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Do Small Businesses Need More Support To Comply With ACA Mandates?

  
  
  
  

Sam Graves, Official Portrait, c113th CongressSince the earliest discussions about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed into law in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012, America has been divided. The ACA offers several provisions that, many hope, will secure health insurance for the millions of Americans who have lived and died without healthcare coverage. Unfortunately, while the law was undoubtedly formed with good intentions, some unintended drawbacks have surfaced. 

According to an article from SUNY Buffalo published October of 2013, individuals and families who were previously uninsured stood to benefit the most from the plan, especially since premiums are regulated and denying coverage is no longer allowed. While the article goes on to propose that individuals in states that decided not to expand Medicaid stood to benefit the least, I propose a bigger picture perspective: small businesses may be getting the raw deal here.

According to Forbes Magazine Contributor Holly Magister, whose opinion piece was published April of 2014, the early assessments that small businesses would not be affected by the ACA were destroyed by renewal rate increases for small business group insurance plans scheduled for 2015.

While the 5.8 million firms, according to ObamacareFacts.com, that are under 50 employees would “not be penalized for choosing not to provide health coverage to their employees,” most of those firms already covered full-time workers. Now, because of new standards by which insurance companies must measure the risk of insuring the group, these same small businesses are looking at increases of up to 97% or more to cover the same group of employees. As Magister wrote, “That certainly feels like a penalty to me.”

The question now: Should small businesses receive more support to meet these unexpected challenges?

Representative Sam Graves of Missouri certainly thinks so. Earlier this month, Rep. Graves sent a letter to the IRS Service commissioner, John Koskinen, to request greater outreach and education for small businesses dealing with new forms for the ACA. Tax-wise, no doubt most will need some extra help.

According to the 2014 Small Business Healthcare Survey, recently published by the National Small Business Association, “Despite increased reporting on ACA, the majority of small firms still have a limited to no understanding of how they will be impacted by the law. When asked about the real-world costs of understanding ACA, small businesses report spending on average 13 hours and $1,274 per month—and that’s just on the administrative side of understanding the law itself.”

Aside from the additional administrative costs associated with simply understanding the provisions and compliance requirements of the new law, employers, especially small firms are struggling with how to adjust to managing the increased cost of plans themselves. According to the survey, when asked the impact of rising health insurance costs, the majority have responded by increasing employees’ deductibles as well as holding off on salary increases and more than one-in ten reported having to lay off an employee due to rising health insurance costs.

Finally, the survey also reports, when asked about their level of understanding in how well the Affordable Care Act is going to affect their business more small businesses have a clear understanding of the provisions, but the majority (58% of respondents) still have a limited or unclear understanding of the law itself.

And amongst one of the most disturbing statistics reported, “One third of small firms say they are purposefully not growing as a result of The Affordable Care Act.”

Essentially, the system seems to be set up to benefit the individual instead of companies, especially smaller ones, that would have received better rates under the previous system. It seems in healthcare, the tables have turned—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, some serious changes may be necessary in order to achieve the plan’s ultimate goal: affordable healthcare for all. 

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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. .

 
Top photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

5 Things Every Business Should Know Before Accepting Payments

  
  
  
  
accepting paymentsIf you’re planning to start a business, or have recently started one, you may be under the impression that accepting payments is a simple matter. Once upon a time, a vendor or service provider would simply exchange goods or services for coin or equally valued item--money and barter systems. Simple.

Well, since most of us don’t even carry cash anymore and the barter system is long since dead, business owners have ventured into a whole new world of payment and credit card processing—and to be successful, it’s vital to know what to expect.

Here are 5 important concepts to implement or consider before accepting payments.


1.    More options mean fewer excuses. The fact is: the more forms of payment you accept, the fewer excuses a customer will have to not purchase what you’re selling. Think of how many times you have been caught in a cash only situation--when you had no cash. Of course, you simply can’t purchase the item. Done.

You don’t want to find yourself losing a sale simply because you didn’t offer debit or credit card processing, especially when there is so much technology available to make credit card processing an easy reality for your business.

2. Don’t be afraid of technology. While incorporating technology into your business structure can seem daunting at first, especially if your business is more established and has established ways of operation, you will lose out on potential sales and satisfied returning customers if you don’t get with the times.

Besides, there are so many new, technologies that are very easy and affordable to implement: mobile credit card readers that attach to tablets or phones, iPad POS systems to integrate and report sales information, internet-based payment processing and online purchase options for your website that will increase sales across a wider customer base. Why ignore all these amazing technological tools when they could make your business stronger?

3. Do your research. While upgrading your methods of accepting payments is smart in the long run, you do have to be aware of the costs and misconceptions involved in debit and credit card processing. First, you have to understand the differences in the fees:
•    Monthly fee: a regular fee to use the service, if a processor is not charging a monthly fee, processing rates will be much higher.
•    Transaction fee: flat or percentage rate, charged with each transaction
•    Interchange fee: bank-charged percentage of the transaction, which goes to the card’s issuing bank for expenses

One misconception to note: Many business owners believe American Express is a very expensive type of card to process, but it’s not – it’s on par with Visa/MasterCard. Additionally, customers paying with an AmEx card tend to purchase more than a customer paying with Visa or MasterCard.

4. Find the best merchant card processor for you. Now for the more complicated part of debit or credit card processing: you’ll have to enlist the help of a credit card processor.

But no worries--you have options. In this case, you will be the customer, and you will be the one bringing business to them. They’re going to want to provide you with competitive rates, but only if you know your options and do your research well enough to be competent in general service rates and fees. It’s also important to note that the bank is not always the best option. There are plenty of third party merchant card processors that can get you better rates than going directly through your bank.

But here’s the catch, it’s not just about the rates. Sure one company may give you great rates, with minimal fees but are you getting your money on time (or at all)? Can you call and get a hold of a knowledgeable customer service representative if there is a crisis? Will the company help you through the process of becoming PCI compliant (necessary to process credit cards)? Will this company keep your sensitive business information secure? Does the processor allow your business the ability to accept credit cards via mobile devices or online? These are all important factors to consider outside of just getting a good rate.

5. Set strict payment rules and guidelines. Finally, communicating with your customers about payment expectations is essential. Some businesses will offer products that require payment arrangements, payment plans and scheduled payment terms. If your business is one of these, select a strict set of guidelines and expectations and make sure your customer is aware, both verbally and in writing, of these expectations.

Be creative about it, too. Offer incentives for early payoff or discounts for meeting regular payment schedules—anything to ensure that your customers want to pay their bills on time.

The moral of the story: be knowledgeable about your options and the costs you might accrue to upgrade your payment processing system. But with more options for your customers and increased technological support, you can ensure your business will be strong and successful.

If you are already processing credit cards, contact NTC Texas for a free rate review – our specialists will help you to understand your existing statements and how your rate and fee structures can be improved. No obligations!

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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. .

 



Top Three Reasons Why Businesses Should Be Tracking Sales Data

  
  
  
  

NCR Tracking sales dataSales—the flow of funds into the capital stream—is the lifeblood of the business world. The products or services may be the bones of the operation, but the marrow will always be the money. Now, the human body—to continue the analogy—has a few mechanisms in place to help maintain good health: a central network that never fails to let you know exactly when  your body might be hemorrhaging  So why wouldn’t  your  business need the same thing?

The fact is: if you’re not tracking your sales, you could be losing money, either through missed sales opportunities or poor planning. With more knowledge about seasonal trends or customer preferences, among so many others bits of information, you can track patterns that can help you better understand how your business functions and how you can improve it over the long haul.

How it works. Some businesses have classically tracked sales data through spreadsheets. This means keeping detailed notes on a daily basis about the items that were sold and the totals for cost vs. profit. With this information, over time, you can compare data from previous years on the same dates to understand how sales trend from year to year.

Of course, that was mainly before the invention of computers. Today, there are much easier options for sales tracking, using simple, affordable systems and easy to implement technology. According to one CNBC article, Macy’s, one of the largest retailers in the nation, only updated to an integrated sales tracking system about four years ago. When they did, their sales increased by 10%.

If you’re a smaller business, making the step to a digital, integrated system may be the best choice you ever make, especially in the fight to remain competitive against larger businesses.

The three main benefits:

  • Setting realistic sales goals. Projecting sales and anticipating revenue are essential for good business investing. With an integrated sales system, like an iPad Point-of-Sale (POS) system, your sales data is automatically tracked and logged into a system that allows you to run reports and pull together different bits of information about your customers and profits. From there, projecting the “shoulds" and “should nots” is much easier.
  • Planning for the big picture. Day-to-day and week-to-week projections are just the start. Once you have utilized an effective system of sales tracking over a longer period of time, you can better understand the fluctuations of the industry and how your business will be affected. This knowledge puts you in a position to make well-educated decisions about your business’s future, about inventory levels, whether to invest on that new location or perhaps to hold off, when sales generally  decrease (?) for your particular product or service. These kinds of decisions make a world of difference in a difficult economy.
  • Increasing your confidence. Most importantly, understanding detailed information about sales profits and trends will help you feel more in control of your business’s future. Small business owners are often very dedicated to their product and the quality they can provide. This is as it should be; however, focusing completely on the product or service can make it easy to lose control of the other aspects of business. Integrated sales tracking systems do most of the work for you, tracking information you might not even think to look for and giving you the chance to keep your focus where it should be: on providing a quality product or service to your consumers.

iPad POS systems are an inexpensive and efficient way to effectively track sales data  insuring a healthy business with a long life.


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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. .

 


Business Reputations Based on Quality Relationships, Craftsmanship

  
  
  
  

Botond Laszlo, owner of the Dallas-based, high-end remodeling company, Marvelous Home Makeovers, explains how his attention to quality in all aspects of the business has contributed to its success. 

About Botond Laszlo, Owner of Marvelous Home Makeovers (11:46)
A Different Kind of Remodeling Company: Marvelous Home Makeovers (8:28)

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About the Author

Jackie ClewsAt NTC Texas, Jackie Clews works with the team on content marketing strategies, campaign execution, and analysis. She also hosts the NTC Texas All Star Experts video series and is a Co-Founder of Digital Marketing Direction, a digital marketing agency. As a Dallas native, she has a weird obsession with finding and discussing the best BBQ and salsa. You can talk marketing (or food!) with her on Twitter @JackieClews.

Three Systems Retail Businesses Should Start Automating Today

  
  
  
  

iPad POS automated systemsAlmost every man, woman, or even child, selling lemonade on the corner, has, at some point, fantasized about opening his or her own business. The idea of individual ownership is pretty much step #2 of the American Dream--right after surviving high school. Most of us barely manage step #1, but those who do make the leap into the exciting world of entrepreneurship quickly learn that owning a successful business takes long hours, great sacrifice, and unwavering determination. So why not do it as efficiently and profitable as possible?

It’s getting easier with the modern linchpin for success: automated programs. With all the different forms of technology available on the market, automated programs and savvy technology provide the most direct route to streamlining any business, allowing business owners to actually enjoy the fruits of their “independence” instead of groaning under the weight of it.

Newly packaged with trendy, affordable iPad point of sale systems, automatic inventory management, sales reporting, or marketing programs require little to no direct involvement from a real, live person and can save owners hours of hard work, and significant amounts of money. Automated programs keep track of everything from inventory, to customer behavior, to sales data, log it, and then allow you to pull reports to view detailed information and capture valuable insight into your business.

Automating these three processes will greatly increase the profitability of your business:

  • Inventory: Anyone who has ever worked in retail knows inventory can be a true nightmare. Late nights in the store checking every item; the fear of being off on purchasing orders; the challenge of always knowing what’s in stock and what’s not…Loss, theft…the list goes on. An automated inventory management system can help lighten this burden by keeping track of which items are sold in real-time and which items are still available, providing detailed inventory management information at the click of a button.

  • Marketing: The days of traditional disruptive marketing are long gone—thank the stars. The basics of marketing still apply—be seen, be heard, and be recommended, but with all the noise today, customers will shut you out if not done well. All of these objectives, though, can be easily achieved through the use of digital, email and social media marketing- and can all be automated easily and affordably.

  • Reporting: Another great benefit of automation through an iPad point of sale system is the ability to capture, great, detailed insight into sales trends, types of sales, customer loyalty stats, peak business times and more giving business owners all the information they need to make key decisions. Gone are the days of painstakingly wading through pages and pages of excel spreadsheets trying to find those elusive patterns. With insight reporting on automated POS systems, managers simply select the criteria you wish to view and it’s all laid out in neat charts and graphs—simple, efficient, direct.

So many businesses, in fear of change, integration or cost implications, resist efforts to add new technology to automate certain aspects of their businesses. They are stuck with stone-age methods, such as writing down each sold item to track for inventory or keeping written accounting records and receipts. They rely on radio or print advertising materials by snail mail or door-to-door drop off…

But every strong, successful business owner eventually learns that change is good. Change leads to adaptation, which leads to innovation and efficiency. Automated systems may seem scary at first, but they are really just the first step to getting your business on track and evolving your American Dream into an enjoyable reality.

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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. .

 

Top Photo Courtesy of Charleston's The Digitel at Flickr CC.

The State of Hiring, Salaries in Texas From Recruiting Company CEO

  
  
  
  

Valerie Freeman, Freeman + Leonard CEO, talks about hiring trends, information recruiters can offer, and more in this very insightful interview.

About Freeman + Leonard, A Creative Recruiting Agency (03:53)
About Freeman + Leonard CEO's Path to Success (02:02)

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About the Author

Jackie ClewsAt NTC Texas, Jackie Clews works with the team on content marketing strategies, campaign execution, and analysis. She also hosts the NTC Texas All Star Experts video series and is a Co-Founder of Digital Marketing Direction, a digital marketing agency. As a Dallas native, she has a weird obsession with finding and discussing the best BBQ and salsa. You can talk marketing (or food!) with her on Twitter @JackieClews.

Reducing Collections: Four Tips For Effective Accounts Receivables

  
  
  
  

accounts receivablesDebt collections stinks. Having worked in a business office doing collections calls, I speak from experience (only six months’ worth—thank goodness). Calling people to ask for money is hardly fun, and effectively managing an accounts receivables system requires the right technology, hard work and the three p’s of business: Planning, Practicality, and Persistence.

Still, accounts receivables and debt collection are unavoidable for some businesses. Lawyers, consultants, architects, and other professionals offering specialized services have to work with clients on costs that accrue over time or that exceed reasonable one-time amounts. Cheeseburgers—easy to collect on. Building a house—not so much.

The trick to effective accounts receivables is setting up the right system and adopting effective practices that ensure you are actively (and often proactively) addressing those past due accounts. If you’re struggling with collecting on past due debts, adopting the following four qualities into your accounts receivables approach will work wonders.

Get a system. A system makes all the difference. A good one utilizes well-trained employees and regular contact with the clients to keep bad debt to a minimum. From the start of a client relationship, clear expectations must be established—on both sides. From then on, if those expectations are not met, the client should receive initial contact within 14-30 days past due and then regularly until a payment or arrangement is established.

Be practical. It sounds harsh, but if clients can’t cover anticipated costs, then they should not receive services. Look at it from a practical perspective: you will not be doing them any favors by allowing them to build up debts they cannot pay. Evaluating clients up front can prevent bad debt by culling the most risky of them before debt is accrued. Then, that effective system I mentioned before, which you will have already adopted (hint, hint), should take care of any clients who should fall behind.

Be persistent. The first commandment of reducing collections: ask and you shall receive. Regular contact is vital. Some assume that consumers will pay when they are able, but often, especially in this tight economy, consumers will wait until someone reaches out to them. Human nature requires prioritizing and while most people aspire to be honorable and pay their debts, sometimes those debts take a back seat to other concerns—and yes, I’m guilty of it too. However, a simple phone call will often produce results, at least reminding the client that the obligation has not been forgotten. 

Make it easy. The final and most effective tool in reducing collections is ease of use—i.e. technology. The internet along with the variety of gadgets available today make it easy for consumers to make payments at their leisure and in their preferred way. Equipping company websites to take payments for accounts receivables is just good sense. Many systems allow for payments to be exchanged via electronic transfers, ACH, or online payments.  Many systems also allow for automated recurring payment schedules, email and text message invoicing. With so many options available, companies can ensure that their consumers can make payments at almost any time or place—which, of course, means fewer reasons or opportunities not to pay.


Although technology has a cost, the return by making client payments fast and easy far outweighs a small monthly fee.  A current NTC Texas client was owed $9000 and his customer wouldn’t pay with a check; only a credit card.  The business owner didn’t want to pay the processing fee.  Seven months later he was still waiting for the $9000 and was having trouble with cash flow.  He fit the adage penny wise, pound foolish but eventually chose technology and never turned back.

Adopting accounts receivables best practices will produce effective results and a better bottom-line, bringing businesses that other P they all know and love: Profit.

For more information on easy to use technology to manage ACH payments online, contact us at NTC Texas.

 

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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. .

 

What it Takes to Own a Club in Downtown Dallas

  
  
  
  

Entrepreneur and club owner Arthur Beynon discusses what it takes to own a club in downtown Dallas as he approaches the opening of his third, scheduled for the fall of 2014.

Payment Processing Lessons for Events, Clubs (04:17)
About Arthur Beynon, Entrepreneur (06:03)

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About the Author

Jackie croppedAt NTC Texas Jackie Clews works with the team on content marketing strategies, campaign execution, and analysis. She also hosts the NTC Texas All Star Experts video series and is a Co-Founder of Digital Marketing Direction, a digital marketing agency. As a Dallas native, she has a weird obsession with finding and discussing the best BBQ and salsa. You can talk marketing (or food!) with her on Twitter @JackieClews.

 

Freeman + Leonard President Dishes on Leadership, Marketing

  
  
  
  

Kathy Leonard, Freeman + Leonard president and former president of Tracy Locke and The Integer Group, talks about marketing predictions, respect in the workplace, and the value of interpersonal skills in these must-watch videos for business owners, executives, and marketers.

 

Freeman + Leonard President Discusses Leadership, Women in Business  (14:17)

iPad POS Prezi

About the Author

Jackie ClewsAt NTC Texas Jackie Clews works with the team on content marketing strategies, campaign execution, and analysis. She also hosts the NTC Texas All Star Experts video series and is a Co-Founder of Digital Marketing Direction, a digital marketing agency. As a Dallas native, she has a weird obsession with finding and discussing the best BBQ and salsa. You can talk marketing (or food!) with her on Twitter @JackieClews.

 

 

iPad & Tablet Point of Sales: Letting Systems Do the Work for You

  
  
  
  

iPad POS NCR silverYou’ve probably heard it before: “Work smarter, not harder.” At the time, it was probably uttered by some obnoxious know-it-all professor who was appalled by your late night study habits (or was that just me?). Today, it’s the technological mantra of every successful business. 

With the birth of integration of iPad and tablet point of sale (POS) systems, digital records, online sales, and social media marketing, working smarter is easier than ever. But, for businesses operating without an integrated POS system, they are missing out on profitability and the best perk of technology—letting your systems do all the work for you. 

Oh, and money. They might not realize it, but systems that aren’t integrated make it harder for business owners to use all that digital information effectively to increase sales or cater to client needs. Another cliché to throw at you, but no less true: Knowledge is Power. Or really, as has always been the case in sales—Knowledge is Money. 

Aside from accepting payments, taking inventory, managing payroll and digital marketing  - integrated tablet POS Systems are also used to record and combine information on various aspects of the business, most importantly product sales and client trends. This knowledge benefits businesses in the following five ways: 

1)    Understanding customer preferences: By tracking customer purchases at specific venues and locations, business owners can determine what products are most popular with certain clientele and the best ways to offer those products at the right time.

2)    Profitability: Some items may be more popular in the winter, some in spring. Establishing which items are seasonal can help businesses allocate money effectively. And if items are not selling at all, business owners can make the right decisions about how to handle those products without losing money over the long run.

3)    Tracking marketing efforts: Plenty of businesses sink thousands of dollars into marketing every year, but establishing the effectiveness of those efforts isn’t always easy. An integrated POS system helps business owners monitor social media and email marketing, as well as connect trends in sales to their respective marketing sources. This way, owners can decide what works, what doesn’t, and what they might want to try the next time around.

4)    Inventory monitoring: Unfortunately, many businesses lose money every year to internal theft or simply ineffective inventory tracking and mathematical errors. These systems prevent such losses through efficient inventory monitoring, offering managers up-to-date information on depleted inventory items so they can be reordered and so any discrepancies can be accounted for.

5)    Customer Rewards and Incentives: Everyone wants something for nothing, but that’s not practical. But sometimes a small incentive or reward can go a long way in attracting potential long term clients. Built in customer loyalty programs within tablet POS systems provide great opportunities for businesses to establish cost effective routes for attracting new customers without offering up either big ticket items or unattractive ones that can waste marketing dollars. 

Finding the right product for the right person at the right time is what business is all about. Tablet POS systems are specifically designed to help any business do just that, without wasting countless man-hours tallying up the information. Let technology work for you, then sit back and enjoy the rewards.
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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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