How to Prepare Your Business for the Holiday Season

The holidays may be a few months away, but it’s never too early to start planning. The more advance prep you do to get your business ready for the holidays, the easier it will be to sail through these months hitting all the right bases with lower stress levels.

Here are some tips to get you started. 

Plan your marketing and promotions

Before the season officially starts, set aside time to strategize about your holiday marketing. Use data and metrics from last year’s holiday season, as well as current trends, to come up with a plan that will drive the best results. The earlier you start laying out your plan, the more time you’ll have to reach your target audience before the holidays.

At this time, you may want to plan for promotions and giveaways, too. Research popular freebies that align with your industry and company values and price them at various sources to get the biggest bang for your buck. Place your order early to avoid paying top dollar for a rush job and to ensure you have what you need well in advance. 

Stay organized

For many businesses, the holiday season is characterized by a general sense of chaos. This can translate into lower productivity levels and compromised service. Avoid this by maximizing the organization level at your business before the holiday madness sets in.

Brainstorm with your team for ways you can improve the organization of your business during super-busy times of year. For example, make sure you have all the supplies you’ll need for the holiday season. If there are multiple projects planned for the coming months, consider using a collaboration app, like Asana or Lionscribe, to ensure everyone is always on the same page. Finally, if you have a storefront, consider rearranging the layout to allow for an easier flow of traffic in popular areas. 

Hire and train seasonal workers 

If your business typically hires extra workers for the holiday season, get a head start on this year’s hiring. You can start meeting with potential seasonal employees and working out their hours now. Things will only get crazier, and crossing one task off your to-do list and having those extra hands available as soon as you need them will help to keep things calm as the outside flurry begins. 

Review vacation policies

It won’t work to have half your team out at the same time, or to have some employees feeling resentful because they weren’t granted their desired time off. Avoid these kinds of issues by reviewing and tweaking your vacation policies now, well in advance of the holidays. Once you’ve come up with a reasonable policy, be sure to share it with your employees with enough time for them to work out their vacation schedules in advance.

Plan ways to boost employee morale

The crunch time leading up to the holidays can be stressful for many people. There are social obligations to attend, lists of gifts to buy and the other preparations to tend to before the holidays. Add the pressure of finishing up the year at work during the busiest season, and you’ve got a recipe for a stressed-out team.

Head off the problem of burnt-out employees in the holiday season by pre-planning ways to boost morale on a group and individual level. Get staff input on how to celebrate the season in ways that go beyond the obligatory office party. Consider supporting a charitable organization by partnering with the charity of your choice throughout the holiday season. Ask your team to help you choose the charity, which will spread good feelings and buy-in all around. You can also make a point of increasing your positive feedback to your employees during the holiday season.

It’s never too early to start preparing for the holidays! Use these tips to get your business ready for the busiest season of the year.

Your Turn: How does your business prepare for and thrive during the holidays? Share your best tips with us in the comments. 

5 Steps to Take When Applying for a Business Loan

If your business can use a shot of cash to help it grow, fund a move or to get through its slowest season, a business loan can be the right answer. 

Here’s what you need to know about applying for a business loan.

  1. Check your credit

Before you apply, check your personal and business credit health. 

Personal credit scores range from 300-850. A score in a range of 580-669 is fair, 670-739 is good, 740-799 is very good and 800-850 is exceptional. In general, the higher your score, the easier it will be for you to qualify for a loan and the lower the interest rate you’ll have on your loan when approved.

Business credit scores are measured differently. Experian uses Intelliscore Plus as its credit scoring model, with scores ranging from 1 to 100. Equifax assigns each business a payment index score, which ranges from 0 to 100; a credit risk score ranging from 100 to 992 and a business failure score ranging from 1,000 to 1,880. The D&B score, assigned by the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation, ranges from 0 to 100. Finally, the FICO Small Business Scoring Service score ranges from 0 to 300. 

If your personal and/or business credit scores are low, work on improving your credit before applying for a loan. Be timely or early with your bill payments, work on getting rid of debt and check your monthly credit statements for any erroneous charges.

  1. Update your business plan

Most lenders will ask to see a current business plan before approving a loan. It’s a good idea to review and update yours so it’s ready to show a potential lender. The plan should include information about the loan, such as how the company plans to use the funds. 

Be sure to have a comprehensive business plan to show a prospective lender. The plan should include details about how the company intends to use the funds, the anticipated increase in revenue and plans for repaying the loan. 

3. Organize your personal and business documents

You’ll need the following documents and identifying paperwork when applying for a business loan:

  • Photo ID
  • Accurate monthly financial statements from the past two years
  • Business license
  • Any commercial leases
  • Business insurance plans
  • Payroll records
  • Incorporation documents
  • Current financial obligations
  • 3 months of bank statements
  • Personal and business tax returns
  • Collateral

4. Research potential lenders

A business loan is a big deal, and it’s best not to jump into the decision too quickly. Take the time to research potential lenders carefully, being sure to check each lender’s eligibility criteria, the average size of the loans they offer, their current interest rate average and more. 

Consider applying for a business loan through a credit union. A credit union will offer you personalized service, looser qualifying criteria and a competitive interest rate. [Call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union today to discuss your options.] 

5. Submit your application

You’re ready to apply for a loan! With luck, you’ll soon have the funds you need to take your business to the next level. 

Your Turn: What are your best tips for taking out a business loan? Tell us about it in the comments. 

5 Ways to Survive the Summer Slump

When the days stretch on endlessly and the summer sun beats down on the sidewalk, productivity dips. The dreaded summer slump hits businesses when daydreaming employees become less productive, part of the team is out on a summertime getaway and the stream of customers slows to a trickle. 

The summer slump is inevitable for most businesses, but with good planning you can sail smoothly through the summer months without taking a big hit. Here’s how:

  1. Plan ahead

Instead of waiting until you’re half-staffed in mid-July, establish a clear policy for taking summertime leaves. You can ask all team members to let you know when they plan to take time off at least two months in advance, only allow a specific number of employees to take off at a time, or limit the number of employees who take off at the same time from a single department. You might even choose to shut down completely for a week or two to keep productivity levels up for the bulk of the summer. Host a pre-summer team meeting and make sure each employee is clear on the policy or plan. 

  1. Strategize for the holiday season

Whoever said you can’t have Christmas in July? Take advantage of the slower summer season to come up with a great strategy for the upcoming holiday season.Team members will have more time to devote to meetings and planning, and preparing for the holiday rush well before the school year even starts will give you a leg up on the next quarter.

  1. Host a summer bash

Draw customers to your store or website by hosting a spectacular mid-summer bash. Don’t wait until Independence Day or Labor Day to slash your prices; do it for no reason at all during the slowest time of summer. When you’re the only business running a sale, you’re more likely to attract customers. 

  1. Improve your social media presence

Use your spare time during this season to up your game on social media. See if you can improve your brand’s online persona, find ways to make your blog shine and dream up a zany summertime video contest to share with your customers. You can also choose to meet with a professional social media consultant to see how you can improve your online presence.

  1. Learn new skills

Summer presents a great opportunity for acquiring new skills that can help you grow your business. Sign up for an online or in-person course, reach out to an expert for some one-on-one coaching or read an instructive book on a subject that’s closely related to your business. Broadening your knowledge and skill set is always beneficial for your business. 

Business might be slower during the summer, but you can find ways to limit a productivity lapse and to grow your business in the long-term. Follow these tips to make the most of your time this summer. 

Your Turn: How does your business survive the summer slump? Share your tips with us in the comments. 

How to Create a Great Business Blog

Every business is blogging today, but creating a killer business blog can be challenging. How do you strike that perfect balance between professionalism and casualness while building a blog that promotes your business in the best way possible? Here, we’ve outlined four steps for creating an outstanding blog for your organization. 

Find your style

You can choose to create your business blog in any way you want, but for the sake of consistency, it’s best to find a single voice and stick to it. To get an idea of what’s out there, read some popular business blogs, like those authored by Ramit Sethi and Tim Ferris, to see what strikes you as especially captivating. Pay attention to the voice of the blog, the writing style and the level of personal information that is shared.

Next, make a checklist of what you like to see in a blog and reference this list when working on new posts so your blog has a uniform style of its own.

Brainstorm for blog topics

You have your style; now, what are you going to write about?

Here’s where you’re going to pick your brain for blog topics that are related to your industry, but present multiple tangential topics that can reach into your personal life. For example, if you operate a hardwood-flooring business, you can offer basic tips for keeping your newly installed panels in perfect shape. You can also share anecdotes about the most outlandish ways your children have stained your own floors and how you proceeded to clean up your panels to make them look like new. 

Another approach to take is to view your blog as a means for humanizing your brand. If this is your only goal, you can write about anything at all without finding ways to connect it to your business. Be wary of letting your blog turn into an overly negative space where you rant about anything and everything that peeves you. To draw the most traffic, it’s best to keep your blog upbeat and to share something positive in every post. 

List your topics on a spreadsheet so you always have ideas to reference when you need to write a new post.

Don’t overshare

Regardless of how you choose to style your blog, you’ll want to be careful not to stray into TMI territory. Nobody wants to read about your marriage woes or to hear details about a plan that failed miserably for five consecutive months when you’re blogging about your business. Sharing highly personal anecdotes can turn your blog into a gossip page and damage your company’s reputation.

Before posting an article, ask yourself these questions:

  • Would I be OK if this post went viral?
  • Does this post resonate with my company’s core values?
  • Would I be embarrassed if my parents/partner/close friend/sibling were to read this post?
  • What would I think if I read this post on another company’s blog?

Read it out loud

Before you post an article, read it out loud to see how it flows. Rephrase awkward phrases or word groups and swap dull descriptions for more effective choices. Weed out any sentence or paragraph that makes you cringe and don’t post until you love the article from beginning to end. Don’t forget to hold your article up to your checklists before making it public.

Best of luck creating that killer blog! 

Your Turn: How did you create a fabulous blog for your business? Share your best tips with us in the comments. 

Dream First, Details Later: How to Quit Overthinking & Make It Happen!

Title: Dream First, Details Later: How to Quit Overthinking & Make It Happen!

Author: Ellen Bennett

Hardcover: 240 pages

Publisher: Portfolio

Publishing date: April 27, 2021

Who is this book for? 

  • Wanna-be entrepreneurs wondering how to get started.
  • Anyone looking for inspiration and guidance on making their dreams come true.

What’s inside this book?

Bennett’s incredible story of how she built a multimillion-dollar company by leaping into the unknown and accepting a challenge from her boss.
Motivation, tips and practical advice for making your personal dreams come true.

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book: 

  • How to ignore your inner worrier and take action.
  • How to gather courage to venture outside your comfort zone.
  • How to use creative problem-solving to conquer the inevitable challenges you’ll encounter during your journey.
    How to transition from “flying by the seat of your pants” to the “well-oiled machine” stage.

3 questions this book will answer for you: 

  • Can I really make my dream come true through pure determination and hard work?
  • What should be my first step toward making my dreams come true?
  • Do I need to have all the answers in place to make my dream a reality?

What people are saying about this book: 

  • “Ellen Bennett is the platonic form of a go-getter who inspires go-getter after go-getter to become a better go-getter. In an afternoon with Ellen there is never a dull moment, so be prepared to be inspired, motivated and delighted by her humor, wit and grit. If I could bottle her productivity and enthusiasm I would, but since I can’t, I will just read her book.” —Zooey Deschanel
  • “I love, love, love this book! The true story of a true heroine for our times — bold, brash, and entirely honest about the downs and ups of making dreams come true.” —Angela Duckworth
  • “This book is delicious. It’s inspiring, beautiful and actionable, and it might be just what you need to unlock the door and help you get going.” —Seth Godin
  • “Ellen Bennett’s infectiously inspiring story of grit and entrepreneurial spirit, Dream First, Details Later is a powerfully honest and colorful account of her wild journey from line cook to business owner. In it, she gives license to break free from self-doubt and to seize the wheel for your own journey to success.” —Danny Meyer
  • “Dream First, Details Later is a rare book that combines inspiration with action. Learning Ellen’s story is enjoyable on its own, but here she’s gone above-and-beyond to leave readers with practical advice. I will be recommending this one far and wide!”  —Chris Guillebeau

 Your Turn: What did you think of Dream First, Details Later? Share your opinion in the comments.

Learn More:

Products for Managing and Tracking Business Expenses

Running a flourishing business means overseeing a constant flow of money. There’s revenue, payroll, suppliers, lease payments, taxes and so much more. It’s a lot to keep track of!  Luckily, though, there are lots of products on the market that can help you cover, manage and track your business expenses effectively and smoothly. Let’s take a look at some of these products and share some tips for choosing those that are the best fit for your business.

Business checking accounts

A designated business checking account makes a company look credible and professional while enabling it to manage and track expenses, taxes and revenue. Separate accounts also protect business owners from losing their personal assets if legal action is taken against the company. Business owners can use their checking accounts to deposit checks made out to their company and to cover business expenses, such as payroll or payments to suppliers.

Here’s what to look for in a business checking account:

  • Generous cash-deposit limit per transaction
  • Generous monthly transaction limit
  • Low or no maintenance fee and other costs
  • Online and mobile banking
  • Possible dividend rate

[If you’re looking to open a business checking account, a Advantage One Credit Union Business Checking Account can be a great choice. Our business checking account has [a low maintenance fee of $xx/month/ no maintenance fees] and convenient features like [XXX]. Call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union to learn more.]

Business savings account

A business savings account is an account designated for funds to be used in cases of emergency or for future business expenses. The money in this account will grow at a greater rate, but access to these funds will be more limited.

Business owners can use a savings account to build a cash cushion for slower seasons, prepare for unexpected expenses or to save up for new equipment, tax payments or an expansion.  Many financial institutions also offer rewards and incentives for businesses opening a business savings account, such as cash-back programs, increased dividend rates for larger deposits and reduced fees.

Here’s what to look for in a business savings account: 

  • High dividend rates
  • Low fees and a transparent fee structure
  • Rewards and perks
  • Online and mobile banking

[Opening a Advantage One Credit Union Business Savings Account will provide you with a favorable rate of [x.x%], generous terms, and convenient features like [XXX]. If you’re ready to open a business savings account, call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union today.]

Business credit card

A business credit card provides small business owners with easy and unsecured access to a revolving line of credit. Business owners can use the credit to withdraw cash as necessary, cover large expenses, make purchases, fund an expansion or meet their monthly bill payments.

In comparison to a business loan, a business credit card is easier to qualify for, but it will nearly always come with a higher interest rate. If business owners are careful only to use the credit card when it is absolutely necessary and pays the bill before it’s due, interest will not accrue. A generous line of credit can be a convenient way to increase a business owner’s purchasing power without risking any assets. Credit debt that is managed well will also build the company’s credit score and may provide the business with rewards and incentives.

Here’s what to look for in a business credit card: 

  • A low interest rate
  • Generous perks and rewards
  • A low or no annual fee
  • Interest-free introductory period
  • Purchase protection and insurance

[If you’re looking to open a business credit card, look no further than Advantage One Credit Union. Our Business Credit Cards feature a generous credit limit, easy qualifying terms, and great perks. Call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union today to learn more.]

Tax software

Tracking business expenses and marking which of them can be deducted from a company’s tax liability can be super-challenging. Tax software designed for businesses makes this task easy. Business tax software, like H&R Block, TaxAct and TaxSlayer, can track all the expenses of a business and help owners file taxes efficiently and easily. The software allows businesses to upload all relevant tax documents, provides online support from tax specialists and helps the business calculate federal — and sometimes also state — tax liability. Businesses will need to pay a fee to download most tax software programs, but the cost is more than offset by the time and money the software can save a business.

Here’s what to look for in tax software for businesses:

  • Online tax filing
  • Low monthly cost
  • Assistance with filing federal and state taxes
  • Compatibility with your devices
  • Money-management apps

Managing expenses for a small business isn’t easy. There’s payroll, suppliers, monthly bills and so many other ongoing expenses that need to be covered. Fortunately, there’s an app for that! Money management apps like Mint, Truebill and ZohoBooks allow businesses to track and review all their expenses in one convenient location. Chart expenses on colorful graphs to visualize cash flow, see where the business money is going, categorize expenses for easier tax-filing and link accounts for automatic syncing of expenditures and income. Tracking business expenses on an app also makes for easy monitoring the business via mobile device.

Here’s what to look for in a money-management app: 

  • Manageable monthly cost
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Synchronization across multiple devices

Your Turn: How do you manage your business expenses? Tell us about the products you use in the comments.

Learn More:

Power Moves: How Women Can Pivot, Reboot, and Build a Career of Purpose

Title: Power Moves: How Women Can Pivot, Reboot, and Build a Career of Purpose
Author: Lauren McGoodwin
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Harper Business
Publishing date: May 19, 2020
Average customer review: 5 out of 5 stars

Who is this book for?

  • Young professionals who feel stuck and are lacking career fulfillment
  • Followers of McGoodwin’s Career Contessa site who want to build on their career know-how
  • Businesswomen who are seeking growth and a career change

What’s inside this book?

  • Information, guidance, advice and essential tools to help women shed self-doubt and fear, and also take bold steps forward in their careers
  • Helpful to-do’s and checklists to provide accountability
  • Powerful graphics to bring the lessons to life

5 lessons you’ll learn from this book:

  • How to cut out comparison, shame, and self-loathing
  • How to abandon the idea of that elusive “dream job”
  • How to embrace your inner questioner, your inner quester and your inner quitter
  • How to make money moves and take control of your financial future
  • How women can build a successful career on their own terms

4 questions this book will answer for you:

  • What is a Power Move and why does it matter?
  • How can I tune out noise and better tune in my own voice?
  • How can I bypass the quest for perfection and move directly toward career growth?
  • What practical steps do I need to take before making a career change?

What people are saying about this book:

  • Honest, candid, and thoughtful
  • An easy read with actionable advice
  • Power Moves is an honest and brave manifesto on how to take control of your career and, ultimately, your happiness, on your terms.
  • If you are ready to achieve real success in your career (and life), this is the book you absolutely need to read right now.
  • There is a certain type of savvy I thought couldn’t be taught, but Lauren McGoodwin is making her sharp instincts accessible to everyone. She is part trusted friend who knows what you’re up against, part professional guru who wants to help you realize your full potential.

Your Turn:
Are you a Lauren McGoodwin fan? Tell us what you love about her approach in the comments.

Learn More: