the lost funds. Unfortunately, the telemarketer is long gone with the money and the business owner is out of luck.

“In many cases, these companies need other merchants to process their credit card transactions because investigations and credit checks by banks and/or credit card companies revealed that these companies are bad risks and may end up having excessive charge-backs,” wrote Cheryl Linkloff in an inc.com article on credit card laundering.

How do you avoid it?

The simplest way to avoid factoring is to refuse to process any credit cards for another company—at all. This includes your neighboring store whose credit card machine is down. It may seem strict but there are serious liability issues involved and once you’ve processed a charge on your merchant account, you are legally liable to back up that charge and respond to any bank inquiries about potential chargebacks. If the banks find that you are not the actual originator of the sale, you could be in trouble.

But knowing this information and keeping it to yourself also does little good. Effective training on card processing practices and the consequences of ignoring the rules must be impressed upon any employee who processes transactions. While the issue might not come up regularly, you never know when someone who is ill-informed is asked to make this one exception, just this one time.

The Consequences

Financial liability for any losses associated with the transaction is the first, most minor, concern. Your business, as the merchant who processed the charge, would be responsible for the cost if the customer reports the charge as fraud. When it’s your own store and product, that’s one thing, but vouching for and guaranteeing the charges of another merchant is not wise.

More importantly, though, credit card factoring is considered fraud/money laundering and is a class C felony. Criminal prosecution stands as the biggest risk, but businesses might also lose the ability to work through a third party merchant for credit card processing, which can also result in serious financial losses. While criminal prosecution is mostly reserved for obvious criminal intent, small mistakes can also hurt your business because outside merchants will not want to take the risk of becoming involved in a criminal prosecution.

Bottom line: educate your employees and ensure that they are reminded regularly of the risks associated with accepting fraudulent cards or processing payments for others. Your customers will thank you for it.

Download Security Tip Sheet

AshleyAbout 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: credit card, factoring, money laundering

Does Your Business Have a Social Media Policy?

Posted by Jackie Clews on Feb 4, 2015 11:13:00 AM

describe the imageIf not, perhaps it should? What just a few years ago seemed like a novelty for most businesses, social media interaction is becoming a necessary part of a solid marketing or public relations strategy in today’s world. But as much as social media can make a business, it can also break one.

With the recent “off-color” posts of a Crayola Facebook page hacker and the suggested hacking of several social media accounts belonging to the United States Military’s Central Command, we got to thinking how critical social media conduct can be to a business or organization.

So why is it SO important to have a social media policy in place?

Protect Confidential Company and Customer Information
There is nothing worse than having a cranky employee go on a social media tirade and expose confidential information about your company or customers. Establishing policies outlining the consequences for exposure of sensitive company information sets the tone that makes employees think twice before impulsively posting on social media.

Set Expectations for Social Media Responsibilities
A well written social media policy will clarify who is responsible for managing the different aspects of company social media platforms including passwords, security, design, content and special campaigns.

Determine Appropriate Social Media Behavior
Many employees, openly advertising their employers online, need guidance in proper social media conduct. It should be made distinctly clear that if an employee is affiliated with your business online, their profile is reflective of company principles and values.

Clarify the Definition of Social Media
Contrary to popular belief, social media is more than Twitter and Instagram. Social Media encompasses everything from blogs to online forums to Youtube comments. Articulating all of these avenues specifically can help employees understand the total realm of their responsibilities.

Educate Employees on Company Culture and Voice
For those employees managing social media profiles and campaigns, a social media policy can act as a reference point to educate them on company culture. Giving them a sound understanding of the company’s tone and values will help them to get that voice across in their online interactions.

Prepare for Unfortunate Circumstances
A social media policy is a great way to set ground rules for how to respond to a hacked account, a bad review, trolls or other social media “crises”. Without establishing these rules in advance, employees could take unguided actions that make a bad situation worse.

Social Media is meant to be an asset for businesses. A unique avenue for marketing a business and interacting with customers, it can quickly turn to a liability if mismanaged. If your business has established social media accounts, without policies in place – Do yourself a favor and take the time to get one together. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Download Security Tip Sheet

29fd9a91About the Author - Rachida Essadiq, Director of Marketing at NTC Texas is a successful five year marketing veteran, running events and campaigns for large to  small enterprises and non-profits.  She specializes in blogging, social media, branding/ identity and search engine optimization, striving to provide NTC Texas customers and fans with entertaining and valuable educational resources to find success in all areas of their businesses.

Tags: social media policy

Signs of Fraud Every Business Should Know

Posted by Jackie Clews on Jan 28, 2015 10:44:00 AM

fraud alertActs of Fraud come in many forms and the warning signs are not always clear. Being able to recognize these signs could save any business a lot of trouble and money. Whether the threat might be internal or external, each type has its own specific indicators. Failure to detect the warning signs can lead to legal and financial nightmares for business owners.

One type of External fraud, where a customer tries to use a fraudulent form of payment, might be the easiest form to recognize, but a watchful eye is necessary to catch it before the damage is done. Unfortunately, stolen credit cards—the most common form of external fraud—are fairly common and with online ordering, recognizing that there is a problem is harder than ever.

Here are a few things to look for, both with face-to-face sales and through online ordering, to make sure your business isn’t being duped.

For in-store purchases, double-check customers who:

• Ask questions about credit limits or the authorization process
• Attempt to distract or hurry the clerk (asking lots of questions, making purchase right at store closing time, talking continuously, etc.)
• Purchase high-cost items and either do not ask questions or refuse delivery even if it is free (for large items)
• Ask to see the card again before signing the receipt
• Do not have a driver’s license for whatever reason
• Request to ship outside of the U.S.
• Recite the card number from memory rather than presenting the card itself

For online purchases, look for anything out of the ordinary, such as:

• Unusually large transactions
• Several purchases in a row, especially if they are odd or unusual
• Gibberish names or strange-looking email addresses
• Shipping addresses do not match the billing address, especially drastic differences such as a shipping address to another country
• A phone number that does not match customer records or a returned email

In these cases, the best option is to use good judgment and check carefully to ensure that the customers you’re serving are truly who they say they are. For return customers or online customers, make phone calls just to check.

Internal fraud, on the other hand, is a much trickier matter. In these cases, an internal member of the business, usually a high level employee, steals funds in some form. Recognizing the presence of internal theft is mostly a matter of understanding the nature of those who would commit fraud and keeping eye out for red flags.

Three elements are always present when an employee turns to internal fraud:

• Opportunity—access and ability to get away with the theft
• Pressure—a present need for money, sense of entitlement, or any number of other factors
• Rationalization—a way to reconcile his/her actions with commonly accepted notions of decency and trust (“I really need this money, so I’ll pay it back when I get my paycheck”)

Often, the lack of the first, opportunity, would remove the possibility of fraud altogether. However, people are tricky so it’s not a guarantee, but here are some ways that you can prevent the presence of opportunity and lessen the likelihood that your business will fall prey to internal fraud:

• Strengthen internal controls (supervision and review processes, separation of duties, management approval, etc.)
• Be aware of the employees who do have access and opportunity—know them and their pressures and triggers, and take the time to be aware of any financial strains
• Pay attention to employee interactions—collusion between one or more employees is often a contributing factor in internal fraud
• Watch inventory and personally review purchasing from time to time to ensure sales and products sold do match—random spot-checks keep everyone wary
• Set cameras if you can or invest in software that will carefully monitor purchasing and limit regular employee access—there are some creative ways to trick the system and the less access, the fewer options to make that happen

Certainly, there is no foolproof way to completely escape the impact from theft. However, you can limit it by being aware, present, and involved. Most importantly, businesses should recognize the possibility and likelihood that they will face some kind of fraud and train employees accordingly, as well as have a system in place for handling any situations that arise. If you can’t prevent it outright, then at least be prepared for handling it in order to minimize loss to your company.

Download Security Tip Sheet

AshleyAbout 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: credit card fraud, Fraud Prevention, fraud

The Pros and Cons of being a Cash-Only Business

Posted by Jackie Clews on Jan 20, 2015 11:04:00 AM

cashRunning a business is hard. Some business owners across the U.S. have been tempted to keep it as simple as possible by accepting cash only in exchange for merchandise or services. However, that up-front ease is deceptive, and it could be holding your business back from future success and expansion. On the other hand, every business is different and what is good for one business may not be good for another. Consider the following pros and cons of only accepting cash, so you can make the best decision on how to operate your business:

Pros

• Cash means immediate payment and value, so the extra step of waiting for transactions to process is removed entirely from the equation.
• Transaction fees and third parties are also eliminated. You will have cash in hand immediately so no middle men or additional processing is required.
• The chances of fraud or reversed bank transactions are vastly reduced. Counterfeit cash may occasionally come your way, but the possibility is less and less common with electronic theft offering a greater draw for high-level thieves.
• Keeping track of incoming and outgoing funds is also easier if funds are coming in through one channel. Tallying amounts from online payments, card payments, mobile payments, checks, and/or any other forms of payment (Applepay, Paypal, etc.) on top of cash payments, along with the potential for reversed transactions and fraud, can make for challenging bookkeeping and, especially, taxes. Cash only tends to simplify this quite a lot.

Cons

• Considering that about two-thirds of transactions in 2012 were conducted via payment card (debit, credit, etc.) -- that number continues to increase -- the biggest loss to your business if you choose to only accept cash: money. In fact, consumers estimate that 15 million businesses who only accept cash are missing out on $100 billion in sales annually.
• The average amount a consumer will spend on a transaction via card payment vs. cash payment is also a big difference. According to a CNBC article, consumers will, on average, spend up to 120 percent more through card transactions than through cash transactions. So, maybe a small sale is possible, but big ticket items are much harder to sell in a cash only business.
• Today, how many people do you know who even have cash all the time? You may have to turn potential buyers away, which is always disappointing.
• You may miss out on multi-channel marketing opportunities, such as mobile payments, online sales, etc. Yes, it’s a huge hassle to keep track of all those different forms of payment, but if more money is coming in, isn’t it worth it?
• Keeping track of large sums of money on a daily basis—and making sure you have trustworthy employees—can also be a challenge. The lack of a paper trail can make it hard to track your funds and the large amount of on-site cash may require additional hassles to make sure it’s kept safe.
• Tracking sales, keeping records, and understanding your customer base will take more time and more energy from you. While the technology required to process card payments can be obnoxious and expensive, it also has a lot of built-in goodies—if you choose well—that can help your business grow much more quickly than the old-fashioned manual way.

If your business is truly tiny, you may want to wait to invest in some of the higher-end technologies available. At the same time, a small business can grow much more quickly with all the advantages that technology, card payments systems, online marketing, etc. can provide. It may be tempting to stick to old, simple methods, but risk is a big part of business—and some risks are just worth taking.

Tax Tips for Businesses

AshleyAbout 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: Credit Card Processing, cash business, tracking payments

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