Economic Impact Abounds As NCAA Narrows to Final Four

by Crestmark 2. April 2014 09:42

March may be over, but the madness is in full swing as the NCAA tournament comes down to the Final Four. With barely a week to go in this annual fascination with college basketball, companies large and small are feeling the financial effects – some good, some not so much. Whether they're plagued by employees losing productivity or bolstered by a sudden influx of tournament-hungry patrons, the impact is undeniable. 

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A Blow to Productivity

According to a recent report from outplacement and career transitioning company Challenger, Gray and Christmas, more than 50 million American workers are participating in office pools. While the annual practice may have cost companies approximately $1.2 billion in lost production time in the first week of the basketball tournament alone, the firm has cautioned corporate executives to avoid taking a hard line against bracket pools, friendly discussions at the water cooler and those taking time out for updates. A blow to employee morale and loss of camaraderie could be even more costly to a company's bottom line in the long run.

A Rise in Morale  

While the setback to productivity has declined as the basketball games have transitioned to evening and weekend play, the excitement of bracket busters and newly formed kinships at the office continues. Companies that allow employees to wear their favorite teams' colors or check office pool updates on the clock can still reap the benefits of enthusiastic workers. A pre-tournament survey by staffing services firm OfficeTeam found that 32 percent of the 300 senior managers surveyed believed that support of March Madness activities had a positive impact on worker morale, compared to just 20 percent in 2013.

A Boon to Business

On the other side of the financial fence, many merchants have seen a rise in business during the NCAA tournament. Hotels, restaurants and shops in host cities have experienced a surge in bookings, as have providers for air and ground  transportation. Mid-West bracket host city Indianapolis, for example, expected a $20 million spending impact from this past weekend's showdowns between the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville, as well as the University of Tennessee and University of Michigan. Kentucky eked out a win against Michigan amid an economic boost for Indianapolis merchants.

Meanwhile, restaurants and sports bars throughout the country offering televised games with food and drink specials are drawing record crowds of their own. In some cases, employees for these businesses are picking up extra shifts and working longer hours to meet the demand.  

With the semi-final games set for Friday, April 4 and the championship on Sunday, April 6, 2014, the eyes of millions of Americans are on the Florida Gators, Connecticut Huskies, Wisconsin Badgers and the Kentucky Wildcats. While there's no doubt that the economic impact of the NCAA tournament has created both winners and losers, only three games remain until it's back to business as usual.  

 

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Four Ways to Know if a Business Line of Credit is Right for You

by Crestmark 11. September 2013 11:05

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Starting a new business is not the only time an entrepreneur may look for help with financing. Some small business owners—especially those who operate seasonally—experience fluctuations in cash flow throughout the year. A line of credit can help to smooth over the ebb and flow of sales and cash flow throughout the year. 

A business line of credit provides on-demand funding, and there are a number of different types of lines of credit ranging from unsecured, meaning that it is not backed by any kind of assets; to secured, backed on a general basis by all assets of the company, or by specific assets that are structured into the funding formula of the line of credit.

Here are four questions to ask yourself before approaching a lender:

1.) Does your business have uneven cash flow? The best use of a business line of credit is for paying off expenses in the short term that can be easily paid off in the long term. This works well for short term expenses such as payroll and inventory.

2.) Are you able to pay off the balance of your credit line? It can be tempting to carry a balance on a line of credit, but this will ultimately damage both your relationship with the lending bank and your company's financial health. Unless you are able to pay off the balance quickly, you should not run the risk of borrowing against a line of credit, but possibly consider a term loan for long term items like buying equipment.

3.) Would a business credit card be more appropriate for your needs? A line of credit will have a lower interest rate and higher credit limit than most business credit cards. It will not, however, provide line by line tracking of expenses along with date and location of purchases. This can be very valuable for record keeping and future planning, and also allows you the flexibility to provide individual cards to key employees/staff for travel or other day to day business expenses.

4.) Are all business owners available to apply? If your business is a partnership or has multiple owners, at least 80% of the owners must be represented in the credit application. This makes applying for a line of credit a decision that must be made across all owners of your business.

If you are just starting out, looking to obtain working capital for your existing business, or want to grow from your established base, Crestmark’s business development team can work with you to determine which type of financing solution is the best fit for your current business situation.

 

 

 

 

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Top 5 Mobile Apps for Entrepreneurs

by Crestmark 29. July 2013 03:56

As an entrepreneur, staying organized while on the go will help keep your business—and even your day—running smoothly. And while the ability to keep constantly connected to your work with a smartphone or tablet can sometimes be overwhelming, a number of business-minded apps have been developed over the past few years to make your life a little easier.

1. Evernote: With a motto like “Remember everything,” this is going to be a top-pick for any busy entrepreneur. Evernote makes it easy to keep notes, files, and even clippings of entire webpages in one place which can then be accessed by both mobile devices and the Web. Potentially one of the best examples of this is using it for travel since you can keep all itineraries, confirmations, scanned travel documents, maps, and plans in Evernote, ready for when you need them.

2. Pocket: How would you like to have a virtual cloud that can store anything from articles to videos, straight from your browser or apps? That’s exactly what you can do with Pocket. Formerly called “Read it Later,” Pocket can save just about anything for you to read when you’re ready.

3. Square: A card reader, simple pricing, and smarter business tools make it easy for businesses of any size to do what they love and get paid fast and easily. Use the free secure card reader sent to you to swipe cards on-the-go from anywhere. The Square Register app is free and easy to setup – just link your bank account and you’re able to accept payments almost instantly. You have the option to pay a flat monthly fee of $275.00 or a 2.75% fee per swipe. You will see your payment quickly and directly deposited within 1-2 business days.

4. Mint: This one is valuable for business and personal use. Named Best Finance App by the 1st Annual App Awards and TIME Magazine's 50 Best iPhone Apps of 2011, Mint enables you to track finances in real-time. You can enter transactions manually or sync your accounts automatically to track investments, sort transactions by category, set budgets, and create alerts.

5. FreshBooks: Speaking of finances, this cloud accounting app makes tracking time, logging expenses, and invoicing clients portable and painless. It also boasts team timesheets for projects involving more than one person’s billable time, multiple datacenters to back up secure data, and online payments so you can accept payments and put that money to work faster.

 

As an entrepreneur or business owner, what apps make your life easier? 

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Social Media Time Management for Small Businesses

by Crestmark 28. May 2013 05:13


Small businesses are told to have a social media strategy to stay competitive.  For the most part, they know it’s necessary; they’re just not sure where to go with it.  Which social media outlets are most successful?  Which platform will get your company the most publicity? How do you manage your time between the endless amounts of new social platforms being released every day?  With all the other management and marketing strategies your business has going on, social media may seem like the last thing you want to add to your “to-do” list.  However, it doesn’t have to be a stressful process.

Develop a Plan: First and foremost, before just jumping into the social media pool, you’ll need to have a solid strategy.  Don’t just start posting and commenting without a plan.  Know your target audience; get a feel for who you’re trying to reach and what you’re trying to get out of using social media to reach customers. This will help you maintain credibility and relevance as a business.

Test the Waters: So this is your first social campaign- maybe ever.  Don’t panic!  Social media is a platform that doesn’t thrive on perfection.  Use trial and error to determine what engages followers.  Ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to learn from others and even learn from your clients!  Being “new” to social media can be a great excuse to learn and gain respect from consumers who don’t expect you to know all the ropes just yet. 

Start Small: One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your social media endeavors is to take on more than you can handle.  If this is your first ever attempt at going social- don’t create a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Vine, and Instagram all at once.  It is always better to do one thing really well than to try and haphazardly to have your hands in everything at once. For entrepreneurs—and really anyone in a B2B industry—Linkedin is a great place to start to grow your network.

Track, Track, Track: Keep a close eye on your website analytics and definitely take a few minutes to install a social media dashboard. These custom Google dashboards will not only allow you to see how many people are coming to your site from every social network (whether you have a profile on there or not), but what devices those users are coming from and how those users end up converting.

Have you already gotten started with your social media efforts? Connect with Crestmark on Linkedin today! 

 

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Seven Questions to Ask Yourself When Testing a Business Idea

by Crestmark 8. April 2013 06:45

Most people have come up with a potential business idea at some point in their lives. After all, the idea is the easy part. Before investing time or energy into a new business, it's important to critically analyze the idea to ensure it will be a smart use of resources. Here are seven things every new business owner should consider before moving forward and getting serious with an idea: 


1. What is the customer profile? There’s no sense in starting a business without any customers, and the better you understand your potential market, the more likely your business is to grow and succeed. The current state of the economy makes it even more crucial to take some time to research your target audience because targeting everyone in general will be too expensive. Who are your potential competitors targeting? You might find they’re missing out on a niche market you can take advantage of once you’re in business.

2. What resources are needed? Understanding the full, up-front cost of a project is vital to ensuring its success. Consider the cost of materials, labor, advertising costs and other expenses. Will the costs outweigh the profits? If an idea isn't financially feasible, put it on hold for a later time.

3. What is the purchasing cycle? The longer it takes for profits to reach the business, the more money must be spent up-front. Understanding your purchasing cycle beforehand will help with budgeting. Once you’ve decided to move forward with an idea, remember—whether your business will have a short cycle like most retail stores, or one that lasts for months: find ways to reach your customers at each point in the cycle.

4. What product or service is this replacing? In order to effectively sell something, a company must convince its customers to buy its products instead of something else. Determine what item customers will be willing to give up in exchange for the service offered by the new business. This will also help when the time comes to advertise the product.

 

sales forecast5. What is a reasonable sales forecast? Determine how many sales can be reasonably expected, and compare this figure against the production cost of the item or service. For example, a restaurant owner might consider the occupancy of the restaurant, the average cost of a menu item and how many people could be expected to stop in on an average day. It might help to review competing businesses to draw estimates from their data. 


6. How much growth potential is there? If you’re producing a hand-crafted item, for example, can it be mass-produced if the demand requires? Services that must be rendered by a skilled individual cannot be produced in high quantities. Leave room for growth, but establish limits early on.

7. Will the idea be viable in several years? Some business ideas seem appealing at first but would not be attractive in the long haul. Before deciding on a new enterprise, an entrepreneur needs to decide if he could be happy at that same business two, five or even 10 years down the road.


Of course, a successful business needs more than a smart idea, but testing each new idea against these criteria will help to create a secure foundation for the business to grow upon. 

 

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