FAA Approves Drone Use For Businesses

Posted by Ashley Choate on Oct 25, 2016 12:41:41 PM

drones for businessBusiness technology has risen to some pretty impressive heights in the past, but none so spectacular as the recent approval of drones for business purposes. This is not a drill. Approved August 29, 2016, businesses can use drones for any number of reasons, as long as they follow specific U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines.

Your first thought after hearing this momentous news probably echoed mine: what possible use could most businesses have for drones? Images of toy-generated corporate warfare immediately sprang to mind, but, in fact, many businesses have already formulated some rather ingenious uses for the remote-controlled flying machines that have nothing to do with aerial battle.

Look forward to drones, more officially known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s), in the following capacities in the near future:

  • Delivery

While current drone models can only carry about 55 pounds, including the drone itself, business technology is likely to continue to develop in this direction if Prime Air from Amazon pans out like developers are expecting. They claim parcels could be delivered to customers in as little as 30 minutes. No doubt consumers will be happy about that perk if all goes according to plan.

  • Farming

Farmers are also excited about the usefulness of drones for viewing crops, assessing harvest yield, and scouting for dying or diseased plants. All the assessments that currently require manpower and constant management in the fields can be done quickly and efficiently with the help of drones.

  • Media

News broadcasters and other media outlets are constantly trying out new methods for getting the best video or the latest scoop. With this newest business technology development, media broadcasters have gained a valuable tool for scouting traffic patterns, taking footage of conflict situations from above, getting access to difficult to reach stories, and more. As long as paparazzi don’t overstep their bounds, drones promise to be a serious boon for the news industry.

  • Engineering

The drones also have the potential to contribute to more accurate engineering projects. With aerial viewpoints, engineers can more accurately plan and assess structures. The drones can also be used to inspect potential problem areas in important structures like bridges and highways without having to shut the structures down entirely and dispatch crew for dangerous inspection missions without ample cause.

  • Architecture

When building or planning a structure, architects are often limited to speculation, mathematics, and scaled models. With drones, architects and construction firms can get full video of the grounds or construction site and use it to build 3D models based around the actual landscape for more accurate planning and rendering.

  • Advertising

As with most business technology developed in the last decade, drones will also have serious application for advertising. They can fly advertising posters around town, like moving billboards, as well as help obtain new video footage and perspectives for different types of social media campaigns.

  • Photography

Drones will be useful in obtaining aerial shots for different types of photography. With a little more attention to photography and camera technology, drones could even add a whole new dimension to some aspects of a photographer’s list of options for wedding or party picture packages, such as video taken by a drone throughout the event.

  • Real Estate

For real estate agents and the home selling markets, drones provide an extended method for marketing a home. A drone-based tour video would give buyers a full view of the home and properties, from aerial or up-close perspectives.

  • Internet Access

Finally, one of the most fascinating projects taking place in business technology right now has already launched. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has already successfully tested a drone called the Aquila that is designed to be solar-powered and to fly for months at a time over developing countries where it will deliver internet connection to the residents below. This project is all part of Zuckerberg’s plan to expand Facebook’s user base to over 5 billion by 2030.

Undoubtedly, crafty entrepreneurs will find more lucrative and creative uses for drones in the next few years, as this trend in business technology continues to develop. Some days, it’s easy to feel like a participant in a sci-fi novel with some of the incredible new technology hitting the market every year. Who knows what will happen next?

Five Ways Your Business Is Losing Money Without Knowing It

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 Robert LZFlickr CC.

Tags: Drones for business

Business Predictions for 2017

Posted by Ashley Choate on Oct 19, 2016 1:54:11 PM

business predictions 2017The 2017 new year is fast approaching. With it, we’ll  see several trends that have been building over the last few years and will continue to gain strength, while some new ideas will be launched that could cause quite a stir in the market. For consumers and businesses alike, 2017 will have a lot to offer, especially for tech savvy consumers and adventurous entrepreneurs.

Here are some of the trends and new products that you can expect to make a splash in 2017:

  • E-commerce numbers will continue to grow. Currently, the average consumers spends roughly $1,800 per year on internet purchases. All sources are predicting the numbers are only going to increase. One source predicts we’ll be spending more than $400 billion through e-commerce by 2018, compared to $355 billion in 2016. E-commerce is quickly gaining traction and support, especially among innovative entrepreneurs, and it’s unlikely to fizzle out any time soon.
  • Facebook Live will rise in popularity within the social media and advertising markets. Facebook has been the most popular social media for close to a decade. No wonder Facebook’s latest interactive tool, Live, has already gathered a steady following. For businesses in 2017, the use of Facebook Live is expected to increase and take off, setting up a new avenue for a currently less common type of advertising—active customer engagement.
  • Live action customer engagement will take marketing focus. Interactive social media tools like Live are already poised to aid in the development of new marketing strategies within the next year. These techniques will more actively engage consumers. It’s already started this year with trend towards heavier social media marketing and dedicated social media operators who respond to consumer messages, tweets, emails, Facebook posts, and more. Businesses will see even more of this interactive form of advertising, as they seek greater loyalty and spending potential from customers who are actively engaged in real-time discussions with the business and other likeminded consumers.
  • Social media marketing will go from recommended to mandatory. While most entrepreneurs would condemn you as crazy if you haven’t already taken advantage of social media advertising, that slight disapproval is about to get worse. Trends are showing social media marketing as squarely lodging itself into the standard, required protocols for any business that plans to survive more than one year.
  • Mobile sales will dominate. It should surprise no one that increased mobility is at the top of most consumers’ wish lists. Phones are becoming more incredible every day, and new software and attachable hardware pieces have added new capabilities. Phones can become projectors now, portable Virtual Reality (VR) machines, and built-in personal assistants. The fact that consumers like to buy online and that businesses have to accommodate that preference—well, any entrepreneur could see that coming.
  • Free and automated returns will become standard. Consumers have watched and joined in on Amazon’s rise for a variety of reasons. Businesses have often looked on with a touch of envy. While Amazon’s soaring popularity has its source in many aspects of business, one of the most subtle in catapulting its rise was the automated and free returns policy. If you didn’t like something you order, for most items, you could just log in and print up a quick and easy return packing slip. You return the item within 30 days of printing and your money is refunded. Quick, easy, efficient—and one of the trends you can expect to see more frequently in the world of business.

There are probably other trends, software programs, or pieces of hardware coming out next year that will send major ripples throughout internet buzz, but you can definitely expect to see the six listed above.

Beyond that, you never know. Amazing things can happen in just one small year, and 2017 promises some fascinating developments. We’ll have to wait and see.

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 Pixabay @ Flickr CC.

Tags: Business 2017

5 Reasons You Should Be Accepting Payments on Your Website

Posted by Ashley Choate on Oct 12, 2016 8:46:06 PM

accepting online paymentsHaving a website that looks good is only half the battle in the modern business market. Your site also needs functionality.

A good website should act as a useful tool for both conducting and attracting business. Accepting payments or allowing your customers to make purchases over your website should be part of this functionality for a number of reasons—all of which lead towards greater success and efficiency for your business.

  1. It’s easy.

Online payments are a quick, accessible, and efficient method for your customers to pay their bills. Through payment gateways, customers simply log into your website, upload credit card or debit card information, and click submit. That easily, bills can be paid at any time of the day or night. Why wouldn’t your business offer this option? Remember, the easier you make it, the more likely they are to do it—and online payments are pretty easy. 

  1. Your customers want it.

Most businesses have realized by now that customers love mobility and easy accessibility. More than that, they love technology. Let’s face it: technology is just cool. In fact, it’s so cool that Forrest Research estimates shoppers will be spending roughly $370 million through e-commerce by 2017. And it’s not just for shopping. People also want to be able to press a few buttons and take care of every bill in their household. They want online payments to be accessible through their mobile phones, in case they are out for the night and just remembered to pay that bill. They don’t want to wait and they don’t want it to be complicated. They want easy payment gateways available to them at any time.

  1. It’s more efficient.

Whether your business is retail-based or service-based, you probably already have an online presence. Why not attach an online payment gateway to your website? For retail businesses, the benefit is obvious since customers can simply purchase merchandise online. For non-retail, payments can be made via invoices online, as down payments for specific services, or for recurring monthly payments. Best of all, there will be no check processing, no receipt printing costs, no tracking and recording sales—because that will be done automatically by your payment gateway.

  1. It extends your reach.

For most businesses today, bringing in customers is about extending beyond the market in your immediate vicinity. Even if you have a storefront, many of your local consumers probably shop online or head to major chain stores for much of their shopping. To be successful, you need to be able to reach out to a wider audience that will be interested in your products. With access to online payments, you can do that. Obviously, some  capabilities will be limited depending on your service area, but for many businesses, the ability to reach outside a single city and offer merchandise to the entire world can make a big difference to their long-term success.

  1. Adds credibility.

Anymore, a business isn’t really a business if it doesn’t have a strong online presence. Part of that presence is a payment gateway and the ability to take online payments. Maybe you’ve done the marketing or you have a strong word-of-mouth network. Those are great, but without a place for many of your customers to check up on your merchandise and maybe make a quick purchase or two, you’re going to miss out on a lot of great and easy business.

Don’t lose easy sales because you haven’t updated your online functionality. Setting up an online payment gateway is both easy and inexpensive. It’s also going to become more and more necessary if you want to stay competitive.

According to one article, total e-commerce sales increased by 11 percent in the first quarter of 2014 , and those numbers are only going to grow. Online payments are simply an inescapable part of current and future business practices. Don’t fight it. Your business will operate better and attract higher sales if you embrace the technology and use it to your advantage.
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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.


Tags: online business, online payments

How B2B E-Commerce Is Helping Businesses Streamline Payments

Posted by Ashley Choate on Oct 5, 2016 8:27:15 PM

images-9.jpgWhile consumers can often be demanding and fickle, anticipating and meeting their needs is all part of the game in business. Not surprisingly, the wants and needs of consumers have influenced the development of many businesses, pushing growth, change, and adaptation—and often resulting in improved and more efficient practices.

That influence has led many businesses to develop powerful e-commerce tools in order to provide consumers with the flexibility and mobility they crave. But what about businesses that serve other businesses, also known as B2B?

With B2B, the adoption of e-commerce technology has been much slower, since businesses tend to be less demanding with other businesses. Similarly, the competition is not as fierce, and many businesses that operate via B2B payments and commerce haven’t needed to change as much or as rapidly as B2C (business to consumer) companies.

But that time is at an end for B2B businesses. As so many businesses have already streamlined much of their B2C sales into e-commerce, it only makes sense to adopt B2B e-commerce as well—and not just for the sake of consistency. There are real benefits to be gained. 

E-commerce has become so popular among consumers and B2C businesses because it’s both more efficient and easier to operate, with less drag time and lower costs, since check processing and paper statements for billing are eliminated.

Essentially, adopting e-commerce means three major steps:

  • Going paperless, or close to it
  • Providing online and mobile payment options
  • Acquiring the ability to automate payments or statements for recurring billing needs

By implementing B2B e-commerce software, your business could reap a variety of benefits, including a general streamlining of most internal processes and reduced costs over time. Consider the following benefits for B2B payments and e-commerce processes:

  • Get rid of paper-based processes. With B2B e-commerce, your business can create more efficient lines of communication, both internally and with your business customers, to ensure prompt response of invoices, payments, and orders. Digitizing the ordering and payment processes make for easier tracking and less paper-shuffling—as well as less money spent printing everything out and mailing it. Those costs add up over time. Save yourself the hassle and money with internet-based or electronic systems.
  • Automated payments can ease billing stress and costs. When you adopt a B2B e-commerce platform you can also adopt technology that allows you to store billing information on file. When a customer has to make regular payments for any reason, you will both feel less stressed if an automated system takes care of the regular payments for you.
  • New forms of payment will save money and time. By allowing your clients to pay by more than just check form, you’re saving time and money for both of you. Checks are great for some purposes, but in general they cost money to print and money to cash and deposit. Digital fund exchanges through secure banks and accounts are much faster, cheaper, and easier for everyone. This aspect of B2B e-commerce should be embraced across the board, at the very least, since it’s quickly becoming a must for all industries to accept more than just cash and checks.

Overall, B2B payments are still largely handled in check form, and most business processes have not embraced the wide range of technology available. Even so, B2B e-commerce is growing at a fast rate.  According to a Forrester Research forecast, B2B e-commerce currently makes up 9.9 percent of all B2B transactions and is forecasted to reach 12 percent of total B2B sales by 2020. If the speed at which B2C businesses adopted e-commerce is anything to go by, this is one trend you don’t want to ignore.

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 Pexels.

Tags: B2B Ecommerce

Preparing Your Business for Fourth Quarter Success

Posted by Ashley Choate on Sep 28, 2016 1:31:07 PM

fourth quarter successBy the fourth quarter, most business owners are well aware of how successfully their year-end wrap-up is going to go. With three quarters of the year gone already, it’s easy to fall prey to assumptions that a good year is good enough or a bad year is unavoidable. But the fourth quarter, with its holidays and year-end marketing potential, has all the elements you need to propel your profits above and beyond expected year-end goals—if you do it right.

Below are five tricks to approaching your fourth quarter that will help you achieve better outcomes and higher profit margins by this year’s end. Don’t give up on increasing your numbers just because the year is almost over. There’s still a few more months—and a chance to improve your overall business success.

Establish Goals.

You should have already established clear goals for your yearly numbers. Well, now that you’ve seen how everything is going to play out, you can gauge how far ahead of or behind those goals you are. Some of your other quarters may have ended ahead of goal, while others fell behind. Assess what you need to do to catch up in this fourth quarter to meet your yearly goal for growth. Once you’ve got that goal down and all of your staff is on board and aware, then it’s time to get down to business.

Evaluate Inventory & Operations.

Once you know your goals, you’ve got to establish what resources are available to work with. Your goals most likely break down into sales numbers or product objectives. This time of year, products of all types fly off the shelves and end up under Christmas trees or in other holiday celebrations across the country. You need to make sure you’re stocked up on items that have sold well around this time of year before, and you need to add in other merchandise that you can package up nicely for customers to give their loved ones this year.

Organize Marketing.

After inventory is assessed and handled, you have to establish plans for how to push both new and previously popular merchandise. Remember that most people like easy, visually appealing presents. Also, mix up your marketing. Throw out some free and easy advertising on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.  Use pictures, special deals, or family fun events run through social media to your advantage. Make phone calls to previous customers. Whatever you have to do—reaching out to your customers means business success for your fourth quarter. They can’t come around to buy your products if they don’t know what you’ve got.

Train Staff Members.

Are your employees trained on the best products for this holiday season? Are they aware of your sales goals and objectives? They should be. Particularly in a product-based sales environment, your employees need to know their goals, have incentives, and must be trained to upsell or verbally push certain products. Your staff also needs to be capable of handling larger than normal sales volume, online purchases and shipping, difficult customers, and certain crises within your store.

Budget to Increase Profits.

Another highly effective way to increase profits is simply going back to the budget. Sometimes, to make the books balance at the end of the year, you have no choice but to cut costs. When your sales outcomes are falling short, at least analyzing and selecting a few nonessential expenses to cut out of your budget for the final quarter can help draw you a bit closer to the black. Even more, though, you may be able to discover wasteful practices, unproductive employees, or inefficient processes that can be improved or removed for a much more significant impact on your budget without the strain of cutting any essential items.

If your sales and profitability outcomes are looking dreary by third-quarter’s end, take some inspiration from football. Just because you’re behind doesn’t mean you can’t make a spectacular comeback. It’s happened before, both in football and in business. Use the holiday seasons and good strategic sense to drive your business success this year. You’ve still got time to even out the score—as long as you play it right.

  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: business success, business tips

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 of 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 common. 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