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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. .

A Mortgage Loan Officer's Unique Perspective on the Economy in DFW

  
  
  
  

NTC Texas spoke with Cara Hawkins, production manager at Ameripro Funding, about the stories she's witnessed since the financial collapse and where she thinks the economy is headed now.

A Mortgage Loan Officer's Unique Perspective on the Economy in DFW (19:43)
The High Importance of Choosing the Right Business Partners (02:47)
About Cara Hawkins, AmeriPro Funding Production Manager (08:07)

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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.

3 Easy Ways to Protect Your Mobile Workforce

  
  
  
  

mobile securityWe live in a mobile world—a world of online dating, “google” trivia contests, ebooks, and YouTube. Most of us can't remember the last time we left home without a cellphone. And the days we did, we were lost--for the GPS junkies, literally. 

This new online world drives not just our personal lives, but also our business pursuits. Expanded opportunities for sales growth, employee satisfaction, and lowered costs abound through the use of mobile devices that can do everything from take a credit card payment over a cell phone to project a sales pitch on any white-walled surface. The possibilities are endless.

The greatest challenge in this new and improved mobile world: security. 

According to a recent survey by Accellion and the Information Security Media Group (ISMG), 72% of organizations feel their own mobile security is either “poor” or “needs improvement.” On top of that, in the past year, 80% of organizations have experienced a mobile security incident. I, too, had to scour my bank records—online, of course—for weeks after the Black Friday security breach at Target, which affected over 40 million consumers. 

Between the chances for viruses, hackers, and just plain bad choices among mobile employees, taking advantage of the amazing tools available can be difficult for business owners—especially when lawsuits are so easy to come by as well. 

But it can be done—safely, effectively, and without losing your figurative shirt. Three simple safeguards can keep your private information protected—no matter where you choose to do business.

1) Private cloud file sharing. While there are several inexpensive and popular consumer options for file sharing, security in these systems is shaky at best. Services like Dropbox were simply not designed to be hack-proof, at least not at an enterprise-grade level. 

IBM found this out the hard way in 2012 when the company discovered that confidential documents, including future product development plans, had been distributed openly on the internet. This led the company to ban the use of consumer-grade file sharing services such as Dropbox, Box, iCloud, and a variety of others.

The alternative, enterprise-grade, private file sharing, can allow for safe transit and limited access to company documents, keeping your mobile workforce productive and protected. 

2) Improve security scanning and encryption. Effective scanning for malware is a must. Certain types of malware can log keystrokes and steal private login information. According to Verizon’s 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report, 40% of security breaches resulted from malware and 76% of those incidents compromised access credentials—a virtual free pass to any information stored or accessed on the mobile devices themselves. 

Such incidents can be avoided through internal scanning and enforcing an application whitelist—a “free and clear” list of apps for business devices. 

The encryption of all data, either in transit or at rest, can also give your information that added layer of protection, just in case intruders do somehow gain access. Consider this the wind talker security measure, encoding information so that even if an unwanted party does gain access, the data will make no sense without a key to decode it. 

3) Centralize control over user account content and monitoring. A final key measure for protecting information is centralized control. This means that the business owner or your own IT department can set standards for how elaborate employee passwords must be, how frequently they are changed, and accessibility for each employee. 

Safeguards such as the ability to wipe a device or selectively delete applications can also ensure that if an employee leaves the company or a device is lost or stolen, your information remains protected. 

Many companies have recognized the risk of using mobile options in the workforce, but few are giving up on them. They are simply employing smarter techniques to protect their private information, enlisting the help of stronger protection software programs, and adopting policies that are reinforced by effective monitoring. 

Please Note: It may be helpful to install antivirus programs on mobile devices. CNET.com has a list of reputable programs (with reviews) for Android operating systems here. Apple devices do not have antivirus programs available as it is a closed system, you can read a controversial article about that here.  

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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 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mobile_devices_DSC_0988.JPG


Credit Card Scam Costs Apple Over $300k: Don’t Let It Happen To You

  
  
  
  

credit card fraudAnyone who has ever worked behind a cash register or owned a business dreads seeing the words DECLINED flash across the screen after swiping a customer’s credit card. And anyone familiar with the process of calling in to get an “authorization code” knows it’s basically a last ditch effort to get the customer approved in hopes that there is simply an error in the system and the sale can still be made.

Well one clever criminal figured out how to exploit this process and targeted a series of Apple stores costing the company over $300k in fraudulent purchases.  Sharron Laverne Parrish Jr., 24, was able to scam Apple clerks in 16 states by getting them to accept fake authorization codes.

Parrish, uncovering a weakness in the authorization code system, discovered that any series of the right amount of digits the clerk types into the system will override the denial. Taking advantage of the clerks’ lack of this knowledge, Parrish pretended to call the card issuers himself and produced his own fabricated codes for them to enter into the system.

And just like that -- his purchases were approved.  

This practice most commonly known by retailers as a ”forced sale” has been a harmless backup plan to getting card authorizations for many years and is often used by cashiers when point of sale systems or credit card readers are failing.

But Parrish isn’t the only one who has pulled this scam. Elitedaily.com reports another case of “forced sale fraud” by a 29 year old Temeshia McDonald. McDonald was jailed for 3 years for scamming multiples retailers including Victoria’s Secret and Banana Republic for over $500,000.

Unfortunately for Apple and the other businesses being scammed – as soon as their clerks “force the sale” they automatically become liable for the fraud. Any protection offered by the card issuers or banks is lost after the sale is forced.

According to Elitedaily.com, John Joyce, a special agent in charge of the Secret Service in Tampa, told the Tampa Bay Times that clerks should no longer allow customers to punch in these authorization codes themselves. “The retailer should not be so anxious to make a sale as to override a declination at the cash register.”

Even more importantly, clerks should be making authorization calls themselves, not accepting codes from customers themselves.

One thing is for sure, now that “forced sale fraud” has been reported on mainstream media – there will be copycats. It’s imperative that business owners and employees stay educated on the best practices around conducting authorizations to avoid falling victim to this type of fraud.

Has your business used forced authorization codes in the past? Were you aware of this type of fraud? Leave your comments below!

For more information about Forced Sale Authorization Codes and other types of credit card processing fraud Contact Us at NTC Texas.  

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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.

Top Photo Courtesy of NEO_II @ Flickr CC
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