Online Small Business Banking

In the digital age every bank has an online presence, from my little credit union to the big national players. However, not all banks are geared toward serving small business via the internet and, while they all offer you a lot of promises and maybe a flashy new toaster oven, not all of them offer you the services that you need at a competitive price. Here’s what to look for and how to spot those that offer online small business banking from the poseurs.

Customer Service and Big vs. Small Banks

One thing that you may read is how important it is to “cultivate relationships” with your banker and how important your banker is in expediting and even deciding whether or not you get a loan. While this may still be true in the smaller banks, in larger regional or national banks you will never, ever meets the person who approves your loan. A buddy of mine who was a big shot at a major bank before ditching it all to go into the Peace Corps said that the big banks create a strong separation from the banker that you meet, who is basically a sales person, and the person who decides, who is basically an accountant. So skip bribing your banker with chocolate truffles or bottles of bourbon. In fact, if you already bought the “gifts,” just send them here and I’ll gladly dispose of them for you for free!

Similarly, once the recommendation for business people was to keep all their banking with one bank, in order to build up a relationship of trust with that bank. Now, however, the idea of relationship is breaking down and, thanks to the internet and the relative ease of online banking, small businesses can cherry pick the best services off a smorgasbord of banks just like the Bigs do. In fact, the biggest reason that I can see of deliberately keeping all services with a single bank is not having to remember more than one sign-on, password, and pin!

What Your Bank Should Be Able to Do for You

Business Checking Account

One of the essential elements of running your own business is treating it as a separate entity distinct from your own personal affairs or the affairs of your other businesses or investments. Failing to treat your business as a separate entity opens up numerous potential legal and tax consequences that could end up being very costly or even financially disastrous to you. Opening up a business banking account is one essential act that helps establish your business as a separate entity. For most business the key to the checking account is functionality, forget interest rates and a few dollars difference in cost. The key questions are:

  • Can you use the web site to pay pre-pay bills, transfer money, accept online payments and whatever other essential services that your business might need?
  • Are you able to easily download information from the online site to QuickBooks Online or whatever other accounting software that you might be using?
  • Do they have the highest level of online security that is convenient for you?
  • Are they relatively light on “hidden fees” that $5 and $10 you to death just to be able to perform regular, essential operations of your business?

Security

Small businesses run by new entrepreneurs often have lower standards of security and this is especially true when it comes to banking and banking online. The smalls just don’t have the expertise nor the payrolls stuffed with I.T. professionals to keep up with the Trojans and frauds that cyber-criminals use to prey upon the unfortunate, and the unwary. You want the highest level of security possible but without making it so inconvenient on yourself that you aren’t fully able to take advantage of the online services. For example, while I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala I often had to do my banking from internet cafes, and not always with my laptop that was impractical to lug around. When Chase, my original bank, changed the security so that I had to go through a complicated and time-consuming process every time I tried to access my account from a different computer I had to change banks (rather, I added a new bank) because that just wasn’t doable for me.

Loans and Lines of Credit

Loans are a prime area of shopping around and using the power of the internet to shave a fraction of a point off the interest rate. However, if you can’t pay the loan through an electronic transaction between the bank of your checking account and the bank that services the loan and make that payment for free then who cares about a little reduction of the interest rate. I like to look around for the best deal and then ask my primary bank if they can match it, just to keep my life as simple as possible.

Credit Cards

One of the easiest ways to make payments these days is by credit card and you will want at least one that is exclusively used for business purposes. There is no “best” credit card for small business and usually your bank will be able to provide you one. Keep in mind that you want one that is easy to set up and maintain electronically, that is widely accepted (especially if you travel for business), and has a high enough limit for what you need. Remember that building up credit for your business is just like building up credit personally, the better your history the higher your limit will be.

In Conclusion

Starting up a small business can be intimidating and the days when you could have a banker hold your hand and guide you through the process are long gone. The flip side of that is the incredible amount of information available to you at your fingertips. Another advantage is that you are no longer geographically limited, a world of banks is waiting to serve you! Just remember to keep in mind the services that you need, those that you don’t need, and those that you need but could be found at another bank for a better price. Happy banking!

What Can A Small Business Marketing Consultant Do To Help You Grow Your Business?

Think back to the time you started your business. Chances are it was because you enjoyed being in a particular industry – you had a passion about your product or service, and wanted to share it with the world. But did you ever stop and say to yourself, “I can’t wait to market this business”? Probably not. That unfortunately is why many of today’s small businesses fail. The owners try everything they can think of to save their business, yet they miss out on the one opportunity that can turn their business into true success: hiring a small business marketing consultant.

A small business marketing consultant specializes in learning the top ways to market a business; creates strategies that will help businesses double, even triple their current profits; and teaches the most effective methods for increasing the bottom line of any business.

In today’s business world, there are two types of small business marketing consultants:

* Traditional small business marketing consultants

* Online small business marketing consultants

A traditional small business marketing consultant can help you create a marketing strategy using traditional tools. They understand how to advertise your business. They understand the importance of branding. They can help you write copy, and create dynamic promotional pieces. In short, they understand how to marketing your business well in the traditional environment.

But if someone has been in the marketing field for a number of years, and understands traditional marketing venues well, what they may not be good at is making the transition to the online world. And there is a world of difference between traditional and online marketing.

An online small business marketing consultant understands the same strategies used in traditional marketing. They understand advertising. They understand branding. They understand the importance for creating dynamic promotional pieces. But from there is where the differences begin.

An online small business marketing consultant realizes that you sell differently online than you do off. It takes different strategies, different copy, and different promotional materials to succeed online. Not only should a consultant provide you with traditional methods, but they should make sure these methods feed the online world as well.

For example, a postcard sent out direct mail has always been a successful tool. But if you send out that postcard asking for the reader to take one action step – heading to a website to sign up for a free report – you success rate for that postcard will improve dramatically.

While this technique may seem simple, there are many techniques just like this that can bridge the traditional and online world together, and make your business stronger and more profitable. It’s all in what you know – and whom you ask to help make it a possibility.

Copyright 2006 Vision Business Concepts Inc

Small Business Brokers

Buying or selling a business can be a very laborious undertaking, regardless of the size and profitability of the business. Fortunately, there are business brokers and business transfer agents who can help you find either a buyer or a seller. These business brokers are also very helpful in arranging the sale of a business to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible.

If you are considering buying a small business, or if you have a small business and you wish to sell it, there are brokers who specialize in small businesses. For small businesses, finding the right buyer or seller can be difficult.

A small business broker helps you gain access to a bigger group of buyers and sellers and increases your chances of success. Small business brokers work just like any other broker or transfer agent. They are similar to real estate agents in that they match sellers and buyers. Moreover, a good business broker can help your business achieve its maximum value. Not all business brokers, however, are right for small businesses. Thus, the trick is to find the best broker to handle your small business.

There are some tips you can follow to help you find the right business broker. One of the best methods in finding a good broker is getting referrals. Ask around for recommendations from your contacts and acquaintances.

You can also consult the International Business Brokers? Association (IBBA). This trade association of brokers has over a thousand members and can provide you with professional certification. Once you find a broker, research his/her credentials, background and experience. You can also check the Better Business Bureau for further investigation.

Choose a broker who is knowledgeable and experienced. Whether you are selling a small business or looking for a new business opportunity to acquire, a good small business broker can streamline the process and ensure the success of the purchase.

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