• Chip Technology: The Next Big Thing In Electronic Payments

    Is your business #chipready? Do you know how chip cards can help protect your customers and your business from fraud?

    During this webinar, Visa will bring together experts to help small business owners understand how new payment technologies impact their business’ ​bottom line, including driving sales and revenue, increasing customer security and protecting customer data.

    credit card chip

    Learn what resources are available to you as a business owner so that you can make the switch to chip.

    Presenter: Stephanie Ericksen, Visa, VP Risk Products​

    When: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 1:00 pm EDT / 10:00 am PDT

    Duration: 1 Hour

    Host: SCORE Association

    Watch Here > 

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  • 2015 State of Women-Owned Business Report

    For the third consecutive year, partnered with the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) to commission a national survey of NAWBO members. The survey gathered insights about the business challenges women-owned businesses face in 2015. It also gauged their perceptions about the business climate for entrepreneurs, investment priorities and motivational drivers as well as examined aptitudes and interests toward online marketing products and services for 2015. The online survey of 306 respondents was fielded by Golin between March 19 and April 4, 2015. The survey has a±3.0% to 3.5% margin of error at a 95% confidence level.


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  • How to Choose a Credit Card Processing Company

    If your small business plans to accept debit and credit cards — whether in person, by phone or online — you’ll need to choose a credit card processing company to accept them. Although you’ll pay some upfront costs and ongoing credit card processing fees for doing so, going from a cash-only business to one that accepts credit and debit cards could lead to a big boost in sales.

    A study by Intuit estimates that businesses that don’t accept credit cards miss out on approximately $7,000 in sales each year, while a 2013 survey by the Federal Reserve says the number of debit card payments increased more than any other payment type from 2009 to 2012. And as mobile payment options such as Apple Pay soar in popularity with younger shoppers, your small business might want to adopt new technologies to meet the needs of your customer base.

    However, choosing a credit card payment processor is not a simple task. Just as with any major financial decision, it’s wise to carefully compare the pros and cons of each of your options before signing a contract. Here are five important factors to consider.

    1. How much are the fees and other costs?

    Credit card processing fees can be up to 5% on everything a company earns from its credit and debit card sales, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. However, some companies might charge much less than others while offering the same products and level of service.

    Here are some of the main credit card processing fees to look out for:

    • Interchange fees: This refers to a fee that is charged for every transaction you process, and it’s paid by the payment processor to the card-issuing bank. The rate you’ll pay for a transaction ultimately depends on several factors, including the type of card accepted (credit, debit or a rewards card), the type of transaction (if it’s done in store, by phone or online), and the size of each transaction (larger and fewer transactions result in lower fees). In-store transactions will cost you less in interchange fees, since the card is physically present, meaning there’s less risk of fraud.
    • Monthly statement fees: The credit card processing company might charge you monthly statement fees to cover the expense of mailing you a statement. It costs about $10 per month on average.
    • Application and setup fees: You may face a fee just for applying for the processing service. Setting up the equipment that’s necessary to accept credit cards may cost you extra, too. This fee can vary widely, depending on company.
    • Monthly minimum fee: This refers to a minimum amount in fees the processing company must collect in any one month. If you don’t meet or exceed this minimum amount, the processing company will charge you to meet the minimum. For example, the company’s monthly minimum fee may be $25; if your total credit card transaction fees one month are $20, the company will charge you $5 to make up the difference.
    • Monthly gateway access fee: Some processors may charge you this monthly fee for providing a payment gateway, which transmits transaction data from your processing system to the credit card companies. Monthly fees cost approximately $10 to $30.
    • Early termination fee: Some processors may charge you this fee for early cancellation of your contract. The fee can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands.

    As you can see, there are quite a few credit card processing fees your payments company may charge. It’s important to make sure you understand all the fees and service terms; if you have any questions or concerns, ask a company representative for an explanation. If they can’t provide you a detailed explanation on any costs or fees, it might be time to move on to the next processor.

    2. How long will it take to set up?

    It should be easy for you and your employees to set up the processing technology. Find out how long the payment processor will take to set up your account and install the equipment so you can plan accordingly. If it seems like it might be a complicated task, make sure the processor can provide some support.

    3. What are the accepted payment types?

    If you run a retail business, you might want to make sure the new payments processor accepts all major credit and debit cards so you don’t have to turn away any customers — after all, what’s worse than that? You might also want a system that accepts prepaid cards and gift cards, or an electronic benefit transfer, or EBT, depending on what type of business you operate.

    4. Does it accept new payment technologies?

    Does your business have a lot of tech-savvy customers? If so, you might want a payments processor with near-field communication (NFC) technology, so you can accept digital wallets such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet. These devices allow customers to make purchases with a simple touch of their smartphone or tablets.

    Apple Pay, for example, works with most major credit and debit cards and now accounts for two out of every three dollars processed through contactless payments.

    5. How helpful is customer support?

    What if you run into technical problems with your credit card machine? Or you have questions about your monthly billing statement, such as confusing fees?

    Hiring a payments processor that provides 24/7 customer support and direct help from an account representative can solve these issues. In addition, a helpful account representative should be able to explain any fees or costs you don’t understand. And in the end, it might be worth paying a little more in fees to avoid unreliable, confusing service for your small business.


    How to find credit card processors

    There are dozens of credit card processing companies; some of the better-known include Leaders Merchant Services, Merchant Warehouse and Intuit. You can look up accredited businesses in your area at the Better Business Bureau website, where you can also find out whether the company has had any customer complaints. Major banks such as Bank of America, Citibank, Chase and US Bank also offer merchant services.

    If your business keeps you on the move, you may want to consider mobile credit card readers over traditional processors. These devices plug directly into a smartphone or tablet, so you can get paid by your customers anywhere you go and won’t need to purchase or lease an expensive credit card terminal. These devices could be particularly useful if, for instance, you sell goods at farmers markets, you’re a personal trainer who works at clients’ homes or you work out of a vehicle.

    Examples of mobile card readers include PayPal Here, Spark Pay, Etsy, Amazon Local Register, PayAnywhere and Square. Just as with a regular payments processor, small-business owners should compare costs, accepted payment types and level of customer support before making a decision.

    For more information about how to start and run a business, visit NerdWallet’s Small Business Guide. For free, personalized answers to questions about starting and financing your business, visit the Small Business section of NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor page.

    Steve Nicastro is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow him on Twitter@StevenNicastro and on Google+.

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  • 5 Ways to Raise Your Business Credit Score

    If you’ve tried to borrow money in the past for your business or for personal reasons, you’ve surely come across the notion of personal credit and a personal credit score. As a business owner, you may also have business credit. Lenders look at both personal and business credit in determining whether to lend you money. Here, we explain what business credit is and list 5 ways for you to establish and raise your business credit.

    Personal vs. Business Credit

    Many business owners understand how personal credit works but don’t give much thought to their business credit. Business credit, or trade credit, actually makes up a much larger percentage of credit transactions than personal credit. When a business (like a lending company) issues credit to another business, it can report the transaction and subsequent repayment history to business credit bureaus such as Experian Business and Dun & Bradstreet (D&B). These bureaus produce business credit reports and a business credit score.

    Having good business credit helps you get the most desirable loans, such as low-interest-rate bank and SBA loans. Great business credit can independently support a business’s loan or credit application without regard to the personal creditworthiness of its owners. It can have other benefits too — for example, lenders may not require a personal guarantee for a loan if you have great business credit. (See: Loans And Amortization — Introduction To Loans.)

    Increase Your Business Credit

    1. Ask Vendors to Report Business Credit History.

    The more vendors that report a positive credit history to the business credit bureaus, the higher your business credit rating will be. Vendors are not required to report trade credit transactions to the business credit bureaus, but an increasing number of B2B lenders do report these transactions. We suggest working with lenders that report to the business credit agencies, particularly D&B (Dun and Bradstreet), which is the largest business credit bureau and carries the most clout with creditors.

    1. Keep Debt Levels Low.

    Borrowing too much suggests that your business is struggling financially and can hurt your business credit score. High debt levels mean your business has less breathing room if revenues and profits decrease, and creditors don’t like to see this. Experian advises that you try to keep your debt level at 20 to 30 percent of your credit limit. This will help raise your business credit score.

    1. Make Timely Payments on Business Credit Cards and Loans.

    Although it may seem obvious, one of the main things you can do to establish good business credit is to pay your business loans and credit card bills on time. Having a pattern of consistent and timely repayment on your existing debt helps you build trust with future creditors and helps you raise your business credit score. It will also help you avoid late fees and compounding interest. (See video: Understanding Compound Interest.)

    If you’ve recently made a late payment or two, consider talking to the bank or lender and asking them to remove any late fees and withdrawing any information they provided to the business credit bureaus. But if you’re a regular late payer, it’s time to shape up and start paying those bills on time!

    1. Open At least A Couple Business Credit Accounts, and Don’t Close Unused Accounts.

    No credit doesn’t necessarily mean good credit. In fact, having no credit makes it impossible for future creditors to accurately assess your business’ creditworthiness. You should have at least 1 or 2 sources of business credit, such as a business loan or business credit card. (See article: The Pros And Cons Of Small Business Credit Cards.)

     If you’re having difficulty qualifying for a traditional commercial loan at first because of a low personal credit score, there are other options such as short-term alternative lenders and peer-to-peer lenders. At the very least, apply for a business store credit card, such as a Walmart or Staples credit card. (To find out more about peer-to-peer lending as a financing option, see article: Peer-To-Peer Lending Breaks Down Financial Borders.)

    Once you’ve opened a couple business accounts, it will be easier to get more credit in the future.

    If you open a business credit card, but aren’t using it that much, Experian still recommends that you keep the account open if you have a good relationship with the lender. The reason is that this increases your overall debt availability, which in turn increases your business credit. (For related reading, see article: Using Business Credit Cards Strategically.)

    1. Monitor Your Business Credit Report.

    Gaining access to your business credit report isn’t as easy as obtaining your personal credit report. Unlike the case with personal credit reports, you’re not entitled to one free annual business credit report. However, there are ways to get your hands on it. First, if your application for a business loan was denied and the lender used your business credit report to make the decision, you have 90 days to request a copy of the report. Alternatively, you can pay a fee on D&B, Experian Business, or another business credit bureau website to see your business credit report.

    If there’s a mistake on your business credit report, fix the error right away. If the lender won’t voluntarily correct the error, file a dispute with the credit bureau. The lender then has 30 days to verify the information in your file.

    Both business credit and personal credit are important to your business’ financial health and ability to borrow money. If you haven’t given much attention to your business credit score, follow the 5 steps above to establish and increase your business credit.

    Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are those of Fit Small Business and are subject to change at any time due to changes in market or economic conditions. The comments should not be construed as a recommendation of any individual holdings or market sectors. This material does not constitute any specific legal, tax or accounting advice. Please consult with qualified professionals for this type of advice.

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  • National Small Business Association President: Cybersecurity A Major Issue for Small Firms

    National Small Business Association President and CEO Todd McCracken testified today before the House Committee on Small Business highlighting the serious concern cybersecurity issues pose for America’s small-business owners. Citing recent NSBA survey data, McCracken noted the huge increase in the cost of cyber attacks on small firms in just under two years.

    The hearing, “Small Business, Big Threat: Protecting Small Businesses from Cyber Attacks,” focused on the current state of cyber-security for small firms and steps that can strengthen their efforts in information protection.

    In his statement, McCracken said, “In the last few years, cybersecurity has emerged as a significant problem and concern for the small-business community. By the end of 2014, according to NSBA’s Year-End Economic Report, fully half of small businesses reported having been the victim of a cyber-attack (up from 44 percent in 2013). Of those, 61 percent say an attack had occurred within the last year. This is a problem.”

    He went on to cite the skyrocketing cost of dealing with cyber attacks: small firms today cite the average cost of a cyber attack at$20,752 per attack, up from $8,699 two years ago.

    In closing, McCracken urged lawmakers to move forward on establishing streamlined cybersecurity guidelines and protocols, but cautioned against a knee-jerk reaction that would place a disproportionate burden on America’s smallest firms

    “Any legislation should provide clear, simple steps for companies to follow when their data is breached and must balance the need for greater information sharing with privacy rights,” McCracken said.

    Please click here to read McCracken’s full testimony.

    Celebrating more than 75 years in operation, NSBA is a staunchly nonpartisan organization advocating on behalf of America’s entrepreneurs. NSBA’s 65,000 members represent every state and every industry in the U.S. Please visit or follow us at @NSBAAdvocate.


    SOURCE National Small Business Association

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  • What Small Business Owners Need to Know about Liability for Counterfeit Fraud on Chip Card Accounts

    As of October 1, 2015, liability for counterfeit fraud on chip card accounts will shift from the chip card issuer to business owners who have not upgraded to chip-activated terminals. In this session, Visa will bring together experts to help educate small business owners understand how new payment technologies impact their business’ bottom line, including driving sales and revenue, increasing customer security and protecting customer data.

    Participants will learn:

    • How does EMV Chip technology work?
    • What is the EMV Chip liability shift?
    • How do I implement the technology to my terminals and train my staff to prepare?

    Register Here!

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  • 4 Ways a Virtual CIO Helps Small Business

    Every small business — with dreams of growth and expansion — realizes technology enhances business productivity. Of course, not every small business can allocate funds to staff an IT department — or in some cases even have an IT professional on call.

    For most small businesses, IT experts on site are chiefly managing tactical issues — leaving little time for maintenance, monitoring and planning when it comes to nurturing a strategic, effective IT strategy. For most small businesses, a virtual CIO (chief information officer) is an exceptional alternative to restaffing or expanding an internal IT department.

    What is a Virtual CIO?

    Virtual CIOs are really a portfolio of IT services delivered by today’s Managed Service Providers (MSPs) for small businesses. Virtual CIO is a title — and a service — combining tasks managed and maintained by chief information officers, chief technology officers and technology consultants.

    Virtual CIOs take care of everything from infrastructure management, firewall and virus protection to WAN/LAN health monitoring, disaster recovery, scheduled on-site support and more — all with a focus on keeping data safe, secure and accessible 24/7. Virtual CIOs proactively monitor, measure and maintain the IT health and security of a business at an IT budget structured and, in most instances, customized for today’s SMBs.

    How do virtual CIOs help small business? From technology roadmaps to IT infrastructure management and more, virtual CIOs help today’s SMBs access and operate the innovative business technologies available to them, with remote and on-site support, consultation and troubleshooting.

    Technology Roadmap

    Having a forward-thinking vision of where you want your business to be, as well as goals for immediate improvements, is essential to any successful enterprise. Virtual CIOs provide IT plans and strategies that help small businesses leverage IT solutions to fulfill short- and long-term business goals.

    Security and Disaster Planning

    The best time for a disaster recovery plan is before a small business actually requires one. With Virtual CIO services, businesses benefit from disaster strategy development that allows for quick response and business productivity protection in the event of an outage or natural disaster.

    Security is quickly becoming a top priority for all businesses as breaches occur more frequently and carry more serious repercussions. Small businesses are not immune to attacks simply because their data sets are smaller. Virtual CIOs provide consistent security planning and disaster planning plus monitoring, to keep data flowing safely.

    IT Maintenance, Monitoring and Management

    Comprehensive and consistent IT management is the difference between suffering disruptive productivity gaps and maintaining seamless operational productivity. Virtual CIOs deliver not only day-to-day monitoring and maintenance of IT performance and productivity, but also comprehensive IT management to keep business processes functioning at peak efficiency.

    24/7 Specialized IT Expertise

    Even with an in-house IT department, sometimes it can be difficult to ensure that you have the right talent for all IT-related issues. Having a Virtual CIO gives a small business big peace of mind with constant IT monitoring and reporting.

    Many SMBs want to leverage technology — cloud accounting solutions, customer relationship management software and much more — but lack the necessary expertise and personnel to do so. By investigating and finding the right virtual CIO to compliment and guide their IT infrastructure, performance and overall strategy, an SMB may find not only an exceptional IT authority, but also a technology partner and trusted adviser.

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  • Cash Flow Slow? Here are 5 Ways Small Business Owners can Control Income

    Kelli Crisan’s livelihood depends on a food truck that doesn’t bring in the same amount of money year-round.

    Since 2011, she’s run the Roaming Fork “Bistro on Wheels” in Charlotte. When business is booming, she can easily serve 2,000 customers a week.

    When it’s not and her cash flow is lean, Crisan, 47, relies on money she’s saved to give herself a cushion. Putting away at least 15 to 20 percent of her income each week keeps her calm when lines outside her food truck dwindle due to cold weather, she said.

    “When you make good money, put that money away (because) there will be a time you won’t,” she said.

    Managing inconsistent income for small-business owners is tricky, but not impossible. Here are ways entrepreneurs can get a grip on their finances when cash flow is a little slow:

    1) Build an emergency fund for your business

    Save at least three months’ worth of operating costs in a bank account, said Emily Fisher, president of Charlotte-based E. Fisher P.A. accounting firm.

    For example, if your average business expenses are $10,000 a month, build up $30,000 in your account so you can pay your bills and rent during hard times, she said.

    “Over time, you’ve saved that amount and it gives you a cushion to get you through those slow periods,” she said.

    Fisher, 40, knows this firsthand. Yearly tax return deadlines in April and October mean high cash flow for her firm, she said. But in other months – especially November through January – “I don’t count on (cash) coming in.”

    When you plan your yearly budget, Fisher said, “you definitely need to figure out when your lowest point is, how long it’s going to be, then add a couple of months.”

    2) Pay personal bills ahead of time

    May and June are the most profitable times of year for Cory Tapia, who runs Blue Motion Studio, a wedding photography business. When wedding season cools off, Tapia, 32, switches his services to focus more on corporate clients, such as companies and universities.

    Bills don’t stop when business lulls, he said. Tapia said he uses the busier times of year to pay his mortgage, credit card bill and student loans six to seven months in advance.

    “I pay it off till the following start of the peak season,” he said. “Pretty much everything else that’s coming in afterward is sort of profit. It’s kind of just making sure the necessities are paid off.”

    3) Make a list of your important obligations

    Resist the urge to splurge if your business is making good money, says financial adviser Glen Wright, CEO of Charlotte-based Worth Financial Advisory Group.

    Instead, prioritize your spending by making a list of your top obligations – whether that’s saving money for a house, adding cash to your children’s college fund or adding to your own retirement fund.

    After those priorities are paid off, pour any leftover cash back into the business, Wright said.

    4) Don’t overstock your inventory

    Each month, Jeff Lee tracks customer purchases at his hand-painted furniture and gifts shop in Mount Holly.

    Then he stocks up on those hot sellers, from paint to candles. Buying exactly what he needs for his business, Vintage Nest, keeps him from wasting money on inventory that’s not in demand at certain times of the year, said Lee, 49.

    In winter, the shop’s storefront windows are “chock-full of furniture” because patrons want to refresh their homes after Christmas, Lee said. In the fall, he’ll fill his shelves and stockroom with candles. And from August till October, he’ll stockpile more paint instead of ordering it in the spring and summer when customers are more interested in vacation than painting furniture.

    It makes “no sense having $10,000 worth of paint inventory when you have $3,000 to $4,000 in paint sales,” he said.

    5) Save 15-20 percent of your income

    Crisan, the food truck owner, paid $65,000 cash to get started after a 20-year career in real estate and new home construction, she said.

    For years, she saved a percentage of her income – at first 10 percent, now 15 to 20.

    That discipline started early. At 21, she worked for a company that matched 50 percent of employee contributions to their retirement savings accounts, up to 15 percent of salary. Crisan got into the habit of saving aggressively.

    She enjoys steady business between April and mid-July, and then again during the fall. Cold weather slows business from December to early March, she said. There’s another brief slump in the summer when blistering heat keeps people indoors, she said. That’s where having backup money comes in handy.

    “No matter what, you should always put back,” Crisan said. “Just constantly save. You never know what can happen.”


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