Banking on Your Future – Small Business Workshop Series in Kansas City

Thursday, June 01 at 05:35 AM
Category: Business Banking
Calling small business owners and entrepreneurs in Kansas City! Arvest Bank and Prospect Business Association invite you to attend our last class of our Small Business Workshop Series: Banking on Your Future.

Throughout the series, business owners have discovered insight on how to apply for a loan and received in depth information on the different types of loans that are available. Workshop sessions have been led by industry experts from Arvest Bank including: Mark Larrabee, Greater Kansas City president and CEO; Raul Duran and Shannon Neal, community development; and Monica Dahl and Rene Purtee, business banking.

Check out our last class of this series on Thursday, June 8, 2017: Small Business Resources. You'll have the opportunity to visit with local business resources. The following organizations will be represented: SCORE, Women’s Business Center, Missouri Small Business and Technology Center, KC Sourcelink and Missouri EDC. 

This session will be styled as a panel presentation and be held at East Patrol Community Room (2640 Prospect Ave., Kansas City, Mo.). We will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Workshop sessions are free to the public. Space is limited so registration is required. Please contact Julie Headley at jheadley@arvest.com to reserve your spot today! 

Tags: Arvest Biz, Business Banking, Community Support, Kansas City
 

Prepare for Managing Small Business Cash Flow

Wednesday, May 24 at 07:05 AM
Category: Business Banking
Cash flow is the largest determining factor of a small business’ success or failure. Before a company opens its doors for business, there should be a plan in place for managing cash flow and creating safety nets for times when it’s slow. 
 
Every company will experience a lull in sales, late-paying customers, a business contract that didn’t come through, or economic factors that affect the bottom line. When that happens, business owners can be forced to cut costs or secure alternative funding. It’s critical to be strategic with processes and set expectations for customers from day one regarding your accounts receivable policies.
 
The first course of action is to work with a trusted bank that has treasury and cash management tools in place, as well as the expertise and desire, to help small businesses succeed. Managing a cash flow chart helps entrepreneurs detail the money coming in and out of the business on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and can include capital expenditures for a snapshot of the bigger, longer-term financial picture. 
 
A certified public accountant can provide information on how key cash flow drivers are performing, as well as insight on any developing negative trends. Standardizing the invoice and accounting processes will help avoid disruption in cash flow and can speed the process of getting paid. 
 
Business owners must keep a fluid calculation of their break-even point so they remain acutely aware of their minimum sales goals, how they must price products, and when expenses are on the trajectory to outpace profits. 
 
Among the strategies business owners should put into place to optimize cash flow include the following: 
 
Gross Margins
Know the industry standard for pricing of the products your business offers. Set costs at a level at which the business can be the most profitable, while still maintaining good customer flow. There’s a balance between price, demand and business affinity. In other words, a coffee shop start-up among solid local and national competitors needs to compete on pricing, uniqueness in what it offers, or some other point of difference in order to attract customers and maintain consistent cash flow. 
 
Send invoices immediately
If you’re not selling smaller retail items like coffee, you should strive to send invoices within 24 hours after a sale. This gives the customer ample time to process the paperwork for payment. 
 
Early payment discounts
Incentivize customers to pay early by offering a small discount, such as two percent off the total invoice if payment is received within 10 business days from the time it was issued.  
 
Business line of credit
A line of credit can be established for use when businesses experience a large gap in cash flow as a temporary safety net. Be aware, though, that the time to get that line of credit is before you really need it, so planning ahead is key.
 
Cash reserves
The cash flow chart is also the compass companies should use to determine the amount of cash reserves needed during slow periods. A conservative estimate for cash reserves is the equivalent of three months of cash flow; however, a reserve of six months is recommended.  
 
Accounts receivable financing 
To offset the deficit from payments that are not received on time, businesses may consider invoice factoring, also referred to as accounts receivable financing. This is a borrowing option that lets businesses convert the balance of invoices that are not due for another 30, 60 or 90 days into cash for immediate use.  
 
Manage inventory levels
Too much inventory will use up available cash. When getting started, purchase as little inventory as possible but make arrangements for quick delivery of additional inventory when supplies get low. Managing inventory levels and consistently cycling out old inventory will help promote active cash flow, but manage discounts of products and services carefully because they ultimately cut into the profit margin.  
 
Control debt
As businesses grow, owners can get ahead of themselves and create unmanageable debt. There are healthy ways to leverage debt, taking us back to the point of creating a cash flow chart and working with an experienced financial advisor to plan the next stage of the growing business. 
 
For every question about managing cash flow, there is a solution. Business owners have access to proven tactics and a variety of resources that can help them build, operate and grow their business efficiently and successfully. 
 
Tags: Arvest Biz, Business Banking
 

Helpful Tips to Protect Your Business from ID Theft and Fraud

Wednesday, May 10 at 06:10 AM
Category: Business Banking
With an increasing number of businesses operating online in addition to traditional means, it is critical that both consumers and business owners know how to help protect themselves from identity theft and fraud. Fraud not only can ruin the shopping experience, but have disastrous and long-lasting effects for a business. Even if your company doesn’t conduct retail business online, it is important to protect your private business information and data. 
 
  • Limit what you carry. When you go out, take only the identification, and business credit or debit cards you need.
  • Lock your financial documents and records in a safe place, such as a safe or locked file cabinet that only you have access to. 
  • Before you share information with vendors, ask why they need it, how they will safeguard it, and the consequences of not sharing.
  • Protect your company documents. Shred receipts, credit applications and offers, insurance forms, checks, bank statements, expired charge cards, and similar documents when you don’t need them any longer.
  • Install anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, and a firewall on all company computers. Set your preference to update these protections often.
  • Don’t open files, click on links, or download programs sent by strangers. Opening a file from someone you don’t know could expose your system to a computer virus or spyware that captures your passwords or other information you type.
  • Before you send your business information via your laptop or smartphone over a public wireless network in a public place, see if your information will be protected. If you use an encrypted website, it protects only the information you send to and from that site. If you use a secure wireless network, all the information you send on that network is protected.
  • Keep financial information on your laptop only when necessary. Don’t use an automatic login feature that saves your user name and password, and always log off when you’re finished.
For more extensive information on privacy and identity protection, visit www.ftc.gov* and look for the ‘Tips & Advice’ tab. If you’re interested in fraud prevention services for your business that includes theft-resolution and account monitoring services, Arvest offers ACH Fraud Block and ChecXchange® with some of its business services. To learn more, visit www.arvest.com and select Fraud Prevention under the ‘Business’ tab. 
 
Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.  

Tags: Arvest Biz, Business Banking, Privacy and Security
 

Why Small Businesses Need a Mission Statement

Wednesday, April 26 at 07:05 AM
Category: Business Banking
Every business begins with a theoretical road map to get started, but a key component to long-term success for companies of all sizes is a written and publicly posted mission statement. This statement outlines the company’s purpose – why it exists and what it does; its vision – the big picture; and often its core values that will be followed by every leader and employee in the business.  
 
A mission statement should be brief. It should describe to the reader in a few sentences a high-level overview of the company. It is important internally so employees have a clear direction of what they are working to achieve on a daily basis. It also can serve as a reminder for leaders of the foundation on which the company was built to help guide them during times of change. 
 
Externally, a mission statement speaks to customers and outlines how the company differentiates itself from others in the industry. 
 
Customers want to support businesses that have a solid plan and business owners who are there for the right reasons, regardless of which industry they’re in. Not only does a mission statement give internal and external stakeholders the ‘why’ behind the ‘what,’ it can also create opportunities for new projects, partners or investors that a business may not have had otherwise.
 
The opposite is true as well, in that a clear and understood mission statement may steer leaders away from making alliances that don’t align with that mission. Include the mission statement on the company’s website, in the workplace and other collateral documents.  
 
It will be the first impression of the company many people see so it needs to be concise, yet impressive. The goal is to provide clarity on every level – to employees during their first days on the job, to customers and potential partners. When the mission is clear and a company’s actions align with that mission, it will be reflected in financial results which, ultimately, is the most important reason every company needs a mission statement.  

Tags: Arvest Biz, Business Banking
 

Stay Poised for Changing Marketplace

Wednesday, April 12 at 07:10 AM
Category: Business Banking
As National Small Business Week approaches (April 30-May 6, 2017), what can you say you’re doing to further your entrepreneurial dreams or bolster your business’s potential in 2017? The future looks bright — job growth is steady and consumer spending is rising. The National Federation of Independent Business reported higher overall optimism in the market; their findings were based on ratings related to business factors such as being a good time to expand and plans to increase employment (NFIB Small Business Economic Trends, February 2017). 

So what can you do to work toward enhancing your business and reaching goals? Running through a proactive assessment list at least yearly can help you identify opportunities for growth and revitalization. Arm yourself with these to do’s to stay poised for an ever-changing marketplace:
  • Cost Savings and Expense Monitoring
  • Annual Goal Setting
  • Competitive Analysis 
  • Tools and Trends Usage
Cost Savings and Expense Monitoring
In the spirit of working smarter, not harder, an essential business function is keeping an eye on the bottom line and using financial tools to manage expenses. You probably already have vendors providing point of sale, banking, accounting, or expense platforms to run your daily operations, but are there any specific capabilities they offer that you aren’t taking advantage of? If you have to pay for this with your current provider, is there another vendor that offers those capabilities as complimentary?
 
For example, many commercial credit cards offer budgeting or spending analysis tools you can leverage to get a better look at your finances. You could have access to an annual summary statement that itemizes and categorizes all transactions, even to the merchant level. This allows you to quickly see type of spending and category percentages to better monitor your budget. There are also tools to help you restrict spending or add users in real-time on your accounts. 

Look into streamlining your spending accounts to save time. If you have multiple business credit card accounts, take a look at which one offers you the best rates and rewards and consolidate. And many offer free balance transfers. 

Are there loyalty or rewards programs that give you bonuses, free products, services, or even cash back for your business? You probably have many of the same typical expenses monthly. Choose selectively where you spend, as well as what form of payment you use to maximize earnings. 

Annual Goal Setting
It is paramount to first consider the goals you want to reach as (at least) a partial measure of success to keep you on track. Separate them as essential versus aspirational/nice to achieve. Pick a month and week that makes sense for your specific business type — maybe it’s your low season in June — that you commit to yearly, concentrating on where you’ve been and where you want to go. It’s important to have clear objectives so you can create an actionable step-by-step plan for achievement. 

For example, Mike’s Coffee Shop needs to increase foot traffic and revenue. They therefore want to measurably grow their marketing reach and repeat customer base. As one part of the plan to reach this goal, they will train the staff to consistently tout their loyalty program and have customers sign up with emails and/or mailing info to reach a target list increase of 25 percent within a year while monitoring profits.

Competitive Analysis
It’s important to be aware of who and how many you are competing with for market share, what they offer comparatively and how they reach their customer. How does your business stack up to them, and what can you do better or differently to set your business apart? It’s all about keeping your business relevant and therefore driving interest and sales.
 
Perhaps you can’t be the leader, but you can set your products or services apart as a niche winner in your industry space. Maybe you don’t have every single product type or SKU the big box store down the street has, but you provide the best quality, unique independent vendor offerings or excellent individualized customer service otherwise unavailable. Specialization after competitive analysis could bring your business major revenue.

Tools and Trends Usage
There will always be something shiny and new claiming to help you better run your business; it’s important to be selective on which are worth the investment of your time and/or money. Here is a small sample of online tools applicable to just about any type of business. Most are either free or offer trial versions to test before you commit.

In today’s world, you don’t exist (especially to millennials) if you don’t show up in an online search. What is your online presence?
  • Website builder: Wordpress, Wix, Weebly, Jimdo, Yola 
  • Social media: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn
  • Reviews and search: Yelp, Zomato, Google business listing (search and maps)
What about the tools you can use to help you create content and streamline professional marketing for your business?
  • Manage and schedule social media: Hootsuite, Everypost, Buffer
  • Graphics (flyers, social media images, newsletters, etc.): Canva, Piktochart
  • Survey customers or co-workers: Survey Monkey, Survey Gizmo, Google Forms
How can you more effectively collaborate and communicate? 
  • File sharing: Google Drive, Dropbox
  • Video conferencing: Skype, Google Hangouts, Cisco Webex
  • Project management: Trello, Asana, Freedcamp
Anytime you can shave off unnecessary expenses, achieve new goals and streamline your internal business processes, you make an impact to the success of your business. Any other tools or changes in your business you find helpful and want to share? Tell us in the comments on this blog or comment on our LinkedIn post on this topic!

Tags: Arvest Biz, Business Banking

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