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They say money makes the world go round, and that's nowhere more true than in the world of small business. However, the days of trade being conducted using solely cash are far in the past, with checks long being the preferred way for smaller companies to make payments to their suppliers.
Of course, electronic payments are becoming ever more common, and you'll be very accustomed to paying for personal goods and services with the swipe of a credit card. However, for many small businesses, the check still rules when it comes to paying suppliers - but there's a cheaper, easier, more reliable alternative that could be a perfect fit for your operation: payment over the Automated Clearing House (ACH) system.
What is the Automated Clearing House System?
The ACH network is an electronic system for transferring money digitally, and all the major banks are members of it. It is a way of moving funds almost instantly from one bank account to another, making it a simple matter to settle payments at the click of a mouse to anyone with a suitable bank account. No single company controls access to the network, meaning there is a range of different solutions available for any business wanting to make or receive payments, using the two systems of Direct Deposit by ACH and Direct Debit by ACH.
Does ACH Make Financial Sense?
The first consideration in any business operation is whether or not it's an effective and economical use of money. In this area, there's little doubt that paying your suppliers by ACH wins out over checks. The total cost of check payments, taking into account bank fees and other expenses, can easily be $5 or more per check. ACH payments come in at around a tenth of this, with a typical per-payment charge of $0.50 or less.
What Are the Other Advantages?
ACH payments offer a business many other benefits besides simple cost savings.
They are more reliable: no more lost checks.
They offer instant payment, putting an end to 'the check is in the mail' delays
ACH payments are more secure. Despite the cybercrime scare stories, electronic payments are much more difficult to forge or intercept than paper ones, and are easier to track and trace.
They're more convenient, removing the need for trips to the bank or the post office.
ACH software simplifies record keeping and accounting by making full transaction histories available instantly online.
They're kinder to the environment than printing paper checks and sending them by mail.
What Apps Do We Recommend for SENDING Payments via ACH?
Many companies just use the first electronic payment software they find. Often the first name recommended by small business advisors is Bill.com. However, the biggest name is not always the best for small businesses. Of course Bill.com can be an improvement over paper check, but it is far from perfect with some significant downsides. For example Bill.com has one major issue in that it requires the receiver of funds (the vendor of a small business) to register an account with Bill.com prior to receiving the money. For this reason along with an outdated and hard to use user experience, many small businesses are now moving to improved ACH payment software like Plooto. New companies like Plooto are revolutionizing payments by making it very simple and easy to use. Plooto is one company that unlike most of the others does not require the recipient to make a complicated account and login in to receive payment electronically. Simplicity and ease of use is a key differentiator prompting many companies to choose Plooto over Bill.com.
Who Do We Recommend For RECEIVING Payments Via ACH?
The answer here is an easy one. Quickbooks Online makes receiving ACH funds from customers a snap. Within seconds, subscribers of Quickbooks Online can quickly email an invoice and check one box to receive the funds via ACH. Doesn’t get much easier than that.
Considering all these benefits, it's little wonder that the number of payments the ACH system handles is now around 23 billion a year. Is it time for your own business to be adding to that number? Let us know we can help!
Small businesses often do not have the human resource capacity to hire a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) full time. Although the business’s internal or outsourced accountants can perform basic profit and loss and financial reporting, small businesses often miss out on higher level strategic interpretation, analysis and planning, which is the function of a CFO.
In larger and often times small established companies, the board of directors meet monthly to discuss the business’s progress, position and future plans. Newer small businesses may not have a board of directors, but the progress, position and plans of any business is of vital importance to its continued survival and growth. A CFO is responsible for creating and reviewing forecasts and budgets, identifying gaps between actual and estimated, assessing viability of revenue streams, and strategizing the raising of capital.
If small businesses want to expand, they will need to raise capital, whether the money is for mergers and acquisitions or simply to fund organic growth. Without the direction and oversight of a CFO, this can be a tricky procedure. This is especially true if a business plans on listing on a public stock exchange in the future. A CFO will have the expertise necessary to undertake the many requirements for a stock exchange listing. CFOs can help in other areas, such as strategic alliances, marketing pricing, acquisitions and cost cutting, all processes which are vital to a business’s growth.
Small companies such as technology firms may have the knowledge and expertise in their field of work, but how much would a normal tech employee in product development know about tax credits for research and development? Or company valuations of patents and how to recognize and measure grant applications on the accounting books? It’s these and many other reasons why CFOs are essential to some small businesses’ operations because they provide specialist knowledge that core employees may not have.
The cost of hiring a CFO can often be prohibitive, especially for start-ups and research technology companies that have yet to set up a revenue stream and are cost-conscious. Paradoxically, it is also these businesses – the startup, research-heavy companies – that require the services of a CFO the most. The solution is outsourcing the CFO function to an accounting firm for an integrated strategy, tax, accounting, reporting and financial advice service.
If you have any questions regarding how ALTIUS can help with your outsourced CFO needs, reach out to us any time.
Obtaining financing for a business is not easy. There are many actions you need to take to maximize your chances of success before you approach your first investor.
The keys to success are preparation and practice. You should have all of your documentation completely prepared and ready for a professional presentation. Practice your presentation to the point it flows naturally. In other words, it shouldn't sound like a presentation at all.
Remember, trying to obtain seed funding puts you in a selling position. You are trying to get a company, or individual, to buy into your company. Your goal is to convince them you have a valuable idea and a viable plan.
The competition is fierce. According to Statista.com, there were over 4,500 venture capital deals in the United States in 2016, and those deals resulted in financing that exceeded $59 billion.
That is a lot of people vying for a lot of money, what can you do to make your company stand out? At a minimum, have the following steps completed before you begin.
- Have a thorough and professionally prepared and produced business plan and pitch deck. This step alone takes time, and you shouldn't rush it. Investors want to know you have put thought into your business, its future, and how you plan to develop and grow.
- Know what financial forecasting investors expect to see and make sure it is in the format they are accustomed to. Be prepared to to dive into the accounting data if needed.
- Form a business structure or legal entity. Your choice of whether you want to be a sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation or one of the other options is not just dependent on you and your co-founders. Investor preference matters and they prefer to strike business deals with companies, not individuals. You should always consult with an attorney that specializes in this space, so you cover all angles of establishing your business and protect yourself legally and financially.
- Create a capitalization table. A capitalization table lays out the current owners and their types of ownership in your company. The classes of ownership would be the types of shares and bonds you have sold to people. The table should also list who owns what and when they bought into the company and how much of the company they own.
- If you are producing something you consider proprietary to your company, make sure you have secured all the necessary property rights, copyrights, trademarks, and anything else you feel required to establish your ownership of the property. This is another time when will want to consult with an attorney specializing in the space.
- Develop and practice your sales approach. This cannot be emphasized enough, too many entrepreneurs have an "I'll just wing it approach," and that is not a good idea. Create a plan for how you will speak with them during the initial and subsequent meetings. Map out your responses to questions, critiques, and objections. Practice your approach with colleagues and family in front of a mirror and keep practicing it till it flows naturally, like a conversation.
- Have hard copies of everything. Yes, this is the digital age, but people are still more comfortable reading paper instead of digital. However, have everything available digitally in case somebody would like copies to store on a hard drive.
- Lastly network and research VCs you want to talk to, much of their investment history is discussed online. Knowing their industry preferences and average round size can be a good indicator if you are a good fit. Find out when their funds started as this could give you some insight into how soon they are expecting exits to liquidate their investors.
These steps are only the beginning of the tools you will need when approaching investors. If all goes well, and they show an interest in your company, you could end up having to do multiple presentations and provide further documentation.
If it seems time-consuming and laborious to take all of these steps, but that's because it is. But, obtaining funding depends on your approach and presentation. So, spend the time to complete these steps and practice, practice, practice.
In the wake of recent large-scale security breaches at companies like Equifax and others, ALTIUS is currently offering complimentary IT security assessments to it’s clients. The recent attacks have many business owners wondering: If a breach like the Equifax one can bring a large company to its knees what would happen to their businesses? A security attack can critically hurt any company. What every business owner wants to know is what can they can do to protect against a future security failure and is a plan in place to ensure the business survives one if they are attacked.
IT security is critical to businesses at any size and that is why ALTIUS feels a duty to help proactively protect and prepare its clients for the uncertain. In addition to the security concerns illustrated in the headlines we are also finding that the healthiest companies today are constantly evaluating their future technology strategy and leveraging all the new tools and cost efficiencies that can help them do more with less. By providing the complimentary IT security assessments ALTIUS is sending a reminder to its clients they are here to provide the guardianship and guidance that is relevant today.
The CA Competes Tax Credit program is provided by the State of California to award tax credits to businesses that plan to hire workers or invest in the state and any company can apply. In the most recent round of applications ALTIUS was among 87 companies to be awarded CA Competes Tax Credits and we can help your business secure these credits as well.
While technically a competitive credit program, there is actually little competition for small businesses. In fact, in the recent application period, every small business that applied for the credit was automatically moved on to the second phase of the process. That relative lack of competition means opportunity for California small businesses.
Windows For Application
Tax credits totaling $200 million are available for the state’s 2017-2018 fiscal year. Following are the open application periods for the upcoming fiscal year:
July 24, 2017, through Aug. 21, 2017
Jan. 2, 2018, through Jan. 22, 2018
March 5, 2018, through March 26, 2018
The value of the credit awarded is determined by a number of different factors, including the number of jobs that will be created or retained in the state, the amount of competition for the jobs in question, the amount of total investment in the state and the unemployment rate in the area where the business plans to locate.
During the first phase of the evaluation process, the businesses vying for the tax credits are ranked on a number of important factors.
Some of those factors include:
The total number of jobs that will be created or retained in the state of California
The wages and benefits associated with those new or retained positions
The amount of investment the company is planning to make in the state
The current rates of unemployment and poverty in the area where the business is located
Other available tax incentives, including incentives at the state and local level
The duration of the proposed investment project
The overall economic impact the project is expected to have on the state
The strategic importance of the business to the state in total, as well as the region or locality in particular
Opportunities for future growth by the company in question
The extent by which the anticipated benefit to the state of California exceeds the benefit of the tax credit
Businesses, that are successful in Phase 1 will move on to Phase 2 of the tax credit awarding process. During Phase 2, an evaluation is conducted by state representatives to assess the overall value of the proposals and award the tax credits based on their established criteria.
In Phase 2 of the program, a number of important factors are considered, including:
The local unemployment rate
Competitive incentives in other states or jurisdictions
The economic impact on the state of California and its residents
The outlook for business and industry
Businesses who are awarded the tax credits can use those credits to offset taxes in the current year, and any award beyond the current income tax due can be carried forward and applied to taxes due for the following five years.
ALTIUS is proud to be to be a recipient of California Competes Tax Credits in previous application windows and can help your company be awarded credits as well.