Accept payments like the big guys

Getting paid is becoming increasingly easier for small business merchants thanks to an array of internet-enabled options for consumers.

Apple Pay
Anything related to Apple seems to be a hit, and its payment system is no different. Apple boasts that its payment system’s app allows for ease of use by consumers because they don’t need to have a credit card handy. Merchants only need a contactless payment-capable point-of-sale terminal for Apple Pay, which they can get by contacting Apple’s merchant support.

Square vs. PayPal
Both of these payment methods are especially helpful for owners whose businesses are mobile. Their payment readers can be plugged into any mobile device. Consumers simply swipe their cards, and Square or PayPal processes the transaction. Square wins for its effective POS (point of sale) system. PayPal is hailed for being a good choice for merchants who have low-volume processing needs.
Square charges a flat rate of 2.75 percent per transaction. PayPal charges 2.2 percent to 2.9 percent, plus 30 cents per transaction.

Payline Data
Payline Data is also a formidable choice for processing credit cards. Business News Daily notes that it allows merchants to choose pricing options that jive with their sales volumes. Another benefit it offers is aimed at high-risk businesses. Payline Data offers them merchant accounts, which can be difficult for these businesses to obtain. Payline charges 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent plus 15 cents per transaction.

Bitcoin
The volatile digital currency is becoming increasingly accepted as a reputable form of payment. Reasons to accept the form of cryptocurrency include the fact that there is no fee to the merchant. When it comes to fraud, bitcoin can be more cost-efficient. That’s because bitcoin payments
are irreversible and secure, so the cost of fraud is not shouldered by the merchant that accepts it, explains Bitcoin.org.

IBM leads as big companies rethink remote work

After decades of touting its anytime, anywhere remote workforce, IBM is starting to bring workers back into the office.

About 40 percent of IBM’s 380,000 employees work in non-traditional settings, although the company has offered no information as to how many will be affected by the May announcement.

The tech giant gave affected remote workers 30 days to move back into the office setting or leave the company.

Although the 105-year-old company has experienced 20 quarters of falling revenue, a company spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that the move was not a cost-cutting measure.

IBM is not the only company abandoning the popular remote work models. Yahoo, in 2013, called telecommuters back to the office as have Bank of America and Aetna. Corporate leaders have argued that putting workers in the same space increases work speed and sparks innovation.

One University of Texas professor who studies telecommuting says companies thought they would reap large savings in office and real estate costs. Jennifer Glass, who also advises companies on remote-work strategies, says these savings have not largely materialized.

IBM spokespeople say the vast majority of remote workers have elected to join a regional office. When Yahoo made the same move, however, it set off a furor.

Small business confidence continues at all-time high

Small business confidence continues at all-time high
Small business owners continue to be very optimistic about future economic growth, according to a recent industry survey.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) released its February Small Business Optimism Index in March. The reading was at its highest in 43 years.

The NFIB noted that evidence on the economy is mixed.

The New York Federal Reserve puts first quarter growth at 3.1 percent while the Atlanta Federal Reserve is looking for 1.8 percent. Both have access to the same data.
However, the gulf between liberals and conservatives is large. The University of Michigan/Reuters poll in February illustrated this, with the Expectations Index at 55 among Democrats, 120 for Republicans and 89 for Independents. The Democrats expect the worst, the Republicans the best. Spontaneous positive references to economic policy were made by a record 28 percent of consumers, 26 percent made negative references. Reality will resolve the gap.

Small businesses are optimistic that there will be a new health care law, tax reform, and relief from regulations.
It is clear from our data that optimism skyrocketed after the election because small business owners anticipated a change in policy, said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan. “The sustainability of this surge and whether it will lead to actual economic growth depends on Washington’s ability to deliver on the agenda that small business voted for in November. If the health care and tax policy discussions continue without action, optimism will fade,” Duggan said.

The index fell in February, but still is considered very high. The NFIB noted that the slight decline follows the largest month-over-month increase in the survey’s history in December and another uptick in January.
Despite a small decrease, nearly half of owners expect better business conditions in the coming months.

The elephant in the room remains to be whether the Trump administration will be able to deliver on the many policies small business owners are counting on. The health care legislation stalled in March. Tax reform may not be dealt with until the end of the year. It remains to be seen what major regulations will be dismantled.

Balloon Mortgages Q&A

Balloon Mortgages Q&A

Question:
Home sales are brisk in my area and I have decided to buy a home even though I will only be in this location for a few years. My lender recommends a balloon mortgage. I have heard bad things about these loans, but the deal seems good. What do you think?

Answer:
A typical 7-year balloon mortgage can seem very good and, if you will absolutely be selling before the 7-year term is up, it might be good for you. But, it is a risk.
First, let’s talk about the benefits of a balloon mortgage.

Balloon mortgages usually have a much lower interest rate than a conventional mortgage. The overall cost of the loan will be lower and the payments will be lower. That makes it attractive. The assumption is that a buyer makes payments for a set period of time, five to seven years, for example. Then at the end of the period, the entire balance is due. The buyer then refinances at the end of the term or sells. In your case, you want to sell so this is probably why the lender recommended this type of loan.

The reason balloons are risky is that people never know what is going to happen in the future.

Buyers may think they can easily refinance at the end of the term. But this might not be possible. The buyer may lose a job or become an unqualified buyer because of bad credit. Then it might be impossible to refinance.

In the current market, property values are going up. But, if property values go down, you could be stuck with a home that is not worth the balloon payment. No lender will finance under those conditions. In your case, you might not be able to sell at the necessary price.

Finally, interest rates could be much higher in seven years. For someone who wants to refinance, this could make payments dramatically higher.

Some balloon mortgages have a reset option that will automatically recalculate the mortgage at the current interest rates. This might be good protection for most people.
If you know you will sell, a balloon mortgage might be acceptable.

The right time for life insurance

The right time for life insurance

Life insurance can be a tricky subject depending on what stage of life a person finds themselves in. Variables such as term limits, whole life policies, benefit amounts, and riders can all create a complicated mess capable of scaring someone away from getting coverage.

Because of this complexity and cost, U.S. News reports that about 30 percent of American households have no life insurance coverage at all. Even more worrisome is the fact that there are 11 million households without coverage that include children under the age of 18.

The purpose of life insurance
In simplest terms, life insurance provides a financial benefit at the time of death. A family’s breadwinner might want to provide for the family. A spouse might want to be sure the mortgage is paid off if he or she dies. Parents might want to be sure kids could go to college if one of the parents dies.

Life’s different stages can determine need
Kiplinger.com suggests that people look at life insurance through the perspective of what their current and future needs are and allow those circumstances to govern when and how much life insurance is required.

Single people without children
In this stage, of life single people are usually better off investing their money rather than buying life insurance. But some life insurance is probably necessary. For example, everyone will need burial expenses at the end of life and leaving that burden to family is irresponsible.
Of course, single people with children should carry enough life insurance to provide for their children and/or pay off the house.

Married couples without children
At this stage of life, people must have life insurance to pay off a mortgage or debts that could burden the surviving partner.

Families
Families with one income and young children are the classic high-need situation for life insurance. In this case, the financial payout would be vital for covering lost income if the breadwinner died prematurely. Special considerations should be paid to how much income would be necessary to cover the family for many years as well as expenses such as college tuition down the road.

Retirement
Once the kids are grown up, the mortgage is paid off, and the breadwinner is in the twilight of his/her career, life insurance could become less important. In this case, the financial benefit could be used to cover estate taxes to protect heirs.

Active shooter safety

Active shooter safety

As the number of active shooters in public spaces rises worldwide, government, industry and educational institutions have focused on training people to act immediately during a shooting.

Remember most active shooters do not have a specific target in mind. They will shoot at random.

The rules:
Run, escape if the path is accessible.
Hide, in less obvious places.
Fight. As resort of last hope, attempt to disrupt, distract or incapacitate an active shooter.
If you believe you have a chance to escape, don’t pause to urge others to follow you. Act immediately. Get out and do not stop of help injured people.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, if you can’t escape, then find either cover or concealment. Cover might protect you from gunfire. Concealment will hide you from the view of the shooter.

When law enforcement arrives, they will be focused on the shooter. They will not have time to help injured people until the threat is over. Officers might shout orders and everyone must be prepared to follow the orders immediately. Officers might push people to the ground to get them out of the line of fire or even out of the way of responders.

As officers arrive, you must put down any items in your hands, raise your hands, and prepare to follow instructions.

Presentation tips to land a new client

Presentation tips to land a new client
Landing that new account or client can bring feelings of elation.

It’s likely that to land a client you’ll have to make a great presentation. Here are some tips:

First, steady your nerves. This seems like common sense, but ahead of the presentation, you’ll have a few butterflies.

As you start the presentation, make it clear that you are the owner of the business; not an employee.

Understand the client’s needs and what their goals are ahead of time. That way you can address them during your presentation.

Include graphics, images, and facts to make your presentation more memorable, according to Inc.

Consulting Success says you should offer an introductory rate for your fees. However, make it clear that it’s just that. Feel free to let them know your normal rates.

Inc. also says to give your presentation as a story. Let stories illustrate points to help people make an emotional connection to the message.

Work up a sell sheet, states Entrepreneur magazine. This sheet should clearly state how you plan to address the potential client’s problems and challenges. If you are presenting a product, explain its features and benefits and your product’s market. Also, explain the legal status of your invention, such any patents pending, copyright or trademark information.

Watch your time. You don’t want to start droning on and on. That bores people, and at some point they tune out.

Contractors need liability insurance

Independent contractors are increasingly working at all types of businesses. From plumbing to consulting, companies are seeing the benefits of hiring so-called 1099ers.

Because of their status as contractors, they don’t receive many of the benefits that employers usually provide. One of those benefits is liability insurance. If anything goes wrong while on the job, the insurance can cover it.

According to Insureon, those reasons include:

– Covering lawyer fees and damages if the employer sues over the work provided by the contractor

– Making sure that the employer doesn’t have to pay the costs if the contractor is sued

– Being compliant with statutory requirements

The type and how much insurance is needed varies based on a contractor’s responsibilities. For example, those in construction, or others who work with heavy machinery and tools, may need insurance for bodily injury and property damage.

Those who are contracted to provide advice, such as accountants, financial planners, interior designers and landscape architects, need to be concerned about liability risks, according to Trusted Choice. The company, which works with small businesses on insurance matters, says these contractors need to be covered for losses their clients may have as a result of the contractor’s recommendations.

Contractors who work as caterers should consider insurance for product and liquor liabilities. Trusted Choice notes this covers them if they serve food and alcohol at functions where guests could be injured because of food poisoning, for example.

Contractors who are unsure what kind of insurance to buy should consult with a licensed agent.

Hurricane Preparedness Week, May 7-13, 2017

There will be trouble. Expect it. Prepare for it.

According to NOAA, on average, 12 tropical storms will form over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico during the hurricane season which runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. Six will become hurricanes.

In the Central Pacific Ocean, an average of three tropical storms, two of which become hurricanes, form or move over the area during the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. During a typical 2-year period, the U.S. coastline is struck by an average of 3 hurricanes, one of which is classified as a major hurricane (winds of 111 mph or greater)

What damage does each category of hurricane cause?

Category 1 – 74-95 mph winds

Don’t take a Cat 1 hurricane lightly. At this wind speed, you may have roof and siding damage. Dead trees will fall; branches will break. Power outages will last for several days.

Prepare: Trim trees, service your generator, make sure you have water, food, and an up to date emergency kit.

Category 2 – 96-110 mph winds.

Downed trees will block roads. Power can be out from days to weeks.

Category 3 – 111-129 mph winds

Expect devastation to buildings. You may lose your roof, gutters and siding. Power will almost certainly be out for at least two weeks. Water will be a problem. Fill bathtubs before the storm to use for flushing toilets and bathing.

Category 4 – 130-156 mph winds

You’ll be evacuated if this storm heads your way. Make plans before hurricane season for a place to stay for a minimum of two weeks. Your house will sustain major structural damage. There will be no water or power. Your pets cannot survive this storm. Make plans to take them with you.

Category 5 – 157 or higher mph winds

Catastrophic. You will be evacuated. After the storm, you will have no place to live. Houses will be reduced to timber. Travel will be impossible for weeks. No water or power for weeks. Not only will you need a place to stay for weeks, you’ll be filing an insurance claim for everything you own. Before the storm, use your smartphone to take a video of your home, room by room. Your pets will not survive this storm. Make plans to take them with you.

Storm surge

Surging waters can be a deadly effect of a hurricane. In Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it was the storm surge that broke levees in New Orleans and caused flooding six to 12 miles from the beach.

How will going into business affect family?

At some point in everyone’s career, this thought comes up: “Am I ready to follow my dreams and start my own business?”

You may have dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s in terms of being financially and mentally ready to start your own business. However, have you thought about the effects on your family? Too often this oversight can lead to a crisis at home, as well as in your business.

“It’s easy to forget that changing careers will affect your family, too. Be 100 percent certain that you and your loved ones understand the implications of running a startup,” notes Inc.com.

The good and the bad
Fully prepare them for the good and the bad of starting your own business. Do not hold back on the bad things that could happen.

Explain the hours you’re going to have to commit to your endeavor. This includes you being not able to be at as many family events.

If the family’s budget will need to be reduced, tell them. Go over your business plans with your family, giving them as many details as possible. You want their support, and you don’t want them to be surprised by any of the things that could go wrong.

“When one person goes into business, everyone in the family unit is affected,” author Pamela Slim told Entrepreneur. “If your partner and other members of your support network are reluctant to back your idea, you may want to rethink quitting your current job.”

However, this is a personal choice. From a startup owner quoted in Inc.com:

“Ultimately, I realized if I didn’t start my own company, I would always regret it, both for myself and as a role model for my children.”