Small Business Savior: Online Invoicing and Accounting Solution

Invoices, tasks, more invoices, tasks, estimate requests, still more invoices. All this paperwork can surely clutter a desk quickly, and the lack of organization makes it hard to prioritize tasks. There has to be a better way.

There is. There are online invoicing solutions and cloud accounting apps that claim to help us manage all our business finances in one place. Perfect for the small business environment, yet they claim to understand the problems that many small business owners, freelancers and entrepreneurs face, and claim to strive to make the best user experiences possible.

What’s great about such online accounting solutions is that they are so simple and easy to use, that you don’t need to be a computer genius to reap the benefits. They usually can be accessed anywhere there is an Internet connection, and other than having a web browser, there are no additional technical specs needed. Some are even available on mobile devices, which is perfect for the traveling entrepreneur. Usually everything in your accounts is searchable, using lightning fast search tools, giving you instant access to all of your data whenever you need it.

In some of the online invoicing solutions account holders can add team members as necessary to handle different areas like tasks and invoices. Sections are controllable with user permissions set by the account holder, and each user will have access to only the areas necessary. Usually the financial information is kept safe and secure. A secure website’s URL should begin with “https” rather than “http”. The “s” at the end of “http” stands for secure and is using an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) connection. Your information will be encrypted before being sent to a server. Another sign to look for is the “Lock” icon that is displayed somewhere in the window of your web browser. Different browsers may position the lock in different places.

The user-friendly dashboards offer all of your important information right in a centralized location. You and your team can see all your active tasks, keep track of your invoices and expenses, and your recent activity is readily available. The simple menu bars list useful sections, and with one click you’re on your way to even more functionality. Every invoice and estimate has section that can be edited and suited to fit each task, or you can opt to copy a previous invoice. With such online invoicing solutions you can track all business expenses, and conveniently invoice clients for those expenses right away.

A great business has repeat clientele. With really good online accounting solutions, all of your regular customers are manageable from the client screen, where you can provide estimates, set up recurring invoices, and create new tasks. Email notifications usually can be set or modified using simple email templates for new or late invoices and estimates. The ability to import your client list from QuickBooks or any other existing software or even an address book, eliminates the need to enter client data individually. Also some online invoicing solutions lets you change the name “Task” to suit your business: “case” for lawyers, “event” for caterer, etc. Usually very select solutions can be personalized to fit your business style, add your logo to your invoices, estimates and your team and client screens.

Another great feature to look for is to having instant access to all your cloud accounting reports. Profit and Loss statements, Expense Reports, and Payments Collected reports should be easily available to make your business operations smoother. Similar to the Task naming feature, in select online invoicing solutions, you can customize the “reports” name to better suit your business’s needs.

The online payment collection option makes sure you get paid even faster than usual, as clients can conveniently pay invoices online. Many such online solutions let you also enter manual payments, and keep track of all your financials without the need of a third party accountant.

All this sounds expensive, but that’s the best part online services. Some can be pretty expensive and complex to use but some are completely cost-effective for your business, and by saving your team time and money, the return on investment is enormous. There are even free plans that you can sign up in just seconds without a credit card.

These online invoicing solutions also offer free trials, and after that period you can choose the desired plan to continue service. Also, in some online invoicing solutions, account holders have the possibility of making money with the integrated “Refer” feature.

It may not be so much confidence as it is empathy. Online invoicing solution providers understand small businesses, and that’s why they’re here to help!

Equipment Financing and the Five C’s of Credit Evaluation

Equipment financing lenders, as well as banks, use the Five Cs to evaluate loan applications: Character, Credit, Cash Flow, Capacity and Collateral. However, while banks look at small-to-medium size companies from a Fortune 500 perspective, equipment financing companies see applicants from a small business perspective, which highlights a sixth C: Common Sense.

Here is what a lending institution means when referring to the Five Cs:

CHARACTER –

Every lender wants to understand what type of borrower an applicant will be in order to make smart, safe credit-granting decisions. The longer a company has been in operation, the more its payment history and outstanding credit reveal management’s attitude toward debt and making timely payments. Public records and references can come into play; still, the most reliable yardstick is the character of a smaller company’s owners. How they manage their personal financial obligations is usually a reliable indicator of the likelihood of their making timely payments. The more closely held a company, the more attention given the personal credit history of those in charge and their prior business history. No matter how solid a business plan appears and how reliable a company’s owners have been in the past, the realistic lender also wants the assurance of personal guarantees from the company’s owners. This may take the form of a signature or a pledge of cash or other collateral.

CREDIT –

Business credit reports offer a quick glance at a company’s willingness to pay trade accounts on time, as well as any derogatory public records, such as suits, liens, or judgments that negatively affect a company’s credit rating. Such reports also show any UCC filings. Potential equipment lenders are interested in the depth of a business’s borrowing history. The longer a company has been in business, the easier it is for a lender to determine credit stature; a good ten- or twenty-year credit history obviously carries enormous weight. This places a startup company less than two years old at a disadvantage. So, when traditional data sources, such as Dun & Bradstreet and Paynet cannot supply adequate information, the personal credit histories of a company’s owners become highly important.

CASH FLOW –

Lenders want to see that any company applying for a loan earns enough money to meet payroll, cover fixed operating expenses, and comfortably make timely payments on a new equipment loan or lease. While there are a number of ways to define cash flow, lenders most often calculate the cash flow available to repay new debt as net profit plus such non-cash expenses as amortization and depreciation.

CAPACITY –

Capacity is similar to a football team’s depth chart. The capacity to weather bad times is equally important to a company seeking funds. Capacity acknowledges that sometimes unforeseen things happen: a key employee becomes unable to work; a major customer is lost; an economic turn-down drastically reduces demand for product or services. Any number of other unlikely – yet possible – disruptions can negatively affect a company’s cash flow. And these disruptions can be temporary or permanent. So, capacity measures a company’s ability to pay off an equipment loan or lease with cash reserves or its ability to quickly convert real estate, stock, or other assets into enough funds to cover debt.

COLLATERAL –

How much collateral, above and beyond the equipment being financed, a company needs to secure a loan or lease depends largely on the nature of the lender and status of the business. A traditional bank often requires a blanket lien on all assets of the business while an equipment finance company normally uses only the equipment for collateral. A few lenders also offer sale-leasebacks and refinancing of existing equipment debt. This allows a company to free up cash flow or lower their monthly payment through equipment loans or leases.

COMMON SENSE –

Every decision to purchase and every decision to grant financing must be based on common sense. A lender needs to understand how additional equipment will increase the company’s stability and growth. Notwithstanding the risk every lender takes and the gamble every company makes when purchasing new equipment, for both lender and borrower, the foundation of a decision to finance equipment begins and ends with common sense.

Auto Financing and Making the Most of Your Credit

Are you looking for a new car? Chances are that you’ll be financing that new vehicle. The rising cost of new vehicles has made it increasingly difficult for consumers to purchase a car outright. Financing is a valuable tool that allows you to drive the car that you need and pay for it over time. However, not all lenders are created equal. Likewise, not all consumers are given the same interest rate on their auto loan. Being an informed consumer puts the power in your hands. By knowing the game being played, you can control that game. Here are a few tips to help you maximize your buying experience and get the best loan possible.

o Know Thy Self – When you apply for a loan, the first thing that prospective lender does is pull a copy of your credit report. This report (and the associated credit score) determines the loan that you will get, or even if you will get a loan. Knowing what the lender will see will take the surprise out of the process. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report each year. Use this tool to your advantage. If your report is less than stellar, take steps on your own, such as paying off debts, remaining current on payments and negotiating payment arrangements with delinquent accounts.

o What’s Your Score – While your credit report is an incredibly valuable tool, you’ll also need your credit score. This is not included in the credit report, which comes as a surprise to many consumers. Be warned; you will have to pay for you credit score from each of the credit bureaus.

o Know Thy Friends – Know the lenders with whom you are applying. Applying for an auto loan blindly is an easy way to be taken for a ride. Apply with prime lenders first, as you will get the best deals through them. Only if you have exhausted the pool of prime lenders, should you consider using a subprime lender. In addition, there are other tools at your disposal. If you are a member of a credit union, apply through them. If you have been a long-standing member of a local bank, consult the loan officer. Never limit your options to auto lenders.

o Know Thy Enemy – In this case, the enemy is the dealership. While they provide the automobile that you need, they mask the true cost of the vehicle behind a screen of dollar signs. By getting the consumer to focus solely on the monthly payments, they hide the true cost of the vehicle. Financing through a dealership may be a viable option, but it is often a poor decision. Dealer-financed loans are frequently some of the most expensive in the industry. Find out what fees (in addition to tax, tag and title) are listed in the contract, as well as the interest rate charged by the F&I office. By knowing their tactics, you can avoid being hit with sticker shock when you sign your loan papers.