Big Data for Small Businesses


UAB Master of Management in Information Systems

Business Loan Options for Those With Bad Credit Scores

Regardless of where your business is, you’ll need a boost in funding at some point. It might happen due to circumstances you find yourself in, or due to incorrect debt finance planning. Consequently, it may send you into a phase of bad credit, and as it is, you may face a challenge where getting business loans is concerned. Good news is, you can still get a business loan regardless of your credit history. But let’s learn the tweaks and tricks first.
Bad Credit for Business Loan

If you’re below 650, you already know how difficult it is to get approval from traditional financial institutions. But here’s why 80% of business loan applications get rejected: financial institutions club your personal credit history with other factors to gauge your payment capability. So your application is instantly rejected when you fall below the 650 mark.

Therefore, let us learn about a few personal steps you can take before applying for a business loan.

What You Should Do When Applying for a Business Loan

(a) If your score is under 650, separate your bad personal credit status from that of your business. The trick is – start an LLC or a Corporation.

(b) Establish a business profile using your acquired EIN. It tends to be separate from your personal credit history, so it won’t affect your application. In fact, this is the easiest way to build a strong business profile when you have a weak personal credit profile that needs attention.

(c) Your business financial statement should be totally independent from your personal financial statement. Make sure you separate these records.

If you’ve followed the above 3 steps, then you are safe to apply for a business loan even if you have a history of bad credit.

Substitute Loans and Trade Credit

Maybe you need a small amount of money, or funding for a small duration. You can apply for a loan with a relatively fair option of trade credit. These can be used for almost everything that a business loan can be used for, not limited to making purchases for raw assets and materials.

The good thing about trade credits is that they are often easy to acquire since they have minimal rules, plus they don’t conduct background credit checks.

In some cases, trade credit can be obtained even without giving guarantees. However, the problem is, this process may not be very simple, so it may require external help. If you don’t have enough time and patience, then this might not be a viable option for you.

Elements of Loan Products Designed for Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs

Even though business owners with bad credit are often shunned, a good number of loan products have been tailored specifically for this category of business owners. These loan products come with terms such as comfortable payments, long maturity, lower installments, interest rates and down payment. One such example is online lender BusinessLoansDirect.com.

Therefore, if you operate a business or are looking forward to start one, your options are endless. In fact, you’re almost guaranteed for approval as long as you’re genuinely seeking for a business loan to keep your business afloat. And the good thing is that you can always separate your bad credit records from your business loan application so that it doesn’t affect your outcome.

 

Remember that even though everyone else seems to be offering loans on the web, not all of them will provide cheap loans per say. They might be having better terms of service, i.e. such as not reporting your payment records to the credit bureau and so forth. Those claims may be true. However, when it comes to payments, you suddenly realize that the loan you were offered was too expensive, almost a rip-off. Therefore, shop wisely, and remember that bad credit history doesn’t always mean you can’t get a loan.

 

 

The Best Ways to Protect Your Money Online

Virtual banking and other online transactions have become commonplace in these modern times. In fact, there are many analysts who believe that the world of e-commerce will eventually overtake its more traditional counterpart. Like any new technology, there are some concerns which need to be taken seriously. For example, how can you be sure that your money is safe from prying eyes and theft? This is a logical question that should be answered in a bit more detail.

 

Use the Most Trusted Sites

Whether you are buying a toy through an online auction site or reviewing the personal details of your current life insurance policy, only choose to interact with providers that have a proven reputation. This will drastically limit the chances that your personal and financial details will fall into the wrong hands. If there are a substantial amount of negative reviews in regards to the company, it is always best to move on.

 

Use a Separate Email Address

It is wise to keep all of your financial transactions within an entirely different email than that which is used for more personal matters. This primarily arises from the fact that if your main email becomes hacked or corrupted, your extremely important information is much more likely to remain secure. Along these same lines, make certain that your password is different for each account. If your general email is compromised or the password stolen, your secondary address will still be intact.

 

Offline Storage

Always keep a backup of your financial records offline. Many consumers now only have their information contained within the “cloud” of computing. The danger here is that no cloud is completely secure. Thus, they can once again find themselves at risk of data loss. Whether you choose to store such details on a personal hard drive or even physically written down in a safe place, this aspect of redundancy is another very powerful step to take.

 

Understanding Encryption

In its most basic form, online encryption is a “code” which is used to pass information from one party to another. All details within a message are scrambled and can only be decoded by an authorised party. Even if an account or an email is compromised, it is highly likely that any information contained within will still not be deciphered. All of the most trusted sites will state that they are using what is known as “SSL” encryption. If this is not immediately apparent or if such a protocol is not employed, your finances may once again be in jeopardy.

 

Above all, it is critical to note that online security threats are continuing to evolve. Keeping ahead of these dangers through the steps mentioned above will help to limit the chances of information loss. In an age governed by light-speed interactions, prudence plays an important role in your overall financial privacy.

Current Trends in CRM for Insurance Companies

 

Insurance companies always look for ways to boost their businesses. They want more and more customers. The new entrants in the market have made it difficult for the companies to survive the competition.

Insurance companies work on their technologies, to get the best solutions for their customers. The new age customers are more informed and comfortable with the internet. Companies are looking for better technologies to connect with their customer while customers demand personalized solutions and better interactivity.

This rising demand has emerged the trend of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) among insurance companies. The CRM software provides database of the customer. It also helps to get a better understanding of the customer expectations and act accordingly with the insurance plans. With changing consumer needs, new trends have developed in the CRM. These trends are discussed as follows:

  • Social CRM: The new CRM is now focussing on the social habits of the consumer. They target Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites. The focus has shifted from data to content where conversations and people are given more importance. Customers are happier working with the people they know. CRM recognises their friends and partners, understands their preferences, and offers customized insurance schemes. This new trend helps re-enforces trust within the customers.

 

  • Self- service: This solution saves the customer’s time, money and efforts. He does not have to visit the office again and again thereby increasing the dependence on emails and web chats over phone calls and visits. CRM assists in insurance consulting and handles regular premium collections. Consumers can also get tailor-made solutions from the website.
  • Analysis: The new CRM provides in-depth analysis of the customer. It not only gives the data transaction updates but also, an overview of customer behaviour. Employees can get customer information in a single window. The CRM analytics help to strategize business decisions and gives insight of customer preferences.

 

  • Future predictions: With an analysis of past transactions, CRM assists to predict future customer behaviour. It helps the company chart out its future plans especially the ones with a million customers. This insurance business software helps the company to differentiate businesses. It gives a picture of those customers which can bring more business to the company and those which produce lesser profits. The company can then strategize to work on them separately.
  • Key performance indicators: This CRM trend helps to get the company’s performance status distinctly for departments, roles and individuals. It generates accurate results of the organization’s performance with respect to a specific customer. It measures the customer satisfaction level and also gives out the reasons why a particular customer stopped dealing with the organisation. This indicator can be very useful in developing strategies for retaining other customers.
  • Smartphones: The CRM can now be integrated into smartphones and other devices. This helps the members of the insurance company to access customer data from anywhere. It gives quick updates to them thereby helping customers with instant solutions. This increases the convenience of both, the insurer and the insured, and hence it is highly favoured.

The current trends in CRM in the insurance industries help to strengthen the bond with the customer. It understands their changing needs and helps the company to adapt to it. A customer is also happy to get the service on time and as desired. A satisfied customer is sure to bring more goodwill and business to the insurance company.

Click Here to learn more about Customer Relationship Management.

 

Agency PAYE vs umbrella company: Which is best for me?

When it comes to contracting, there are a number of ways you can operate as an independent worker. Although the most popular choices are undoubtedly through your own limited company or an umbrella company, there is also the option to work via an agency PAYE.

This basically means you will work through a particular agency as a part of their payroll – but only if they provide you with this option. If they do not then it’s either and umbrella company or a limited company.

Like an umbrella company, operating through an agency PAYE removes a considerable amount of hassle from your contracting life, but what are the main differences between the two?

Rates of pay

Generally, you’ll get a higher rate of pay working through an umbrella company than you would if chose to take a contract through an agency.

Expenses

If you choose to work through an agency you will forfeit your ability to offset legitimate business expenses against your income. As an umbrella company employee you may be able to claim business expenses against your earnings, offering you more flexibility in this area.

Claiming expenses is part and parcel for a contractor and so it may be wise to consider the option which enables you to do this.

Before you decide on an umbrella company it is always wise to see what they can offer you in terms of expenses and their specific policies relating to this.

NICs and tax

Essentially, this works out the same whether you work through an agency PAYE or an umbrella company. In both instances, National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and tax are deducted at source and so there are no additional costs of charges.

When it comes to payroll calculations, both options will take care of this for you, leaving you more time to focus on your work or obtaining a better work/life balance.

Invoices

The same applies as the above for invoices. In both cases your invoices should be raised and sent to the client on your behalf, removing the need for you to chase up the client once the invoice has been sent over to them.

Contractor insurance

Any good umbrella company will offer you a full insurance package which not only looks after your interests but also your client’s in the event of an accident where their property is left damaged.

Not only does this ensure that you are covered in the event of a problem onsite, it also means you don’t have to spend time looking for the right policies to cover yourself as it’s all done for you.

So which is best for me?

Overall, it is generally more beneficial for a contractor to use an umbrella company as opposed to an agency PAYE. While both remove a significant amount of hassle in terms of paper work, tax calculations and insurance procedures, the financial positives are far better with an umbrella company.

Higher rates of pay and the ability offset expenses against your income are two of the main reasons why most contractors take the umbrella route over agency PAYE.

Appearances mean everything

First impressions can be lasting, not just when meeting people, but also when seeing a building. When parents come to a school on open days when deciding where to send their child it is important the building and its surrounding areas are pristine.

Sometimes, these initial opinions can help a parent make their decision. They want to make sure their youngster goes to an educational establishments that not only provides a first-class education, but also takes pride in its appearance.

Every area of the school should be presentable at all times, so visitors are impressed as soon as they enter the grounds.

Car park

As soon as a parent enters the car park they will be judging the school, which means even this area needs to be taken care of.

Make sure there is no litter either in or surrounding the area where visitors will leave their vehicles. The school should regularly repaint the road markings on the tarmac, as faded lines can make the car park look scruffy.

In addition, the outside of the building should be well-maintained. The windows should be clean and any graffiti or grime should be washed off routinely.

Entrance

Any entrances to the school should be manicured and well-maintained to lay the foundations of a positive and lasting impression.

Any tatty notices or aged examples of student work should be removed and replaced with laminated alternatives, so they last longer and can be wiped if they become a bit grubby over time.

If the school has won any awards, or has received a high score from Ofsted then these should be displayed here to immediately catch parents and visitors’ attention.

Hallways

All notices that line the hallways should be neat and tidy and should be replaced if they have suffered damage or vandalism. These walls also provide perfect places to display student work to give the parent an idea about what their child might learn at the school.

The floors should be pristine, which is a job a contract cleaner could do on a regular basis to make sure they shine.

Assembly hall

On school open days, staff and parents will more than likely congregate in the assembly hall at some point. This means this area in particular should be clean, tidy and welcoming.

All the chairs and tables used should be in good repair, free of graffiti and all hidden chewing gum should be removed beforehand. A quick way to do this is to use drizzle some oil – vegetable or olive – on the offending globs, leave for five minutes and then scrape off with a spatula.

Any drapes or curtains should be clean and smell fresh, as a musty odour can be very off-putting, especially if you’re sat close. The floor should be immaculate and should have an impressive shine.

It is important to remember that parents are there to decide whether or not the school is good enough for their child, so it is vital the building is as aesthetically pleasing as the curriculum is attractive.

Why financial service firms need to embrace the tech revolution

With the global economy more interconnected than ever, the impact this is having on the financial services sector has been profound. Whether it is consumer banking, wealth management funds or international insurance firms, the need for these companies to operate quickly and reliably across borders has never been greater.

As a result, the technology solutions used by this sector has seen a huge jump in complexity in recent years. Since the financial crisis, companies are now required to keep much closer control of their records than in the past in order to meet strict new regulatory requirements. At the same time, new ways of doing business such as the mobile revolution and the greater availability of data means fast, reliable networking is a must.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that investment in technology in the financial services sector is on the rise. Figures from International Data Corporation predict overall IT spending in this industry is set to top $430 billion in 2014.

Reducing the risk

Of this, nearly a fifth will go towards solutions to assist with risk management operations, which is a top priority for financial services firms this year. And with good reason, as regulators around the world now impose much tighter controls on this industry, for everything from doing business with corrupt officials to irresponsible trading.

When it comes to monitoring transactions for potential corruption, for instance, there are several technology solutions that will need to come into play – all of which must be interconnected to stand a chance of success. Know your customer tools will have to be able to access the latest data – both internal and external – about who institutions are doing business with. These need to work alongside tools like big data solutions and databases that analyse and approve millions of transactions a day, looking for any unusual activity.

Putting the customer first

Offering customers the highest possible level of services will also be a priority for the industry that technology solutions stand well-placed to assist with. This is true whether an institution is offering everyday banking services for individual consumers or dealing with high-end wealth management clients.

It was recently noted by CNBC that “wealth-management firms will have to provide more services and adopt a more collaborative relationship with clients as automated websites and mobile trading provide self-directed investors with the tools to manage their own investments”.

This level of automation and collaboration will put large demands on traditional banking technology systems. Instead, firms will need to look at advanced, more reliable systems that are able to provide users with the ability to manage finances from wherever they are, in a way that suits them.

Similarly, in the consumer banking sector, the need for mobile tools to interact with each other and provide a consistent level of service will also be paramount. It was recently noted by Gartner that some institutions will end up having 20 or more apps available to users  – which will lead to a quarter of leading banks looking to offer dedicated app stores for customers in order to organise these offerings.

These will not be able to work as effectively as possible in isolation, so interoperability will be a must. To find out more about how this can be achieved, visit www.intersystemspartner.co.uk.

Top Tips for Personal Finance

These days, in our world of credit cards, mortgages and the loom of crushing debt, it’s so important to know how to manage personal finance so we don’t get caught up in that trap. But we often hear different advice from so many different people, each with different and often conflicting ideas on how we should manage our personal finances. The truth is, smart finance tips aren’t hard to follow. Read on to learn those personal finance tips that we recommend the most:

Get a fixed rate home loan

For many people, home mortgages are a financial crutch which prevents them from living with financial freedom. Home loans can incur skyrocketing interest rates, and if you’re not careful these can completely decimate your savings. So when you’re signing up for a mortgage, make sure that you’re signing a fixed rate home loan. Fixed rate home loans allow you to budget more effectively, because you won’t be shocked from rising rates.

Set a weekly budget for groceries

You might be surprised, but grocery shopping can be one of the highest expenditures in many homes. It might not seem like much when you go out to stock up on Sunday night, but those mini trips throughout the week to pick up a few ingredients, combined with those unnecessary extras thrown in to keep the kids from whining, can really add up. So set yourself a budget to stick with, that you know will allow you to enjoy the other areas of your life.

See where you can cut back

Maintaining good personal finance doesn’t mean that you’re stingy with yourself or your family. It simply means that you recognize the difference between what’s necessary, what’s enjoyable and what you really don’t need. If you find yourself buying a few expensive lattes per day, try to cut one out. Other habits you might not notice at first can end up costing you over the long term, so see where you can cut back without reducing your quality of life too much.

Teach your kids about personal finance

If you can teach your kids the skills they’ll need to learn later in life, this will pay off greatly in the long run. This could mean the difference between self-sustaining grown children, and those who still need handouts late into their 20’s. Give your kids a modest allowance and teach them the ways that they can earn money around the house. Let them know that once their budget is spent, they need to find ways to earn more rather than just getting money handed out to them.

Top Tips for a Healthy Heart

You probably already know that a healthy heart is essential for a healthy life. It’s the organ that pumps life force through your body, so taking the time and care to ensure it’s working properly can add years onto your life! But unfortunately, many habits in life today can compromise heart health. So read on to learn how you can take control and make your heart healthy with some simple lifestyle changes!

heart

Improve your diet

Did you know that changing your diet even just a bit can really improve the health of your heart? First of all, minimize trans fats as much as possible, which are found in fast food and processed foods. Replace them with healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats like those found in fish, nuts, seeds and olive oil. Just a small handful of walnuts after lunch and dinner can create a significant improvement in your heart health.

De-stress

Stress is unfortunately one of the biggest contributors to heart disease today. With the constant barrage of news, media and obligations in our lives, it’s easy to get overstressed and the heart can suffer from it. So create some space in your life to unplug from social media and the news. Dedicate an hour per day to time for yourself, reading and meditating, or whatever it is that chills you out.

Check your heart

It’s hard to know how much you need to improve your heart health, if you’re not even sure where you stand. That’s why it’s important to take a heart health test so you know how you’re doing. We recommend the HBF Healthy Heart Check because it’s a simple test that lets you know how you’re doing, and can help you identify areas in your life that you can improve to increase your heart health.

Quit smoking

Smoking is another major risk factor for heart disease and other heart problems. So if you’re a smoker, it is imperative that you find a way to quit, if you want to reduce this risk in your life. And if you live with smokers or are exposed to smoke regularly, find a way to change your lifestyle to remove this risk.

Strength Train

You might think that cardio exercise is the best way to keep your heart in good shape, but it’s strength training that will really beef up its health factor. Yes, cardio training is helpful but when you strength train, you reduce your body fat percentage while increasing muscle mass and endurance, all of which contributes to a healthy heart.

Should I lease, rent or finance my car for business  

A Mini, that’s what the business needed. Something that could glide through traffic; a car that could get from one point to the other, quickly, fuel efficiently, and in style.

The business didn’t need a White Van. It was really just for running documents and travelling to client meets. There was only one dilemma in my mind: “Should I lease, rent or finance the car for my business?”

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 12.03.16 PM

I wanted to make the right choice, so I needed to conduct a little research and find out what the best option was. Now, a year later, I’ve found that I made the right choice, but each business is different, so you’ll want to analyse all of the following options before you commit.

Car Rental

Let’s say that you, as I once did, decide to rent a Mini Classic. You’ll soon realise that while this arrangement works very well for a day or two, it is not normally a good long term arrangement. Car rental companies force you into ‘their’ contracts; they required that I bought additional Mini Classic car insurance (for the Mini that I was renting). Even though I already had car insurance that would cover any accident, their contract meant that if I didn’t take their offered insurance I would have had to foot the bill for “Loss of use”. This meant that in the event of an accident I would have had to pay a fee for the time the car was being repaired (loss of work use for that rental). Needless to say, these fees were not cheap.

Of course there are also other ‘miscellaneous’ costs associated with a rental. In other words, you never end up paying that low headline fee advertised in the paper and so car rentals are rarely a long term business solution. If, however, you need a short term option, they may be the right choice for you

Leasing

Car leasing is becoming more and more popular in the business world. This is certainly an option to consider, as there are more than a few benefits to obtaining a business car using this model.

  1. Offers a fixed leasing contract, for a period that generally ranges from 2 to 5 years.
  2. This option also includes certain maintenance benefits; you don’t have to pay additional costs for maintenance servicing, tyres and other items when you purchase a ‘fully-maintained” lease option.
  3. Lease payments are fixed for the term of the lease. This makes it easier for you to budget business expenses.
  4. Leasing can eliminate many of the risks associated with owning a vehicle. The only additional item you’ll need to pay for is car insurance.
  5. If you are registered for VAT you can claim a proportion of the finance rental when you file.

There are a couple of negative points to the option of leasing however, and you’ll want to consider these before making a final decision. Lease contracts tend to be inflexible, so if you want to return the car before the contract is up, you’ll have to pay an early termination fee. There may also be costs incurred at the end of a lease, depending on the contract you opt for.

Why Buy?

As a person who has both bought and leased business vehicles, I can tell you that there are a lot of advantages to buying. Two of the key benefits to buying a business vehicle are as follows.

  1. You own the car and as a result it is deemed an asset. You have the right to sell the business vehicle at any time, as long as you are not restricted by finance agreements.
  2. Unlike a lease, a car that you buy can do as much or as little mileage as you require. Often leases will restrict you to a certain annual mileage.

The main drawback to buying is of course that you do need to offer a large up-front payment, whereas you don’t in a leasing agreement. You also bear the costs associated with the depreciation of the vehicle.

Final Thoughts

Both leasing and buying are good options. If you want predictable expenses, and easy maintenance, then the fixed costs associated with leasing may offer the best solution. If you are cash rich then buying can offer you more flexibility.