Microsoft Surface Membership: Get a Surface via Monthly Payments

June 8, 2016 - Microsoft has introduced a new payment plan for its Surface devices that closely mirrors a shift in the smartphone industry. The company has announced Surface Membership, a service that gives customers the option of paying for the Surface Pro 4, Surface Book, and Surface 3 on a per monthly basis.

Older Surface models seem to be exempt from the Surface Membership plan, but if you are rocking one of the current generation models you are good to go. The deal also includes perks like phone support and discounts on future purchases.

This kind of monthly payment model is becoming increasingly common. Individual companies would normally leave it to retailers to come up with financing plans, but over the last year, smartphone manufacturers have created their own monthly payment systems to make up for a decline in subsidized contracts.

Still, Microsoft’s decision to introduce monthly payments for its Surface line is something of a novelty in the computing market, but the benefits to the company are clear. The Surface devices are expensive pieces of kit, allowing customers to pay for them monthly makes them that little bit more accessible to more people.

Here’s everything the Surface Membership is offering:

Phone and in-store tech support, 7 days per week
One-on-one personal training
In-store discounts on future purchases of hardware, software, and more
Microsoft Complete for Business Extended Service Plan with Accidental Damage Protection

The financing model is conducted through LiftForward, so customers will need to pass a credit check for approval for Surface Membership. If you are interested, Microsoft is offering payment schemes over 18, 24, or 30 months. For example, the Surface Pro 4 costs $59.99 per month over a two-year period, the Surface Book costs $89.99 per month over the same timeframe, and the Surface 4 $37.99 per month.

Read more at Winbuzzer.com

Microsoft introduces Surface Membership Plans, mirrors iPhone Upgrade program

June 8, 2016- Microsoft has been pushing its premium line of Surface products and the company’s devices have seen their fair share of success in the market. But now Microsoft is looking at alternative models to sells its wares, and today it has introduced the Microsoft Surface Membership plans.

The Surface Membership is a subscription-model, or rather a financing model designed for small businesses that want to deploy and keep their hardware updated. As Microsoft’s website notes you can “get the latest Surface devices, accessories, support and training for your business, starting at $32.99 per month”. Right now, the Surface Book, Surface Pro 4 and Surface 3 seem to be the only eligible devices, though they do include their Pen and Cover accessories.

Those who opt to pay out for their devices in monthly installments can pick out between an 18, 24 or 30-month plan. And those who sign up for the program get extra benefits such as:

  • Phone and in-store tech support, 7 days per week
  • One-on-one personal training
  • In-store discounts on future purchases of hardware, software, and more
  • Microsoft Complete for Business Extended Service Plan with Accidental Damage Protection

As noted above, the plan is designed for small or medium-sized businesses not for individuals. That being said you can purchase a single device in this plan, though you’ll need to go through Microsoft’s partner, LiftForward for your financing.

This is a very interesting move by Microsoft, but one that makes a lot of sense considering the company’s bread and butter is still in the enterprise and business sectors. Giving companies an affordable and convenient way of deploying its Surface hardware may prove to be a winning move for Microsoft.

Read more at Neowin.net...

Get your next laptop/tablet via a Microsoft Surface subscription

June 8, 2016- Microsoft is looking to make it easier for smaller businesses to outfit their employees with Surface products, by introducing a new Surface Membership Plan. It allows customers to buy Surface Books and Surface Pros on a staggered, monthly basis, rather than just in one large outlay.

The plans begin at $33 a month, which gives buyers a Surface 3 to play with. $52 a month ups the ante to a Surface Pro 4, and if you want a Surface Book on a monthly fee, you need to dish out a full $80 per month.

Plans are customizable over 18, 24, or 30 months, and you can choose everything from the processor to the memory and storage options within your new two-in-one. You don’t need to stop at one though. If you want the boss to have a nice i7-equipped Surface Book, but feel that the employees require only Surface 3s, you can customize it all to make that a reality, with Microsoft giving a final price for the whole package.

Related: Huawei MateBook vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 4: The newcomer takes on the veteran

It’s not just about hardware though. These subscriptions will also give businesses access to 24/7 support, as well as in-store training for those firms that want to send employees on a little computer refresher, or want them to get the most out of their new hardware.

Members are also given discounts on future hardware buys, the option to upgrade in the future and maintain their membership, and a free Microsoft Complete for Business package, which gives up to four years extended support for the hardware if something goes wrong.

That’s why the overall payment plan is a little more expensive than what you would pay for the hardware outright — but that’s par for the course with subscription systems, and you do get some extras with the membership plan.

All of this is simply another extension of Microsoft’s restructuring as a hardware/software services firm, with subscriptions and regular payments are replacing big, one-off layouts and software releases.

Read more at Yahoo.com... 

Surface Membership Lets You Buy Microsoft Devices on a Payment Plan

June 7, 2016 - While there’s been no official announcement, Microsoft is now offering a Surface Membership plan for its Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, and Surface 3, allowing small business customers to buy the devices on a monthly payment plan.

Note: I have confirmed that this membership plan is for businesses, not individuals. –Paul

“Get the latest Surface devices, accessories, support, and training for your business, starting at $32.99 per month,” the Microsoft Surface Membership web site explains. “Join now to get the latest Surface devices, including the option to upgrade when available. Keep your business running smoothly in the office or out in the field with support and in-store training, 7 days per week. Plus, manage your budget more easily by choosing affordable monthly payments over costly, one-time purchases.”

I think this is a fantastic idea. And it nicely mimics the iPhone Upgrade Program that Apple debuted with its iPhone 6S and 6S plus last September, though of course the month cost is a lot higher.

That said, you can spread out the payments over 18, 24, or 30 months, and each Surface Membership includes phone and in-store tech support, 7 days per week; pne-on-one personal training; in-store discounts on future purchases of hardware, software, and more; and Microsoft Complete for Business Extended Service Plan with Accidental Damage Protection.

The cheapest Surface Book plan—for a Core i5 model with 8 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage and no GPU—is about $109 per month over 18 months, though you could lower the price by spacing the payments out to 24 months ($90) or 30 months ($80). The most expensive Surface Book—i7, 16 GB, 1 TB, dGPU–is $221 per month over 18 months.

The Surface Pro 4 runs from $52 to $190 per month depending on configuration and timeline, while the cheaper Surface 3 runs from $33 to $60. (Each includes a Black Surface Type Cover in the price.)

You’ll need to deal with a company called LiftForward to handle the credit application an financing. “Surface Membership is financed through LiftForward, with easy monthly payment plans,” the site explains. “After your credit application is approved, you’ll review and sign your LiftForward agreement. Once you sign your agreement, Microsoft will ship your Surface and activate your Surface Membership benefits.”

The Microsoft Surface Membership also set up for multi-device sales.

Very interesting.

Read more at Thurott.com

Microsoft Business Partnership With Surface Membership Payment Plans

June 9th, 2016- In a recent business move, Microsoft opened up new types of payment options for businesses (to better incorporate devices like Surface Pro) that need technology for their operations but can’t afford to buy them all in a lump sum.

CA– Many businesses have a lot of unconsidered overhead to consider. They have to worry about bills, taxes, and innovation. This innovation can get very expensive though, depending on a business’s needs. That’s why Microsoft is teaming up with LiftForward to make it easier for businesses to make purchases. This change is expected to helps businesses better budget for expenses because they can make payments easily with more affordable monthly payments (with additional costs associated with interest over time).

Read more at Tapscape.com

The 5 Things You Need to Know About Instagram’s New Business Tools

Early last week Instagram announced the launch of its new suite of analytics and management tools for it’s 200,000 business users. The new tools were developed after receiving feedback from hundreds of businesses with the goal of understanding the needs of small businesses and how they use Instagram to promote and grow their business. The tools were designed to allow business users to better understand their current and prospective customers, acquire new customers and create new and better ways to help businesses make their profiles and posts stand out. 

Image via Instagram

Image via Instagram

 

1.    The new tools will not be available right away to all, there will a roll out over the next few months in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, and will expand to the rest of the world by the end of the year.
2.    Not everyone will be able to convert their Instagram profile to a business account, only those with already established Facebook pages will qualify. Instagram will then be able to populate your business profile with the company’s street address, website and phone number. 
3.    With the new Insights analytics tools businesses will be able to track their best performing posts and learn details about their audience’s demographics. Businesses will also be able to learn how much reach a post had, the number of impressions, the level of engagements as well as basic information such as age, gender and location of it’s followers. 
4.    With a new tool called Promote businesses will be able to quickly and easily make a new or current post into a mobile ad straight from the Instagram app. The tool will even offer suggestions for which post should be promoted based on your budget and the audience demographics.
5.    Business profiles will distinguished from an individual users profile in a very subtle way, by way of a “contact” button. Instagram users will be able to call, text or email the business right from the app as well as pull up directions for the business. 

For years’ businesses have been using Instagram as a way to connect with current and potential customers, but with little to no insight as to how their posts were performing beyond the basic number of likes and comments. With the launch of these new tools small businesses will be able to better track their posts performance and really utilize Instagram to help their business grow. How will you use Instagram and its new tools in your business?

25 Father's Day Gifts for the Entrepreneurial Dad

Image via Canva

Image via Canva

Father’s Day is a great day to show dad how much you appreciate him for all the times he helped you out, gave you advice or was there when you needed him. Whether he taught you to drive a car or how to fish dad deserves some recognition for all his patience and wisdom over the years. Sure you can pick him up a "World's Best Dad" t-shirt, but why not get him something unique this year that he can use at work, on the go or to make a good impression. 


For the dad that's always snapping away

If your dad's business is highly visual and he's always taking pictures to show to clients, coworkers or potential customers than these three tools are just what he needs to create the perfect shot, no fancy cameras required.

Image via Moment

Image via Moment

1. Moment Wide Lens 

Studies show the social media posts have a much higher engagement rate when there's a picture or video attached, help dad take killer photos with just his smart phone with the Moment wide lens. At $100 it's much cheaper than a DSLR while still allowing for beautiful crisp, clear shots your would normally get with a professional camera.
 

Image via Amazon

Image via Amazon

2. GripTight GorillaPod Stand

The GripTight GorillaPod is the perfect gift for anyone that needs to take a photo from a slightly different perspective. The flexible and wrappable joints help secure your phone to trees, benches or even your car and it’s adaptable camera positioning gives you precise control. The stand is lightweight, compact and setup is a breeze, the rubberized feet ensure it’s stable on flat or uneven surfaces and is just what you need to get crisp photos. As an added bonus dad can use the tripod while watching movies on his phone, no hands required.

Image via Amazon

Image via Amazon

3. HISY Bluetooth Remote 

This lightweight puck is the perfect way to take pictures without having to worry about shaky hands and blurry photos. Dad can easily connect the device to his phone with Bluetooth and will be snapping away in just moments. The device works up to 90 feet from the phone and the replaceable battery lasts up to 2 years when taking a 100 shots a day. It’s also the perfect accessory for family trips, dad can finally be in the photo while taking the photo.

 


For the dad that’s always on the go

If your dad spends more time in the air or in the car than at the office than these gifts might be just what he needs to make his next trip a breeze.

Image via Amazon

Image via Amazon

4. Jump-N-Carry

The Jump-N-Carry is the perfect accessory for any dad that spends more time in the car than in the office. It’s small size means it won’t take up too much room in the trunk and it’s 1700 peak amps will have no problem jump starting an SUV. This battery jumper is not like other models on the market, it’s not a multi-purpose unit with a flashlight, radio or air compressor built in, it does one job and it does it really well. With the Jump-N-Carry in his trunk dad will never have to worry about getting his car a jump when he’s far from home or the office.

Image via eBags

Image via eBags

5. eBags Pack-it-Flat Toiletry Kit 

We’ve all been there, your dumping out everything in your toiletry bag to get to the contacts case at the bottom. Help dad eliminate that frustration with a well designed toiletry bag that will keep everything within reach. It’s compact size won't take up too much space in his luggage while still being big enough to carry everything he needs. The four compartments allow you to easily organize your toiletries, and the left section has a waterproof lining ensuring you won’t be worried about any spills.

Image via Amazon

Image via Amazon

6. Cocoon GRID-IT! Organizer Case

The GRID-IT is the perfect organization system for the dad that can’t leave home without all his electronics and accessories. The rubberized elastic will keep everything in place and its unique design means there’s an endless combination of wires and tools you can strap to it. With the GRID-IT nothing will get stuck at the bottom of your bag and it’s small size ensures there will always be room for it in your carry on or laptop bag.

Image via Amazon

Image via Amazon

7. RAVPower Portable External Battery Charger

If your dad’s that guy with more devices than hands, then this little gadget will be the perfect gift. With a capacity of 20,100mAh, 3 ports for charging and Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 technology this little charger packs quite a punch. He’ll be able to charge his phone, tablet and smart watch all without needing a recharge.

Image via Weather Tech

Image via Weather Tech

8. WeatherTech Car Mats 

These car mats are laser measured to protect your car floor from all sides. Made from high-density core materials these mats are engineered to take anything you can throw at them, all while keeping your car clean of spills and debris. With these car mats your dad’s car will look like new and he won’t have to worry about getting mud on his beige interior after a little rain.


For the dad that like’s to have a little fun

While these gift ideas aren’t as practical as our previous suggestions, they sure are fun and a great way to relieve some stress at the office. 

Image via Uncommon Goods

Image via Uncommon Goods

9. Desktop Croquet Set 

This classic lawn game played by celebrities and royalty can now be enjoyed in the office. The desktop set is the perfect gift for the dad that needs a little down time at work. Setup is a breeze as the wickets come with suction cups that easily attach to your desk and all the mallets and balls can be stored in a small holder when not in use. If croquet is not your dad’s favorite game there’s tons of other miniature sports kits you can gift him instead like basketball or football.

Image via Amazon

Image via Amazon

10. Metal Brain Teasers

These 4 metal puzzles are the perfect way for the busy business owner to take a moment and de-stress, designed to make you think they’re guaranteed to keep anyone entertained (or frustrated) for hours. But be careful a colleague or two has been known to drop by just to try their skills out against one of these.

Image via Sharper Image

Image via Sharper Image

11. Electronic Return Putting Mat

For the avid golfer there’s no better time to practice your putt then during a conference call or in between meetings, thanks to the electronic return putting mat dad can now sharpen his skills at the office. Easy to set up and easy to store away this mat is a great gift for the dad who doesn’t want to wait till spring to get his golf fix. The ball return option will allow dad to get a lot of practice in a short period of time.


For the not so fashion forward dad

The nice thing about being your own boss is you can wear whatever you want, be as casual, dressed up or as kooky as you want. Which could be a good or bad thing. Gift dad one of these and he’ll stand out for all the right reasons.

Image via Soul Socks

Image via Soul Socks

12. Subscription to Soul Socks 

Soul Socks offer some funky and fun sock selections, you can gift your dad a pair or two now, or sign him for the sock of the month club and get a cool new pair every month. Soul Socks are made with quality Peruvian pima cotton, are expertly constructed and will be sure to please. Who doesn’t need another pair of socks?

Image via Tie Bar

Image via Tie Bar

13. Tie Bar Tie of the Month

If your dad is that guy that’s been wearing the same tie since 1989, help him stand out with some of Tie Bars classic, cool and fashion forward choices. The Tie Bar stylists do all the work and your dad will have a new look that won’t scream “I love the 80’s!”.
 

Image via Bombfell

Image via Bombfell

14. A curated outfit from Bombfell 

Maybe your dad needs more help than just a new pair of socks or a tie, thankfully there’s a service for that. With Bombfell dad fills out a style survey, specifies what he needs (a button down, new slacks or maybe some fun board shorts) and a stylist will get to work curating the perfect outfit just for him. Whether it’s a fancy dinner, a casual networking event or a weekend at his biggest client’s summer house dad will always be dressed to impress with Bombfell.


For the dad that’s always learning

Is your dad the guy that starts his day with a newspaper or the latest book on small business marketing, take a look at one of these gifts that’s sure to please.

Image via Money

Image via Money

15. Subscription to a Business Magazine 

A magazine subscription can help dad get a leg up in his business, every month he’ll get access to quality columns, thoughtful op-ed pieces and inspiring stories from other small business owners that can help him take his business to the next level. There’s hundred of magazines out there, so you can easily find one geared towards his interests and business or go with one of the Amazon best sellers.

Image via Barnes and Noble

Image via Barnes and Noble

16. A Business Bestseller 

Help dad stay ahead of the curve with one of these top picks in business books. He can easily keep on top of new trends in business, marketing, management and more. Or inspire him with the story of an entrepreneur like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs or Jim Koch with a business biography.


For the dad that has everything

When in doubt, go with one of these classic father’s day gifts that’ won’t disappoint. And if they do, you can just keep it for yourself!

17. Starbucks Gift Card 

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love coffee or the pastries and snacks at Starbucks. Whether he likes tea, lattes or a smoothie Starbucks will have something for him. If he’s not a Starbucks lover then just get him a gift card to his favorite coffee shop or lunch place instead.  

18. iTunes or Play Store Gift Card 

Give dad the gift of movies, TV shows, music and more with an iTunes or Play Store Gift card. Dad can download his artists newest album, catch up on his favorite show or check out the newest movie release all from his phone.

19. Car Detailing and Car Wash

If your dad is the guy that loves his car as much as his first born consider gifting him a gift card to his favorite car wash or car spa. There's even mobile car detailing vans that come to you and will get your car to show room condition right in your driveway.


Bonus: Some just for fun gifts

Maybe you’re not big on gifts but want to get him something small, here are some gifts that will show him you care and get a laugh at the same time.

 

Image via Amazon

Image via Amazon

20. Inflatable Tie Pillow

Help dad take a break at the office or anywhere else with this inflatable tie pillow. Within just a few minutes he’ll be able to catch some Z’s while still looking like the business professional he is. Made of microfiber and silk and able to hold up to 25lbs of head weight, this tie will give him the ultimate napping experience.

Image via Uncommon Goods

Image via Uncommon Goods

21. Decision Paperweight

An upgrade to the classic “8-Ball” this paperweight will help any dad save time when contemplating the pros and cons of one decision or another. With a quick flick of the wrist he’ll have the answers to all of life’s questions without the burden of actually thinking about it. 

5 Ways You Could Be Hurting Your Credit Score (and Some Quick Fixes)

Credit Score

Having a good credit score is important for financial success in today’s world, whether you’re applying for a home equity, a car lease or need a loan for your business. It’s so important that some high schools include a lesson or two in their curriculum. And it’s no surprise, a good credit score can get you favorable rates on your mortgage, personal loan or business line of credit, a bad score can make it impossible to get the credit you need.

 

 

1.     Making loan or credit payments late
While this may seem like an obvious thing, you’d be surprised how many people have made this mistake, just missing one payment can result in a huge drop in your score that will take months of good behavior to recover from. Thankfully this is an easy fix, try to stick to one credit card, making it easier to remember to pay. If you use multiple credit cards, select one day a month to pay all your bills in one go, or setup a recurring event reminder to help you remember what’s due when.

2.     Maxing out your cards
A large portion of what makes up your credit score is the ratio of debt to available credit. The higher your ratio, the lower you’ll find your credit score so it’s important to try to keep your ratio below 30%. If you use one card for everything don’t wait for the bill to come in to pay, consider paying the balance down multiple times a month so that your credit card will be reporting a lower utilization ratio. Another option is to call your credit card company and ask for an increase in your limit, this will instantly lower your ratio as you now have more available credit.

3.     Opening one too many cards (or closing them)
Every time your credit is run a lender has to make a “hard inquiry” to check your credit and decide whether to approve you or not. Opening a few credit cards in a short period of time will result in a small drop in your credit score, but it’s also a red flag to lenders as you may be in some financial trouble. So apply wisely. It seems a bit counter intuitive but closing an account will result in a small hit to your credit score, when you close an account you actually increase your ratio of debt to credit resulting in a drop to your credit score. Realistically there’s no reason to close a credit card unless it carries a high annual fee, most credit cards will automatically close out your account (with no detrimental effect to your credit score) after a period of inactivity, typically 2 years. If you find you have no choice but to close an account start with the newest ones, closing your longest held credit card will mean a bigger hit to your credit score, older accounts help to validate your fiscal responsibility over a long period of time.

4.     Bouncing a check or two
Just like missing a payment, bouncing a check will be a ding against your credit score. Bounce one too many and your bank will be sure to let all three agencies know. If this only happens once in the blue, then just be sure to check your bank balance before writing out a check, if you find this happening more often then consider opening a second account just to use for funding any checks written, you’ll be able to easily transfer money into the account to cover any checks and as an added bonus, no bounced check fees.  

5.     Never checking your credit report
Checking your credit report is important for a number of reasons, but the biggest one is to ensure that the information on there is accurate. You’ll want to check that every open account is one you opened, that the balances reflected are accurate and take a look at any notes or alerts. Every year you are entitled to receive a free copy of your credit report from each credit agency by going to annualcreditreport.com. This is an important step as a 2013 FTC report found that 5% of consumer had one or more errors on their report that could affect their credit scores. A few minutes of your time looking over your report can you save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest charges.

 

How Can You Use the New Facebook “360” Photos for Your Business

You may have come across it already, that post on your Facebook feed from a friend that suddenly started moving when you got jostled on the train this morning. Don’t worry it wasn’t a fluke, this is a new feature available for Facebook users, allowing them to experience a moment in time in 360 degrees. The feature called “360 Photos” allows users to upload a flat panorama to Facebook that will then be converted into a 360 photo suitable for Newsfeeds around the world, users will be able to hold and drag to move photos around on their phones or with their VR gear. 360 photos and videos have been around for a while now, Facebook has had support for 360 videos in the news feed since September, but a good photo or video could be expensive to shoot and put together, until now. Thanks to technological advances the only piece of equipment you need to put together your own is just your phone.

One of the best things about 360 photos is that the sky’s the limit, companies are using them at rocket launches, sporting events, even to take a ride with a weather balloon. The possibilities for businesses are equally endless.

Restaurants can use 360 photos to showcase private party rooms or give diners an inside peek of what it’s like in a restaurants kitchen during the Saturday night rush.

Bed & Breakfasts, hotels and vacation rentals can truly benefit from 360 photos as it will allow you to give guests a tour of every room in the house, including the fancy breakfast spread.

Interior designers can take photos of rooms they’ve designed, showcasing their talents and design know how for potential clients in a truly immersive experience.

If you’re a car dealer you can use the photos to showcase what cars are available for purchase, or to give shoppers an inside peek of the newest car on the show floor.

Contractors and landscapers can really benefit from these photos, by giving clients a 360-degree view of a finished space or yard, showcasing their skills in a way a 2D photo can not.

Travel agents can use this feature to show off the spectacular views in popular travel destinations or the upgrades the honeymoon suite can offer.

Event planners and designers would also benefit from using 360 photos to show off their work, let prospective clients get a first hand look at your design abilities from all angles with a 360 photo.

 

A Few Tips to Keep in Mind

Make sure you have the right gear.

            While most phones these days have the ability to take a great photo, to take a 360 photo you’ll want to have the latest Apple or Android phone. These devices have the power, memory and processing power necessary to create a great panorama.

Practice makes perfect.

            You’ll want to do a few different takes of your photo before posting one on Facebook to ensure that what your presenting truly showcases your company’s skills and abilities. So play with the angle and the lighting a bit first to get a handle on how to best present the photo.

Steady hands are important.

            It doesn’t matter how good your camera is or how stunning the imagery if it looks like the camera holder tripped while filming. With a panorama photo it’s not as important as all you’ll have to do is line up the image to ensure continuity but with a video you’ll want a steady hand and smooth movement. Consider in investing in a handheld stabilizer or tripod to allow for a better video experience.
 

How will you use 360 Photos to showcase your business?

EY announces Jeffrey Rogers, CEO of LiftForward, is named an EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2016 finalist in New York

New York, May 24th , 2016 – EY today announced that Jeffrey Rogers, CEO and President of LiftForward, Inc. is a finalist for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2016 Award in the New York region.  The awards program, which is celebrating its 30th year, recognizes entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.  Jeffrey Rogers was selected as a finalist by a panel of independent judges.  Award winners will be announced at a special gala event on June 22, 2016 at the Marriott Marquis. 

“I am honored to have been nominated for this award and to have made it this far in the process”, noted Jeffrey Rogers.  LiftForward provides manufacturers and distributors with point-of sale software and financing solutions for their small business customers, allowing manufacturers to sell their goods and services as subscription products.  LiftForward has experienced significant growth and is quickly expanding its footprint across the country.  

Now in its 30th year, the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year program has expanded to recognize business leaders in more than 145 cities in more than 60 countries throughout the world. 

Regional award winners are eligible for consideration for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year National program.  Award winners in several national categories, as well as the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year National Overall Award winner, will be announced at the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year National Awards gala in Palm Springs, California, on November 19, 2016. The awards are the culminating event of the Strategic Growth ForumTM, the nation’s most prestigious gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies.

About EY Entrepreneur Of The Year®

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year is the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The unique award makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global award of its kind, Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 145 cities in more than 60 countries.

About EY

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

Fintech Focused Venture Capital Firm IA Capital Group Completes Five Investments; Portfolio Companies Hit Major Milestones

IA Capital Group Inc., a leading venture capital firm focused on financial technology, is announcing the completion of five fintech investments over the past 12 months, including Credit SesameCrown Global InsuranceMarqetaLiftForward, and a yet to be announced fifth company. The firm is also pleased to report major milestones in three existing portfolio companies: Financeit, TIO Networks Corp., and Homeowners of America Holding Corp. IA Capital manages the Inter-Atlantic funds which are comprised of both traditional multi-LP funds and strategically-targeted single-LP vehicles on behalf of major institutional investors.

IA Capital led the financing round in each of the new investments. A representative of IA Capital or its investors serves on the board of directors of each company. The investments were completed on behalf of either a New York-based insurance company or a single-LP fund managed for a top U.S. life insurer. The single-LP fund, a strategically targeted fund called Inter-Atlantic G Fund LP, was launched in February 2016.

Andrew Lerner, IA Capital's Managing Partner, said "Fintech is attracting top talent like never before. As a result, the quality of the fintech companies we are seeing is better than at any time in our firm's 24-year history. Our institutional investors recognize the opportunity and are helping us accelerate our investment activity."

IA CAPITAL IS PLEASED TO REPORT THE FOLLOWING PORTFOLIO COMPANY MILESTONES:

FINANCEIT, INC., a point-of-sale consumer financing platform based in Toronto, announced the close of a minority equity financing round led by Goldman Sachs. Since launching in 2011, Financeit has signed up more than 4,000 merchant partners and received more than $1 billion in loan applications. The firm's investment in Financeit is owned by a single-LP fund managed on behalf of a top U.S. life insurer. For more info: www.financeit.io.

TIO NETWORKS CORP, (TSX-V: TNC), a cloud-based bill payment processor based in Vancouver, was one of the best performing fintech stocks in North America during 2015, with a stock price appreciation of 147%. TIO won multiple awards in 2015 including Cantech TSX.V Tech Stock of the Year. IA Capital has been a major investor in TIO since 2008. The firm's investment in TIO is owned by Inter-Atlantic Fund II LP, a multi-LP venture capital fund. For more info: www.tionetworks.com.

HOMEOWNERS OF AMERICA HOLDING CORP, a homeowners insurance company based in Irving, TX, has grown to over $100 million insurance premiums in force and over 100,000 active policyholders. IA Capital provided the initial capital to launch Homeowners in 2006. The firm's principals currently oversee Homeowners on behalf of its owners Partners Group AG, Pfizer corporate pension plan, and other limited partners of the Inter-Atlantic funds. For more info: www.hoaic.com.

THE FINTECH INVESTMENTS COMPLETED OVER THE PAST 12 MONTHS INCLUDE:

CREDIT SESAME, INC. – Mountain View, CA
Industry: Credit Monitoring & Debt Management
www.creditsesame.com

Credit Sesame Inc. is a consumer-facing personal financial management platform and a lead generation technology provider for the financial services industry. The Company provides free credit scoring, liabilities management, and advisory services to consumers while also offering highly-targeted product offerings based on an individual user’s credit profile. Credit Sesame enjoys some of the highest user engagement across the personal financial management industry as customers continuously monitor their credit and manage their debts through its platform.

CROWN GLOBAL INSURANCE GROUP LLC – Wilmington, DE
Industry: Insurance
www.crownglobalinsurance.com

Crown Global partners with clients to enhance alternative investments through its private placement life insurance (PPLI) products, group annuity contracts (GAC), and other innovative product offerings. For more than 15 years, Crown Global has established a solid track record of structuring U.S. and non-U.S. compliant variable life insurance and annuity policies for high net worth and institutional clients.

MARQETA, INC. – Emeryville, CA
Industry: Payments
www.marqeta.com

Founded in 2010, Marqeta has re-engineered how payment cards, virtual cards and mobile authorization products should be developed and deployed. The Marqeta Platform, built from the ground up with no legacy infrastructure, provides the world’s first fully documented, open API issuer processor platform. Companies can build, issue and deploy innovative payment, finance and commerce solutions with enormous control over what, where, and how purchases are authorized. Adopters of The Marqeta Platform include leading financial services, e-commerce, retail, and social media brands.

LIFTFORWARD, INC. – New York, NY
Industry: Small Business Lending
www.liftforward.com

LiftForward operates a marketplace loan platform that provides loans to small businesses. LiftForward partners with major technology suppliers, retailers and manufacturers in order to provide equipment financing to their small business customers. In late 2015, LiftForward debuted its Technology-as-a-Service (“TaaS”) program with Microsoft, providing borrowers with software, support and a new Surface Pro lease and financing options. The TaaS option allows small business to replace one-time purchases with affordable subscriptions.

About IA Capital Group:

Founded in 1992, IA Capital Group has managed fintech-focused venture capital funds under the Inter-Atlantic name since 2000. To date, IA Capital has completed 28 portfolio company investments across the fintech industry. The firm’s first fund, Inter-Atlantic Fund LP, achieved three IPOs: Netspend Holdings Inc.Higher One Holdings Inc., and Planet Payment Inc. IA Capital is based in New York City and invests throughout North America.

 

Contacts

IA Capital Group, Inc.
Andrew Lerner, 212-581-2000
Managing Partner
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.iacapgroup.com
Twitter: @iacapgroup

Free Design Tools to Create Your Business Logo

A company logo can appear on a company’s website, letterhead, newsletter, business and holiday cards, the list goes on and on. So of course it’s important to have a good logo, but where to start if you have no artistic abilities, limited design skills and your experience with being creative is limited to what filter would make your Instagram post stand out the most. Thankfully there are tons of design tools and resources available to help you create a logo that pops, or at least one that’s not a dud.

While there are hundreds, if not thousands of websites that specialize in logo creation, the below are a few of our favorites. Each one of these is free, easy to use and best of all…. Little to no design skills required.


 

Level of Design Ability: Stick figures are my specialty

Each of these websites allows you to quickly and easily create a logo and are a great place to start if you don’t have something specific in mind. All you have to do is type in your company name, select the industry and start scrolling through the options till one catches your eye.

MarkMaker- http://emblemmatic.org/markmaker/#/
logogenie - http://www.logogenie.net/
DesignMantic- http://www.designmantic.com/logo-design

Canva's logo tool allows you to scroll through hundreds of professionally designed logos that look will give your business a clean and fresh look sure to please any staunch businessman or millennial. Once you find one you like just click to edit the template with their intuitive design tools. (Bonus, we love using Canva to create graphics for our blog and social media posts and you will too.)  
Canva - https://www.canva.com/templates/logos/

Level of Design Ability: I took art… once… in high school

While the below tools are easy to use, you’ll need to have a better idea of what you want your logo to look like. You start by exploring the clipart selection and then play with the font options till you find what works for you.

Squarespace- https://www.squarespace.com/logo/
Logomakr- https://logomakr.com/
Logo Garden- http://www.logogarden.com/

Though each of these websites can get you started with your very first (maybe second or third) logo, you may want to consider hiring a professional down the line. All these sites use readily available clipart and font’s that can easily be copied by another company and you may run into some copyright issues if you try to trademark the logo.


Some Essential Tips for Logo Design

While designing a great or even good logo can seem a bit like rocket science, it doesn't have to be.  Here are 4 tips to keep in mind when designing your new logo. 

The colors of your logo should match the spirit of your company, your going to want to use those colors across multiple platforms to create a unified brand experience. So choose wisely.

Size matters. You’ll want to make sure that any logo you choose looks just as good on your business card as it will on a large screen TV. Before you order your economy box of 10,000 business cards test it out at a few different resolutions to make sure it’s optimized.

K.I.S.S. you may remember this acronym from your school days and it still holds true today, keep it simple. Don’t use too many colors, fonts or icons, it will stand out for all the wrong reasons.

Make sure to get your logo in different formats, JPEG, GIF, PNG, PDF, EPS are some of the most common that you might need when ordering business cards, flyers, or designing a website.

While a good or even great logo won’t close the deal it can at least make sure that you make a good first impression. 

Team Building Activities You’ll Actually Want to Do

Admit it, hearing the words “team building activities” can be a bit cringeworthy. Maybe you work in a corporate setting and you imagine trust exercises such as falling backwards and getting caught, or page after page of personality questions. Or you work in a hip, young startup that bonds best when it’s team is running through a 5-mile obstacle course. Neither scenario sounds appealing and a trip to the dentist might even be preferred. Thankfully there’s more than one way to assist team building and one of our favorites are board games! Board games are the perfect way for small teams to work together, without the stress of meeting deadlines or endless rounds of emails. But if you're concerned about sitting through endless rounds of Monopoly worry not, these are not your grandfather's board games.

Pandemic is the team building game of team building games, requiring players to constantly communicate and work together in order to prevent epidemics and cure diseases. This is a truly cooperative game where you either all win or all lose. The premise of the game is simple, several diseases have broken out all over the world and you and your team of disease fighting CDC specialists must work together to treat the diseases while researching cures. Each character in the game has a special ability that each team will need to plan their strategy around in order to win the game.

This game does have a bit of a learning curve so it’s recommended that at least one person in each group is familiar with the game.  We recommend playing an initial 2-3 rounds so everyone gets comfortable with the game.  You may find that most teams will quickly lose their first game otherwise. A common complaint of the game is that someone will take on the role of “quarterback” and start telling others what to do. This game tends to punish that type of behavior, especially with inexperienced players. In order to win everyone will need to be an active participant, engage in strategy discussions and overall be a team player. When they don’t, they can easily see how their actions contributed to the team’s loss.

The game is designed for up to 4 players, but you can play with teams of 2 for each role, buy an expansion pack, or purchase additional games and have a few teams playing at once.

Players: 2-4
Time to play: 30-90 minutes
Learning curve: Medium-Hard

Codenames is a team-based party game that may be the perfect icebreaker to get your group started when hosting a game day. Participants will need to be divided into two teams and one person from each team will be designated as the “spymaster”, providing clues to their team of field operatives to uncover secret agents known only by their codenames. This game is a bit like verbal minesweeper as teams work together to decode which “agents” the spymaster is hinting at, without selecting the opposing team’s card or the assassin card.

While this game is not fully cooperative the way Pandemic is, it does require a lot of cooperation and communication as teams play against each other to uncover all their spies first. The games simple rules make it easy for new players to pick up, even those that typically shy away from board games. For the first round we recommended selecting spymasters that are more familiar with the game as “paralysis by analysis” is a real possibility when coming up with clues.

It’s a super fun, easy to learn game that can easily accommodate more than the recommended 2-8 players, though teams of 10 might be a bit too rowdy. As an added bonus, it’s short play time allows for a few rounds to be played in a sitting.

Players: 2-8
Time to play: 15 minutes
Learning curve: Easy

Forbidden Desert is a thrilling adventure where you and your team work to recover a legendary flying machine buried deep in the ruins of an ancient city. A popular sequel to Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert allows players to take on the role of brave adventurers who work together using every available resource to find the machine and escape. The game has three ways to lose and only one to win, so players must make wise decision while working together.

This is a fun and challenging game that’s accessible to all levels of gamers, though we do recommend that at least one person in each group is familiar with the game to ensure a smooth gaming experience. Like Pandemic, there is potential for one person to take over the game, but since there are so many actions to take in each turn, the amount of hidden information ensures that teamwork and cooperation are requirements to win.

The games quick setup time, light rules and compact play length make this a great choice for your next team building event or even family game night. Like Pandemic, you can easily play this game with teams of 2, but we highly recommend getting a few boxes and splitting up into teams.

Players: 2-5
Time to play: 30-60 minutes
Learning curve: Easy-Medium

These are just a few of the board games available today that encourage communication and collaboration while also being a lot of fun to play. But if your employees thrive in a more competitive environment then maybe poker, trivia or even charades might be right for you and your team.

A Quick Guide to Loan Lingo

Loans of any kind can be a bit intimidating for the uninitiated, whether they be a mortgage, line of credit or small business loan. For those new to business lending, here are some common and not so common terms to get you started.

Cash advance is a financing option where a lender will provide a borrower a one time lump sum that will then be paid back as a percentage of future credit card sales until the full amount is repaid plus any applicable fees.

ACH or automated clearing house is an electronic secure payment transfer system that allows financial institutions to send or receive funds. When obtaining a loan an ACH debit will be used to make payments which could be monthly, weekly or daily.  

Asset backed loan is a business loan that’s secured by collateral, it can be piece of equipment, property, inventory or other balance-sheet assets. These types of loans can also be refereed to as collateral loans.  

Factor rate is another way of presenting the amount of interest charged on a loan. A factor rate is not presented in percentages like interest rates are but as a decimal figure. Your factor rate will be determined by your credit score, banking history, length in business as well as a number of other factors.

Inventory financing is a short term asset backed loan made to business so that they may purchase products for sale, that inventory is then used as collateral for the loan.  

ISO or Independent Sales Organization is an organization or individual that is contracted by a lender to procure new relationships.

Judgments are court rulings a creditor obtains by winning a lawsuit against a debtor. It allows a creditor to take possession of a debtor’s real property (any property that is attached directly to land as well as the land itself) if the debtor fails to fulfill his/her contractual obligations. The creditor has the right to sell the property to pay off the debt.

Line of credit is a form of revolving credit that allows a business to draw from a pool of capital up to a specified limit, much like a credit card. A borrower is able to tap into the same pool of funds again and again as needed, paying interest on the funds used rather than the loan amount like with a traditional loan.

Purchase order financing is a short term loan allowing a business to purchase the necessary supplies to fulfill customer orders. There are a few criteria a company would have to meet in order to qualify for PO financing, this varies lender to lender and is contingent on the type of business.

Tax liens are a legal claim by a government entity against an individual for not paying their taxes. A tax lien can be filed for unpaid income or property taxes.

Term loan is a loan from a bank or other lending institution for a specific amount to be paid back over a set period of time.

Short term loans are designed to meet a companies short-term funding needs, they are generally scheduled to be repaid in less than a year.

Unsecured loans are loans that are obtained without the use of property or another asset as collateral for the loan. These loans are issued based on the borrower’s creditworthiness and their ability to repay the loan in full.

For those just starting the loan search you’ve probably come across a few terms, abbreviations and acronyms that make business lending lingo sound like a foreign language. We hope this quick glossary guide of loan terms helps make it a little easier to navigate the loan process.

We're always trying to make the loan process easier for our customers, give us a call at (888) 514-6539
 to see how LiftForward's small business loans and financing options might be the right fit for you and your business, no dictionary required. 

Considerations When Giving Equity to Your Employees

In a rare move Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya announced that 10% of company shares would be distributed to employees. "This isn't a gift. It's a mutual promise to work together with a shared purpose and responsibility" Ulukaya wrote in a letter to employees. While giving equity in a company is very common in startups as a tool for attracting top talent, its less typical for an established company to do so, even more so in the food industry.

Giving away equity in a company is a great way to recruit new employees, retain top talent and motivate personnel to think like owners. However the process is also complicated, costly, and can be ineffective if not done right. Be sure to talk to a tax advisor or lawyer prior to making this move because distributing equity and shares is not right for everyone or every business.


The advantages of offering equity

1.     One of the biggest appeals for offering equity in a company is to incentivize employees by offering them a stake in the company success, rewarding long-term value creation instead of short-term results. Employees will feel a stronger connection with the company and a more significant sense of ownership in their work..

2.     Offering stock options in lieu of salary is also a great way to conserve cash for other expenses. For cash-strapped startups offering equity in the company is a great way to bring top talent on board with out a major cash outlay.

3.     Turnover can be reduced as employees are more motivated to remain with the business to avoid giving up their shares. This can also be a disadvantage as they may be staying with the company for the wrong reasons.  

4.     Many tech employees in today’s market expect some part of their compensation package to be equity based. This is particularly prevalent when hiring high level engineers and executives.

 

This disadvantages of offering equity

1.     Equity based compensation of any kind is always going to be more complicated than cash, even beyond the initial structuring of the program. An experienced tax and securities attorney will be able to guide you through the process, making sure to meet all federal and state regulations for your S Corp, LLC, or any other business type.

2.     One of the biggest risks when offering equity compensation is giving away too much. Employees, consultants and investors all want their fair share of the pie, so make sure you don’t give up a larger portion of shares than needed by consulting your accountant, legal, or other qualified advisor.

3.     Equity compensation may make selling the company trickier and may even discourage some investors from investing in your company. Having multiple shareholders could complicate negotiations and drag out an already lengthy process, making some buyers hesitant to pursue deals.

4.     The tax implications and potential pitfalls of offering stock options could make anyone’s head spin. Private businesses are especially vulnerable as their stock is not always easy to value and accidentally discounting stock options may lead to some hefty tax penalties.

5.     Providing employees with stock options can mean one more person looking over your shoulder.  As part owners in the company and its success employees may have some sentiment on the right direction that don’t always align with the owner and founders. It will be important to establish parameters of what having equity in the company will and won’t include so shareholders have clarity.

6.     Many states have laws that grant shareholders the right to see the company’s financials and other records.  This additional transparency can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how the company is performing, your own comfort level, and how motivated employees are towards the bottom line.

 

Offering equity may seem a bit overwhelming because offering shares of ownership involves many intricacies.  However by offering equity-based plans businesses are able to compensate key employees competitively, recruit top talent and increase loyalty and dedication among employees. Any business owner needs to understand the scope and complexities of offering this kind of compensation and be prepared for a long meeting with their attorney and accountant to discuss the added legal and tax ramifications. 

7 Easy Ways You Can Go Green for Earth Day and Beyond

2016 marks the 46th year that we’ve celebrated Earth Day, a day that started with some not quite humble beginnings as 20 million Americans took to the streets in massive rallies from coast to coast. Today Earth Day is celebrated by over a billion people in 192 countries, some even extending the celebration across a whole week. Many of us have already taken that first step to go green, by using reusable bags when grocery shopping, bringing a travel mug when getting morning coffee or changing out incandescent bulbs for LED’s. There’s no shortage of ways to go green and many households and companies are jumping on the bandwagon as they find that going green is not only good for the environment but also for the bottom line.  Here are a few easy ways your business can go green for today, tomorrow and years to come.

 

1.     Change a light bulb or 10

If you haven’t already done this for your company, make the switch to a more energy efficient light bulb. Incandescent light bulbs are being phased out as their more energy conscious alternatives CFL’s and LED’s become the norm in homes and businesses around the world. There are some pros and cons between CFL’s and LED’s and you may wish to try out a combination of them depending on your lighting needs. We like LED’s the most, they cost more to purchase but last much longer, are more energy efficient and don’t require any special handling as CFL’s do due to the mercury contained in the bulb. Replacing one 75-watt incandescent bulb with a 25-watt CFL can save up to $83 over the life of the bulb, now multiply that number by all the lamps and light fixtures in your business.

2.     Host an E-waste drive

In each of our homes and business there are dozens of items that can’t be thrown out with our everyday trash; batteries, incandescent light bulbs, cell phones, printer toner and laptops are just a few examples. Host an E-waste recycling event at your business to encourage the proper disposal of these and other electronics, perhaps even consider having a bin on site all year round. Hosting such an event does require some know how, we recommend reaching out to the local sanitation department or a non profit to coordinate the event and ensure everything is properly sorted and recycled. E-waste drives are also a great way to promote your business in your community and allows you a chance to get to know some of your neighbors.

3.     Go green with your suppliers (and customers)

When going green there’s no need to overhaul your entire supply chain and practices, you can make incremental changes that will add up in the long run. Ask your suppliers and customers about switching to digital invoices. If you get deliveries directly from your suppliers find out if they can start using reusable containers that you can return instead of cardboard boxes. Set goals with them for buying recycled, refurbished or used equipment or supplies whenever possible. Small changes can add up to big savings in the long run that can be good for your business, the environment and the balance sheet.

4.     Less paper, more savings

The average office worker uses almost 10,000 sheets of paper a year, that’s a lot of paper! But thankfully there are some easy ways to cut down. Consider switching to storing your files in the cloud instead of filing cabinets. Encourage your staff to review documents on the computer, instead of printing them out to make edits. Email everyone that big PowerPoint presentation before the meeting and encourage them to bring their laptop or tablet instead of printing out copies to hand out. When you do print, encourage double sided printing to save paper, you can work with your tech support team to make it the default for all the printers in the office.

5.     Add some green to your décor

One of the best ways to go green is to add some plants, they’re not just good for the environment, they’re good for your employees too. A 2010 study by the Nursery and Garden Industry in Australia found that office plants can reduce stress and negative feelings by as much as 60%. Another big benefit of plants is their ability to reduce air pollution and emit oxygen, all that clean air has been reported to reduce absenteeism and minor illness among employees. If you don’t have a green thumb, don’t worry there are quite a few plants that do well in an office environment, some of our favorites are aloe, spider plants, cactus, succulents, ivy and the peace lily.

6.     New windows add up to big savings

Did you know that windows are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to energy inefficiency, unfortunately’ they’re also really, really expensive to replace. If new windows aren’t an option, consider instead treating your windows with a low-emission glaze that reflects the heat rays from sunlight. Your office will stay cooler in the summer requiring less air conditioning use, adding up to big savings.

7.     Stop the drips

One of the easiest ways to save money is to fix any water leaks. A faucet that leaks one drop of water a second can lead to over 3,000 galloons of water wasted a year, that’s a lot of water and money going down the drain. A new washer or gasket can be all you need to save hundreds of dollars and stop water waste, especially important if you’re located in one of the states currently going through a drought.

 

Going green doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive, just a few small changes can make a big difference on the environment and the bottom line. Interested fast tracking your company’s eco-consciousness? Give us a call to find out how LiftForward can help you get the funds you need for new windows, equipment or other energy efficient solutions. 

Is alternative lending right for you?

Back in the old days if a small business owner needed a loan for his business he walked down the block to the neighborhood bank branch and had a conversation with his banker. Today all you need is your smart phone and in a few keystrokes you could be approved! While this approach to lending is novel, it’s quickly becoming more popular but it’s not for everyone. 

 

A Quick History on Alternative Lending

Credit unions, Community Development Financial Institutions, accounts receivable lenders and micro lenders are the original alternative lenders that most of us are familiar with. These organizations provided loans to small businesses that wouldn’t necessarily qualify for a traditional loan. In 2008 alternative lending really took off as big banks pulled back on small business loans, and a new marketplace was born as online lenders stepped up to fill the void. Technology was utilized like never before as online lenders created web based platforms that process loan applications faster then their brick and mortar counterparts. Loans are analyzed on a number of data points; credit scores, bank statements, even your social media accounts can be used to determine if you are a creditworthy borrower. Today there are dozens of options for any would be borrower to choose from. You can get a loan from a traditional banking institution, crowd source your loan from individual lenders all over the globe or apply online with one of the many online alternative lenders like LiftForward. 
 

The Pros & Cons of Alternative Lending

Alternative lending is great when you need cash quickly, and most lenders will work on getting you approved and funded within just a few days. With traditional lenders you could find yourself waiting, waiting and then waiting some more as the process can take weeks or months. And since time is money, this delay can lead to missed opportunities  

One of the biggest benefits of applying for a loan with an alternative lender is the much easier application process. Loans with your local bank or the SBA generally involve the submission of a long list of documents. Companies like LiftForward make it easy by allowing you to submit documents online, link your bank account to your application, and receive real time updates on your loan status. 

A big draws of alternative financing is the greater leeway lenders have in who they approve. In order to qualify for a SBA loan or bank loan you’ll need excellent credit, along with a whole list of other criteria. While alternative lenders will want you to have good credit, they have more flexibility in who they approve and will take a variety of other factors into account when making their decision. 

All this flexibility and quick turn around does come at a cost, usually in the form of higher interest rates, and keep in mind that alternative lenders are taking on a higher risk by providing loans to borrowers who are more likely to be rejected by the traditional bank. There are exceptions to this; if you have excellent credit and a profitable business you can qualify for a lower rate. 

Another consideration is the loan term; alternative lenders generally require shorter loan terms which means larger payments for the borrower. If you’re a less than ideal borrower you can also find yourself making weekly or daily payments. This may not be a problem for some borrowers, but for others it could lead to some cash flow difficulties. 

Another benefit of a traditional loan is that you’ll know your bank and banker. You’ll interact with them when setting up your account and making deposits, you can draw on that relationship when applying for your loan as they’ll be more familiar with you and your business. A bank manager will generally have some discretion in who they loan to and may be able to advocate for you to the lending department. With alternative lending chances are you wont have much opportunity to establish that same rapport. 

The pros and cons listed are just a guide, and at the end of the day every small business is different and it’s important to talk to other small business owners. Your accountant or attorney before deciding which form of financing is right for you. 
 

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

  • How good is your credit score? The higher the score, the better the borrower, and the more attractive you may be to lenders. Those with better credit scores are more likely to get approved for a traditional SBA or bank loan. Those with lower scores will want to consider alternatives, such as invoice factoring, merchant cash advance or exploring alternative lenders.

  • Don’t forget your business’s credit. It’s not just your credit you need to worry about, but also your business’s. Lenders will look at both numbers to determine if you would be a good borrower. 

  • How long has my business been in business? A well established company that’s been around 50 years is going to have a much easier time getting approved for a loan than a startup of just a few months. The younger you are the more you’ll want to consider options outside of the big bank down the street.  

  • When do you need the money? The faster you need the capital, the less options you have. Alternative business lenders like LiftForward work on getting loans approved and funded within just a few days, as opposed to the weeks it could take with other lenders and big banks. 

  • Where does your revenue come from? The way you generate revenue may open up some lending doors for you. A bus operator that’s contracted by several schools in it’s district would have more options than a business that sells custom knitted sweaters from home.  

While alternative loans can be quick and easy, they’re not for everyone or every business. Like with any decision it’s important to be an educated consumer and know your options. To learn more about LiftForward and it’s lending solutions give us a call at (888) 514–6539 or visit us at www.LiftForward.com.

F8 and the Future of How We Interact

Tuesday night Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at the annual F8 conference to discuss the future of Facebook and some of the exciting things that are on the horizon. And while we can’t wait to see how live video and Facebook’s new VR tech will change how people interact and attend events we’re even more excited for the functionality and possibilities that come with the introduction of chatbots. For small businesses this may be a big step in increasing customer engagement, driving sales and growing their brand.

While specific details aren’t yet out, the functionality will work much in the way you would think. A user interested in ordering some takeout will go to his Messenger app, find his local pizza shop and send a quick message to ask about some specials. Facebooks AI will then take over, deciding which structured message to send to the user. Structured messages can include things like links, images, call to action buttons, that will allow you to better engage with the user without having to actively monitor the Facebook account to see if any new messages came in.

"I don’t know anyone who likes calling businesses. It's not fast or convenient and it definitely doesn't feel like the future," Zuckerberg said.

Companies can develop their own bots to interface with Facebook or work with one of Facebook’s bot building partners to get started. There’s also the option of taking advantage of Facebook’s Bot Engine, based on the natural language interface they acquired from their purchase of Wit.ai. You can train the bot how to handle conversations on it’s own based on some sample conversations you provide it, the system will only get smarter the more you use it. Facebook isn’t the only one that thinks chatbots are the way of the future. At the annual Build developer’s conference in March Microsoft unveiled the Microsoft Bot Framework, a new tool to help developers build their own chatbots and integrate them into apps and websites. Team communication and messaging app Slack has Slackbot available for use now and they’ve been encouraging the development of more bots with the Botkit open source framework. And of course who could forget the original chatbot we all know and love, AOL Instant Messenger’s SmarterChild.

“We think you should message a business just the way you would message a friend,” Mark Zuckerberg said on stage. 

The possibilities of chatbots on Facebook Messenger and other platforms can change how companies interact with consumer and how they they sell products and services. Instead of navigating a website a user can send a quick message to a chatbot asking about recommendations for a new book based on an old favorite, find out if their size shirt will soon be restocked or order some pizza. The technology behind chat bots can be used to learn more about users and deliver personalized recommendations in a fast and easy way.

The idea of using chatbots to interact with customers is not a new one but we’re excited to see how Facebook’s community size and engineering team will build this out to bring together businesses and consumers.