The Importance of Disaster Preparedness for a Small Business

Any business, whether small or big, faces many challenges and some of the biggest challenges are in the shape of disasters, especially the natural ones. It does not matter which part of the world your business operates in; natural disasters are possible in every part of the planet. Floods, storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. are among the most common types of natural disasters. This is why it is highly recommended that you have the right preparation for a natural disaster. According to Red Cross, major natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods are so damaging for small businesses that 40% of those that get hit by one of these shut down forever.

So, what is the importance of preparing for disasters for small businesses?

A Professional Impression

Disaster preparedness and disaster recovery plans are often associated with large enterprises and organizations. But are small businesses protected from disasters? Your small business needs a disaster plan just as much as any big business out there. Having a disaster plan integrated into your system and documented gives off a very professional impression of your business. When you become a big business, you can get audited for a hundred different things. Furthermore, your employees will also be happy that they are working with a company that thinks long-term.

Prevention of Various Disasters

While there is nothing much that can be done about natural disasters, you can do something about disasters caused by humans and their errors. A human can cause damage to your property on purpose as a result of jealousy, reaction to some unfair treatment or as a bad business tactic. When you have the right equipment and system in place, it is difficult to cause such damage to the business. In most cases, human-made disasters are in the form of a fire that can burn all the important documents for a company and any systems that store valuable customer information.

Safety of Employees

Preparing for a disaster does not always mean you have to maintain business continuity. In fact, another important part of disaster preparedness is the safety of your employees. At times, you can’t instantly tell what might go wrong. A storm or hurricane can cause damage to electric poles and wires. If not protected properly, this damage can result in the deaths of your employees. Furthermore, when you are not prepared to face a flood, you might end up calling your employees to work and getting their vehicles damaged.

Business Continuity

One of the reasons to be prepared for disasters is to maintain business continuity. If you reside in a region where certain types of natural disasters are common, you have to prepare for these first and then for other types of disasters. For example, a business in Japan will have to prepare for an earthquake and the Tsunami. In some parts of America, there are more tornadoes every year than there are storms in the entire country. When you have a plan for such disasters, you can ensure the continuity of your business even when the disaster strikes.

Continuing business operations can be as easy as asking your employees to work from home. To make this possible, you might want to have all your data and important business applications moved to cloud, so when your company servers are down, you can ask your employees to work. Another important aspect of continuing your business despite great disasters is backing up your data. When it comes to backup, you can’t back up the data in one location only. The idea is to back up your business data every day and move the backup to another location. If your budget allows, you can back up the data in even more locations than two.

Quick Response

An important aspect of disaster preparedness is to share this knowledge with your employees. You also have to update them with any changes you make to your disaster preparedness and recovery plan. For example, if a sudden fire breaks out inside your business premises, your employees must know what the first course of action has to be. You should also ask your employees to have all the important business applications, software tools, etc. installed on their devices if your response to a disaster is asking them to work from home. When your employees know exactly what to do in the case of a disaster, they can get a response to a bad situation instantly, so you face virtually no downtime.

Cost-efficiency

Disaster preparedness and recovery are not just about being ready to handle a disastrous situation. In fact, it is also about being able to operate the business and recover business operations after a disaster hits with as minimum resources as possible. A business without a disaster plan can also recover from a disaster. However, the huge difference here is that the unprepared business will have to spend a lot of money and resources to get back on its feet whereas a business with a plan will continue its operations with minimum efforts.

Improved B2B Relations

It is not just your customers but also your business partners that get affected when your business shuts down temporarily due to a disaster. They might be relying on you for their mission-critical processes, and your absence can cause them to either stop their operations or find another partner to make things work instantly. On the other hand, if your business is still running despite getting hit by a disaster, your business partners will take a very positive impression of you. This is going to help you retain your business partners as they can now trust your professionalism and seriousness with business.

Conclusion

To prepare for disasters, the first thing you have to do is change your mind about the whole situation. Many small business owners think that things like disaster plans are better suited for large enterprises or when a business has grown big enough to have multiple branches. What they don’t realize is that it is much easier to recover from a disaster when you have multiple locations than it is when you have only one location. So, start assessing your risks today, create a sound communication plan and document your disaster preparation plan today.

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How to Create a Business Blueprint

Businesses, like buildings, require a blueprint or a design plan. Could you just start building and putting up walls? Sure, you can start enthusiastically and creatively, but there will come a point where parts aren’t coming together as they should and your efforts begin to feel unproductive, confused or even wasted.

Entrepreneurs begin businesses in many ways based on their personalities and belief systems. Some need detailed, well researched plans. Others jump in, get clients and are rolling before they’ve even decided what business they choose to be in. Then there is everyone in between.

For some, planning dampens their enthusiasm, for others, it’s an absolute necessity. Regardless, the planning process itself is a great exercise, pushing the business owner to develop clarity and goals in key areas.

Where it gets interesting in my opinion, is after the plan is finished. How is it used? Is it used at all? Does it prove to be a guiding light or a rigid limiter?

For one to adhere to very detailed plans, the business owner, the organization and the plan have to be well aligned. The plan should be reviewed and revised regularly, quarterly or monthly, so that congruency remains intact.

For the non-planner types, a business blueprint provides vision, structure and general form. It’s a useful framework, providing structure, direction and purpose, while leaving plenty of room to shift and create over time.

Here are some key components of a business blueprint that can serve as the foundation for your developing business:

1. Your Vision – There is something you envision when you go into business. Capture that vision on paper. Why are you driven to be in business at all? Who do you serve and how? At its future best, what does it all look like as it plays out?

Specificity in your vision is key. This is the “down the road” snapshot that you hold in your mind as the prize. The plan is designed to help you reach this vision, so the clearer the vision, the more helpful the plan.

2. The Why – Document and regularly remind yourself of why this vision matters to you. Your “big why” is any reason you have that is meaningful enough to drive you through challenges and difficult times. Identify your most significant reasons for being in business and remind yourself of why you are willing to do what it takes to recommit each day.

3. Unique Brilliance – Your unique brilliance is that special life force that you bring to your business that makes it authentically you and gives it power. If you examine what you have always loved (from childhood), attach words or qualities to it, you have something truly special that brands and differentiates your business because of the qualities you bring.

Your brilliance isn’t a technique or skill, it’s a talent that emanates from you and permeates your work. For example, a unique brilliance statement might be: “I spark innovation.” Keep it simple yet powerful. Think of Walt Disney. I believe his childlike imagination was his unique brilliance, and look how that played out.

4. A Stand – What is an overarching principle of your business? Are you taking a stand for something in your business that transcends the products and services? State what you stand for that is expressed through your business. For example, “I am a stand for people communicating effectively to make the world a more harmonious place.”

5. Expertise – What are you an expert at? This is still aimed at the business owner, but is more related to the work he/she is doing. What expertise do you have (and should your team have) that will drive the business forward. An example might be, “I am an expert at making people beautiful.” This expertise will be used in the business and in the branding.

6. Brand Values – Identify the brand promise you are making to the market you serve. This is the promise of an experience they can expect to have when working with you regardless of the product or service. What values are necessary to provide that consistent experience? As an example, consider Four Seasons Hotels and the experience you have there whether you stay in a suite or just have dinner in the bar.

7. Target Niche – Who specifically is your ideal customer? Choose as narrow a niche as you can so your marketing can be very targeted and specific. This is not intended to turn people away, but to give you as clear a picture as you can get of the client or customer who is best served by what you have to offer and your expertise. These are the people you need to speak to in your messaging as they will be most willing to engage.

8. Products/Services – Define and describe exactly what you are offering to your niche audience. What products or service does your business provide and why? What is the intention for each one? What results should customers expect from what you offer? What differentiates your products and services from similar ones on the market?

9. Marketing and Sales – Provide details of how you will market your products and services and what your sales process will look like. Regular attention should be paid to the optimal ways of reaching your audience and turning them into paying customers. Identify mechanisms for tracking what works and what doesn’t. Great communication and consistent branding is key here.

10. Delivery System – How will customers receive the products or services being offered? From beginning to end, there is benefit to designing and implementing good systems for efficient and high quality product/service delivery. Consider detailing this out for every category of service or product.

11. Operations – What are the front and back office activities that make the organization work seamlessly and efficiently? Who are the players? There is a flow of production, communication, information, transaction, and follow up that happens in every business. Design the best operational systems for each area of your business and document the desired flow and the team necessary to make it work.

12. Pricing – Identify pricing structures for your goods and services that cover costs and provide reasonable profit margins. This requires that you do your research into the cost structure of your business in all areas, as well as gaining an understanding of the range of comparable pricing in the marketplace.

13. Financial Goals/Tracking – Every business must have financial goals to strive for and ways of tracking key financial targets. Identify five to ten key revenue drivers and set up tracking and reporting mechanisms to see where you are headed and if your strategies are yielding results.

14. Personnel/Team – Whatever your current size, plan how your organizational chart will look when you reach your goals. In your future vision, how many people are working in the organization and in what capacities? Assign a value to your time as the business owner. If you can hire someone for less than the value of your time, you want to work to that end. Continue that analysis throughout the organization. Prioritize future hires, and plan how delegation can take the business to new levels of growth.

A plan, written in this manner, will automatically combine critical mindset pieces with more practical business strategies. This gives you a solid foundation from which to ramp up. It’s your best shot at building a solid, sustainable business. At that point, you will be rewarded with the opportunity to add those creative details not shown on the blueprint.

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Setting Up a Small Business in 2018 – It’s Not All About How Much Money You Have

When you think of starting a business, the first thing that comes to mind is money/capital. Of course, you need money to start a business, even if it is very little considering the fact how easy it is to start a business in the digital age. However, there could be many other factors that affect a business in today’s digital economy-some you show serious concern to and some you don’t really pay attention to much.

Blockchain Is Affecting All Types of Businesses

One of the biggest concerns for today’s entrepreneurs before they start business is probably blockchain or crypto technology. The world is seeing the rise of crypto technology and how it is being integrated into the existing business ideas. A little more than a couple of years ago, you must have heard the term “bitcoin”. From bitcoin, people still believe that blockchain is all about digital currency i.e. money in the digital world. However, this is far from truth. Blockchain is expected to affect all types of businesses and industries in the world in the coming days.

It is a technology that redefines the security aspect of many businesses in 2018, introduced decentralization in modern business technologies and benefits the end consumers in multiple ways. For example, you could launch a gaming platform where no one needs the existing currencies. You could launch your own platform with your own money today. You don’t really have to start everything from the scratch; instead you could base your currency on the existing blockchain platforms like Ethereum. Through ICOs, you could have investors from around the world invest in your idea. So, blockchain is definitely a consideration for all businesses starting in 2018 and the coming years.

Physical Warehouses Are Not Necessary

A few years ago, only a certain types of business could be called truly online businesses. For businesses where products have to be stored for some time, a complete online presence was not the solution. Entrepreneurs who had such business ideas in mind had to have enough money to have their own warehouses. However, this has also changed quite a bit in the past couple of years. With the idea of drop shipping becoming common with time, it is becoming easier for businessmen to start their own businesses without much investment.

In a drop shipping model, all you have to do is collect orders from customers, forward those orders to the manufacturers or suppliers and have the goods shipped. You only act as a liaison in this particular model because it is the supplier that sends the products directly at the customers’ doorsteps. You will still need an online store with all the products listed for customers to see. However, you don’t need any warehouses because you don’t have to own, buy or store any products. The good thing is that this model now allows drop shippers to offer much more competitive rates so penetrating into the market is easier for them.

Big Data Is the Big Difference

Another technology that has been influencing business decisions and the way businesses operate is big data. While the term “big data” seems that you are referring to just large amounts of data but in reality, you are also referring to the methodologies and technologies that are in use to handle big data. You will be completely wrong to think that traditional software and hardware solutions can deal with big data in any way. Let’s take the example of a bank. A bank could have hundreds of branches located all around the country. In these hundreds of branches, the bank will have hundreds of thousands of customers.

The bank has account information of hundreds of thousands of these customers. In addition to that, the bank is constantly investing in stock and foreign markets, storing and utilizing that information. The same bank handles the data of all micro and macro loans it is forwarding to its customers. It is also storing information about customers through its mobile application to know what customers expect from the mobile website. On all of those hundreds of branches, the bank also has CCTV cameras collecting terabytes of footage on a daily basis.

Do you think all this data goes to waste? No, the data bank collected from banks is utilized in making bank branches securer. Data from mobile devices helps bank refine their mobile application. Data collected through financial softwares helps a bank improve its insurance, loan, mortgage, etc. offerings. It may seem on the surface that big data is a headache for big businesses only, but big data is just as important for small businesses as well. What this mean is that businesses starting in 2018 will have to have a big data approach right from day one.

Internet Security Is the Biggest Threat Now

It is unfortunate that rather than making the world a safer place, the new technology has led to greater internet threats. Cyber attacks are becoming more frequent with time, and much more sophisticated too. In the past few years, cyber attacks on some of the biggest companies of the world, including tech companies have proved that security has to be the major concern for every business-small, mid-scale or large. If you think starting a new business or having a small business gives you any advantage over large ones.

As a matter of fact, it’s the small businesses that are at a higher risk when they are under any type of cyber attack. This is because large businesses have the technologies and capital to fight the attack, recover and get back on their feet again. On the other hand, small businesses usually don’t have any of that.

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How A Business Loan Helps Business People

Overview:
Becoming a self-employed businessman is a great reputation in the society but the problems faced by the entrepreneurs from the day one of their business is enormous. It is a great challenge for a person to overcome all obstacles to become a successful businessman. The numerous problem faced by all is finance. Even great entrepreneurs of various industries have struggled a lot of financial crisis for setting up their business and to run their daily business operations. Thus finance plays a major role in the life of business people. Great ideas require the necessary financial support to bloom into a successful business.

Introduction:
There are various sources for business people to raise capital for their business. The most trusted source is from banks. There are various reasons why people choose banks as the best source for raising capital for their business. Banks provide a lower cost of funds in the form of Business Loans. There are various types of business loans at differential interest rates to facilitate business people to solve their financial crises.

Types of Business Loans:
Businesses are of different types and need finance at different stages of their business operations. The need also being different, banks help them in providing different types of business loans helping various small and medium enterprises to raise capital.

New Project Loan – Banks are interested in funding for new businesses and also for new projects of existing business. There are various criteria for getting new project loan and differs from bank to bank. Project loans are approved against the collateral of the person like residential property, commercial property or empty land.

Top-up on Existing Loans – These loans are issued for expansion, replacement, diversification of an existing business. These loans are approved for short term or long term basis to buy goods, machinery or any fixed assets for the company.

Working Capital Loans -These loans are provided for the business to solve sudden financial crises and repaid within short durations. Banks are more interested in providing working capital loans against their inventories, stocks or receivable bills of the company.

Secured Business Loan – Business loans in which companies raise their capital against any security for the bank. It may include plot, residential or commercial places, gold, shares, bills, insurance as collateral to get funds for their business. The interest rate is preferably less.

Unsecured Business Loan – Every businessman cannot afford to pledge a security in getting the business loan, so bankers help them with loans without any security based on bank transactions and income tax returns. These loans are charged with more interest rates when compared to secured business loans.

Requirements of the Banks:
There are various steps and procedures followed by banks to provide funds. The procedure and documents to be submitted to the banks as follows

Identity and address proof of the company – Address proof and identity proof of partnership or proprietor business.

Statutory legal registration of the company – Whether the company is legally registered under government norms and have followed all procedures legally in setting business.

Financial statement of the company – Every bank is interested in seeing the recent 1-year business transaction of the company.

Income tax returns – ITR helps the bankers to check the business performance, efficiency level, assets and liabilities of the company and also tax that company pays from their current earnings. This also plays a major role in deciding the loan amount for the business people.

Financial Security – It includes the fixed and movable assets of the company which helps the banker to consider providing business loans based on the asset value along with the business transactions. This also safeguards banks from the failure of businessmen that fail to repay the loan amount.

Previous Loan track – This is a very important factor considered by banks which will help them evaluate the financial condition of the business and also to check on past repayments on loans.

Litigation – It will help banks assess the character of businessmen before providing a business loan.

Takeaway:
Though business loans are found to be a great source for raising capital, businessmen undergo challenge in getting timely funds from the banks. In order to help them in availing timely loans, even NBFC is also now prepared to help them with funds at various stages of their business. Banks & NBFC have also made the lending process easy, with all verification done in shorter time-span, doorstep assistance in collecting documents etc. Businesses with good cash flows & credit score can avail timely funds with much ease.

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