Category Archives: Business

Free Small Business Accounting Software

Wave Accounting is free, cloud-based accounting software that includes a good mix of features. It’s best suited for service-based businesses that are just starting out or plan to remain small. Specifically, it’s a good fit for the self-employed – entrepreneurs, freelancers and consultants – and very small businesses with 10 or fewer employees that have limited or no inventory.

However, if your business is growing, you plan to expand or you intend to increase the number of items you sell, you could quickly outgrow Wave. In such cases, a paid option like Zoho Books, our top pick for the best accounting software for microbusinesses, may be a better option.

Yes, Wave’s accounting software really is free, as advertised. In the past, you had to pay extra to receive prioritized customer service, but that program has been eliminated, and all customer service is now ticket-based and provided for free.

However, Wave’s software has advertisements within the program. And, like other accounting software, if you add ancillary services, such as credit card processing and payroll, those cost extra. Here’s more detail on these factors:

  • Advertisements. Wave is free because it uses advertisements. In addition to posting ads within the software as you’re using it, Wave includes its branding on your communications with customers, such as invoices and emails. There is currently no way to remove the advertisements and co-branding, so if this is a deal breaker, a paid accounting software application is for you.
  • Credit card processing. If you want to accept invoice payments online, you need to use Wave’s credit card processing service. It charges a flat rate of 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction, and there are no additional fees and no contracts. This rate is the same as FreshBooks and is comparable to the 2.4 to 3.4 percent plus 25 cents that QuickBooks charges for processing. However, other accounting software providers give you the option of using other processors, which may be an important consideration if you’re already working with a processor.
  • Payroll. Payroll services are not included with the software, but you can add it to the program for $15 per month plus $4 per employee per month. This price is comparable to QuickBooks Online’s Enhanced Payroll service, which costs $12 per month plus $5 per employee per month. However, some accounting software programs include payroll services in the subscription price. For example, Xero’s $30 plan includes payroll services for up to five employees.

It’s easy to use Wave Accounting, and it’s even easier to get started. You can create an account in seconds by entering your email address and desired password (or you can register using your Google account). After signing up, you can customize your account by filling out your company name and business type, which Wave uses to create a dashboard that suits your needs. In addition, you’ll enter your contact information, such as your address and phone number, so that this information automatically appears on invoices and other documents.

When you log in, you’re greeted with a simple dashboard that uses a sidebar menu divided into categories such as Transactions, Invoices, Bills, Receipts and Reports, so you can quickly find core functions without difficulty. With Wave’s user-friendly interface, we found our way around the program and easily created invoices, tracked finances and performed other accounting tasks.

The dashboard also displays snapshots of your business’s critical information, so you can see it as soon as you log in to the program. For instance, you’ll find at-a-glance views of your income, expenses, bank and credit card accounts, payables, receivables and recent activity. You can find out more about this software or experience Wave yourself by signing up for a free account.

The small business owners we spoke with noted that the main thing they look for in accounting software are features that save them time. Wave provides several automated features that fulfill this requirement.

This online accounting software has several timesaving tools for invoicing, including recurring billing, that allows you to schedule and send invoices to customers, such as for regularly scheduled services or a subscription. You can also set up automatic payment reminders to encourage customers to pay their bills on time. If your business sends estimates or quotes to your customers, you can convert them to invoices in a couple of clicks, saving you the time of re-entering or copying data.

Wave automatically syncs your data, so you don’t have to manually input transactions yourself. For instance, the service securely connects with your bank, credit card, PayPal and 10,000 other financial institutions to automatically download and import expenses, deposits and other financial data in real time. Your data is stored in the cloud and is automatically backed up, so you don’t have to worry about losing your information or redoing everything in the event your internet connection goes down or your computer is lost or stolen.

Using Wave’s mobile app, you can capture images of receipts, which it then translates into an expense transaction using optical character recognition technology, saving you the time of manually entering data for your expenses. The image of the receipt is then attached to the transaction so you can review it for accuracy.

Wave can easily and quickly create accurate financial reports, such as balance sheets, sales reports, tax documents, P&L, a general ledger, an aged-receivables report and more. You can invite an unlimited number of collaborators, such as accountants and business partners, to the program, and you can use Wave for multiple businesses as well as for your personal accounting.

Although Wave is excellent free accounting software for small businesses – especially new, service-based businesses with very tight budgets – and it includes a good selection of features, it’s missing a few that some businesses may consider necessities. For example:

  • It doesn’t track billable hours, and although you can track expenses, you can’t automatically attach them to invoices, so you’ll need to figure out a workaround if you need these features.
  • It doesn’t track inventory or create purchase orders, making it less than ideal for companies that carry more than just a few products.
  • It’s missing fixed asset management tools, which may be problematic if you need to calculate depreciation on computers, equipment and office furniture for taxes.
  • It doesn’t provide phone support; customer service is now ticket-based. If you prefer to speak with a customer service or tech support agent when you experience an issue, this isn’t the accounting software for you. However, if you prefer to troubleshoot issues yourself, Wave provides several resources, including getting-started guides, video tutorials, how-to articles, FAQs, tips and a blog.

The Best Microbusiness Accounting Software for business

Really small businesses don’t need complicated, pricey accounting software, but they do need software that can grow with their businesses. Zoho Books is a simple online accounting software that syncs with your accounts and covers all the basics, allowing you to create and send invoices, track time and expenses and generate reports.

It has mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows devices, allowing you to accomplish various accounting tasks on the go. As your business grows, you can integrate the software with other Zoho products and third-party applications.

Like many accounting software companies, Zoho Books offers three pricing plans. The Basic plan costs $9 per month, supports one user (and an accountant) and allows you to add 50 contacts to the system. With this plan, you can reconcile transactions, create invoices, track expenses, and manage projects and time sheets. The Standard plan costs $19 per month, supports two users (and an accountant) and allows you to add 500 contacts to the system. In addition to the Basic features, you can use the software to track bills and vendor credits, and add reporting tags to your transactions. The Professional plan costs $29 per month, supports 10 users and allows you to add an unlimited number of contacts to the system. In addition to the Standard features, you can use the software to create sales orders, purchase orders and manage inventory.

Although other top accounting software providers offer similarly priced plans, you need to consider which software has the specific features your business needs in the lowest plan or at the best price. For example, consider the following three features to see how Zoho Books stacks up against its top competitors:

  • Contacts: Zoho Books’ $9 Basic plan allows you to add 50 contacts to the system. With FreshBooks’ $15 Lite plan you can only bill up to five active clients. Xero’s $9 Starter plan is even more restrictive, limiting you to five invoices and five bills per month. However, QuickBooks Online’s $10 Self-Employed plan doesn’t have a limit on this feature.
  • Tracking billable hours: You can track time and add billable hours to invoices using Zoho Books’ Basic plan. FreshBooks’ Lite plan can do this also, though it costs $6 more per month. QuickBooks Online’s Essential plan, which costs $35 per month, offers this functionality. Xero doesn’t natively track time, so you’d need to add a third-party integration to the system to get this feature.
  • Tracking inventory: Although you’ll need Zoho Books’ Professional plan to get the inventory management features, you’d need QuickBooks Online’s Plus plan for this functionality, too, which costs $50 per month. Although Xero’s Starter plan has this feature and at $9 would be the best deal, you’re limited to five invoices per month, so you’d probably need to upgrade to Xero’s $30 Standard plan, FreshBooks doesn’t support inventory at all.

Based on our research, many users find that Zoho Books is an easy-to-use accounting software application, even for the most accounting- and tech-challenged small business owners. To see for ourselves, we signed up for a business account.

Setting up an account is easy. Simply enter your business name, contact information and password, and you’re good to go. Next, you’re asked about your industry and type of business. You can also opt to fill out tax information if you need help with tax prep.

Zoho Books’ dashboard has absolutely no clutter, and we easily found our way around the system using the sidebar menu, which is separated by task in an intuitive, logical way; it also collapses into icons when not in use, giving you more screen real estate.

Not only does the dashboard offer at-a-glance views of your business’s financial performance, but it displays them in a visually pleasing way, so you can easily see and compare different metrics. Dashboard widgets include total receivables and payables with current and overdue amounts, top expenses, projects with billable hours and expenses, bank and credit card accounts, and a cash flow chart.

To try Zoho Books yourself, consider signing up for a free 14-day trial – no credit card is required. You can also learn more about using this accounting software by attending one of the company’s live webinars or watching introduction and tutorial videos on Zoho’s YouTube channel.

Accounting can be one of the most time-consuming aspects of running a business. It was no surprise, then, that the small business owners we spoke with said the most important thing they look for in accounting software are features that help them save time. Zoho Books’ automation and online payment features meet this requirement.

Zoho Books works under one underlying principle: to help business save time by working in a smart way, automating workflow and helping businesses get paid faster online. First, the service keeps you organized by streamlining processes and keeping everything up to date, all in a single place. You don’t have to manually make sure all the data you need is current and available because the system does it for you. This includes financial data, customer information, transaction histories and more.

Zoho Books can also save you time by automating your workflow. The sales rep we spoke with said this means you can set up the software to automatically perform tasks like sending recurring invoices, tracking expenses, notifying you with payment reminders and more. By automating the most common accounting tasks, Zoho Books lets you spend more time running your business and less time on repetitive tasks.

Another timesaver is getting paid faster with online payments. The sales rep explained that Zoho Books can connect with popular payment gateways like PayPal, Authorize.net, Stripe, Braintree and 2Checkout, so your customers can instantly pay their invoices online. This is an efficient way for you to receive funds and keep track of paid and unpaid invoices. Plus, it provides your customers with a convenient, hassle-free way to pay for products and services.

One of Zoho Book’s biggest selling points is its customer support. The service offers email, live chat and 24-hour phone support five days a week in the U.S., the U.K., Australia and India. You can also find help online using Zoho Books’ searchable knowledgebase and customer forums.

When you call Zoho, you’re greeted with menu options to reach different parts of the company – sales, tech support, billing and payment, or corporate – so you know you’re actually contacting representatives in the right department.

When we called, we were immediately connected to the company’s sales line, but all sales reps were busy. Instead of keeping us on the line with an approximate time that we’d be on hold, we were directed to leave a voicemail with our contact information to have a sales rep return our call. Depending on your preferences, waiting for a sales rep to call you back may be more or less convenient than waiting on hold.

When we finally spoke with a sales rep, we were met with a friendly representative who was eager to answer all of our questions about the features and limitations of Zoho Books. There was no pressure to sign up for the service, though the rep mentioned the 14-day trial if we wanted to give Zoho Books a test run before purchasing a paid plan.

Like many accounting software, Zoho Books has a mobile app, so you can do your accounting on the go. What makes Zoho Books’ app different is that it’s available on more devices than most, running on the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Android phones, tablets and smartwatches, Windows Phone, and Windows Surface.

The app has good functionality; the sales rep told us that in addition to managing invoices and quotes, tracking payments and expenses, and uploading receipts straight from a mobile device, the app gives you access to your dashboard for at-a-glance insights, reports and multiuser access.

Despite its benefits, Zoho Books has some drawbacks. Like its competitors, Zoho Books integrates with third-party productivity apps and business solutions, including Google Apps, Square point-of-sale (POS) system, several credit card processors, and tax services Track1099, Tax1099.com and Avalara. However, it offers fewer integrations than others. One way to get around this barrier is to use Zoho’s own suite of business apps. Zoho offers customer relationship management (CRM) software, email marketing and social media marketing solutions, spreadsheet editors and other productivity tools.

Another disadvantage of using Zoho Books is that it doesn’t include payroll services. This may not be a big deal for really small businesses, but it’s an important consideration if your business is growing and you plan to hire employees. Currently, the only payroll task you can perform on Zoho Books is preparing and printing 1099s with the tax services mentioned above.

Choosing Some Of The Right Small Business Accounting Software

Accounting software makes it easier for you to track your business’s financial health and monitor the money moving in and out of your accounts. It can create invoices, track expenses and generate a variety of reports that help you analyze your business’s performance from various angles. Many can also help you track your bills and manage your inventory or projects.

Choosing accounting software can be challenging. Each program includes a different set of features, and most offer multiple pricing plans to choose from, which also vary by feature, number of users or another factor. Here are three items to keep in mind when selecting accounting software for your business:

  1. Costs. Would you prefer inexpensive, basic accounting software or an application that costs more but includes extra features?
  2. Usability. How many users need to access the software? Do you prefer a cloud-based system you can access anywhere or desktop software? Do you need it to have a mobile app?
  3. Features. What do you need the accounting software program to do? Do you need both accounts receivable and accounts payable tools? Which reports do you need it to generate? Do you need it to track inventory? Do you need it to include ancillary services, like time tracking, project management and payroll?

If you already know what you need and only want to see our recommendations for the best accounting software, visit our best picks page.

Accounting software varies in cost, depending on the number of features included, the number of users supported and other such factors. Most accounting software companies offer cloud-based software as a service rather than software licenses, and charge a monthly subscription fee. You can usually choose from multiple plans, with paid packages typically ranging between $10 and $40 per month, though high-end programs cost much more. If you’re willing to pay for the software annually rather than monthly, discounted rates are often available.

More expensive plans often include advanced features such as expense tracking, sales tracking, recurring invoices, automatic past-due billing, team functionalities, payroll services, advanced reporting capabilities, inventory tracking and purchase ordering. Many accounting software companies offer integrations to augment the software’s capabilities or to connect it to another business program, though often at an additional cost.

Several companies offer a free version of their accounting software, though these usually have either basic features or limit the number of users, clients or transactions. Some free accounting software providers make their money from advertisements placed within the software or from the paid add-on services they offer. These programs are useful if your business is very small or if you want to take the software for a longer test run than the trial period allows.  

To find the best accounting software for your business, you need to carefully consider how and where you want to use it and if anyone else will be using the system. Here are some factors to consider:

Multiuser access. Most accounting software products allow you to invite other users to the system and control the data they can see and the tasks they can access. For instance, you may wish to give your business partner and accountant full access, while only allowing your employees to use the system to track their time and invoice customers. Some systems allow you to invite multiple users at no additional cost; others provide accountant access but require you to subscribe to a higher pricing plan or pay extra if you want to add additional users to the system.

Multiple-business support. If you own more than one business, you may want accounting software that supports multiple small businesses under one account at no additional cost. Otherwise, you’ll pay extra to set up separate accounts for each entity.

Cloud-based software and mobile access. Most accounting software is cloud-based, so you can access your account anytime, anywhere from any computer with internet access, helping you run your business remotely, whether you’re home or on vacation.

Many also offer mobile apps to help you monitor key information and accomplish core tasks while you’re on the go. Some offer separate apps for employees and have limited features such as time tracking and submitting expense receipts.

Mobile app capabilities vary from program to program, so if this is an important feature for you, you’ll want to ensure it has the functionality you need. You’ll also want to ensure it works on your preferred platform, as some are compatible only with iOS and others can be used with smartwatches (in addition to phones and tablets).

Accounting software offers many features and tools that can help you manage your finances. It should cater to your business’s needs, making it easy to accomplish routine accounting tasks. It should also help you see the big picture of how your business is performing. Michelle Devereux, owner of Back Office Support Services (BOSS), an ERP company that helps businesses manage their finances, notes that tailoring accounting solutions to a client’s unique needs helps the client better understand its business and plan for the future.

Many business owners we spoke with said that ease of use and timesaving features are the top two things they look for in a program. Here are some of the features accounting software should offer to help you save time and better manage your finances:

Basic accounting features. Most small businesses can make do with accounting software that offers basic functions like invoicing (both by email and snail mail), income and expense tracking, financial report generation, and customer management. However, if your business sells more than just a few products, you also want software that tracks your inventory, manages vendors and assists you with purchase ordering. Or, if your business provides services, you want a program that makes it easy to track time and invoice billable hours.

Timesaving automations. Some accounting software can be set up to automatically send recurring invoices and past-due notifications, saving you time with your invoicing and accounts receivable tasks. Others can save you time reconciling your accounts by suggesting transaction matches. If your business provides customers with quotes or estimates, look for a program that converts these documents to invoices in just a few clicks. Or, if you carry inventory, look for a system that reorders products by automatically creating purchase orders when items drop below a set threshold.

Tax preparation. Make your life (and your accountant’s life) easier with accounting software that helps you with your taxes with features like automatic tax calculations, multiple tax rates and tax reporting. You should also be able to easily email all necessary data and files to your accountant or give them access to relevant data within the system.

Add-on services. Accounting software add-ons, such as payment processing and payroll services, make it easy to accept invoice payments online and pay employees. Although these services usually cost extra, they’re convenient to use, and the costs may be comparable to what you’d pay elsewhere.

Third-party integrations. Accounting software can make it easier to run your business by integrating with the programs and services you already use, automatically sharing data between systems in real time. Popular integrations include POS systems, payment processing, advanced inventory management, ecommerce, ERP, CRM, email marketing and Google apps.

Choosing the right accounting software makes it easier to run your business. Here’s what some business owners we spoke with said they love most about their accounting software:

  • It’s an all-in-one solution. Peter Geisheker, CEO of The Geisheker Group Marketing Firm, said his favorite thing about his accounting software is that it’s an all-in-one solution that provides everything his small business needs: affordability, ease of use, credit card processing and more. It also lets his accountant monitor transactions.
  • It’s easy to use. Ryan Irelan, founder of elearning company Mijingo, said that managing a business’s finances is difficult enough as it is, so it’s important to have an accounting software that alleviates that stress instead of adding to it.
  • It notifies me when invoices are viewed. In addition to tracking expenses, Darren Davis, CEO of LinkCaffeine.com, found that the ability to track when a client has viewed email invoices takes the mystery out of whether the invoice has reached the customer. This is particularly useful when a bill is past due, he said.
  • It’s accountant-friendly. Ian Lamont, founder of i30 Media Corp., chose his accounting software because it’s the one most accountants use and recommend, thus making finance management easier for everyone.
  • It’s a do-it-yourself solution. Ian Aronovich, president and co-founder of GovernmentAuctions.org, said his accounting software performs a range of tasks, including tracking expenses, automating invoicing and billing, organizing tax and banking information, and providing payroll services. As a result, he doesn’t need to hire a full-time bookkeeper to manage the company’s finances and pay his employees.
  • It has at-a-glance dashboards. Carrie Enders, vice president of front office at RE Suspensions, said she loves her accounting software’s dashboard, which provides a snapshot of how the business is doing and lets her add customized modules to fit the business’s needs.
  • It shows me real-time data. Accounting software that updates data in real time eliminates the need to manually input financial information. Nicole Wolfgram, founder of Les Matin, loves the reconciliation feature on her accounting software that keeps her up to date on the company’s finances.

When you’ve narrowed your choices to your top two or three options, sign up for the free trials so you can see for yourself whether the accounting software has the features you need, is easy to use and saves you time. Call the software companies to get a feel for their customer service so you can feel confident that you’ll receive the support you need should you experience an issue with the program.

Here’s a list of questions you can ask when you call to help you select the right accounting software for your business:

  • Is your software a good fit for my industry?
  • Do you offer customized solutions to fit my business’s needs?
  • How many employees and clients can your software accommodate?
  • How can your software help me comply with GAAP, tax laws and financial regulations?
  • How is my data backed up? Can access be restored immediately during an outage?
  • What security measures do you have in place to keep both my business’s and my customers’ data secure?
  • What is the total cost? Are there any setup or cloud storage fees?
  • What types of tech support and customer service do you provide? (For instance, does the provider offer your preferred form of contact, such as phone or live chat?)

Here’s a List of 5 Best Applications for Your Next Work Interview Assistant

A job interview is serious business. Even if you have heaps of experience, and your résumé has been polished until it shines, a rocky interview can dash your chances of landing your dream job. There’s no good way to anticipate what questions you’ll be asked, or whether or not you’ll hit it off with the interviewer. But there are tools that can help you prepare – and lower the chance that you’ll put your foot in your mouth. Put these seven smartphone apps to good use and they could help you ace your next job interview.

Even if you intend to arrive at your interview location early, construction and traffic delays can leave you running late. To avoid a commuting catastrophe, use Google Maps (iOS, Android) to guide you to your destination, even if you already know how to get there. The app offers more than turn-by-turn directions; it also shows local traffic conditions in real time. A route that’s backed up with traffic will be displayed in red, while a clear route will be yellow or green. If you hit a traffic jam, you can discover the quickest alternate routes with just a few taps. Once you’re on the way, toggle on voice-guided navigation so you can keep your eyes on the road and get to your destination safely. If you rely on public transportation to get where you’re going, Google Maps can give you step-by-step directions for that too. You can even order an Uber, Gett or Lyft from within the app, or you can get an update on the parking situation in each area.

They say to dress for the job you want, but that’s a tall order if you’re clueless about clothing. A sharp outfit can make an impression during a job interview, but if fashion isn’t your forte, an app like Trunk Club (iOS, Android) can turn your wardrobe around. The app can connect you to a personal stylist, who will ask you about yourself and your style goals. Your stylist will load up a real trunk with clothing and ship it to your house for free so you can try it all on. You keep – and pay for – only what you want. It offers free shipping in both directions. But the beauty of the service is how it helps you select professional clothing you may not have picked for yourself.

What would you say is your biggest weakness? With this smartphone app, it doesn’t have to be answering job interview questions. Job Interview Question-Answer (iOS, Android) can coach you toward better answers to common interview questions, such as “Why do you want to join this company?” and “Tell me about a time when you failed.” To use the app, select a question category, then pick the question you want to practice. Next, watch a short 1-2 minute video that explains what kind of answer most employers are looking for. Then you can record your best answer for each question and save the audio, so you can re-listen and practice all the way until the day of your interview.

There are few things more stressful than a job interview. But with regular practice, you can overcome your anxiety. Headspace (iOS, Android) can help. If you’re a newbie, you can spend just 10 minutes a day practicing guided meditation. You might find the benefits of meditation extend to more areas than just job interviews; think better sleep, more comfortable first dates, less road rage, increased focus and more. To expand the app’s abilities to more advanced meditation, you’ll want to sign up for a monthly or annual subscription.

Can’t remember the last time you wore a necktie? Tying a tie isn’t hard, but it can be tricky if you don’t do it often – so don’t wait until the day of the big interview to teach yourself. The How to Tie a Tie app (available on iOS andAndroid) can help you practice by walking you through the process of tying a variety of knots. First, select what kind of knot you want to tie from a list of more than 20 common knots. Then give the app a bit of information about yourself, such as your height, weight and body shape. Finally, simply flip through the animated step-by-step directions that will show you how to tie your tie. You can even flip back to the previous step any time you need a refresher.

Here are 3 Ways to Prevent Perfection Paralysis in Your Company

Do your employees feel paralyzed by the desire to be perfect? Because of your company’s culture and processes, they feel they must never make a mistake, know how to do everything right away, and outperform their colleagues. Sound familiar?

It shouldn’t be that way.

“In an era where organizations place such high value on disruption, perfection is not the end goal, and actually, it can’t be the end goal,” said Amir Orad, CEO of Sisense, a business analytics software company. “Business success today is focused on agility and innovation.”

While it’s good to aim high, if workers hold themselves to impossible expectations, they’ll always fall short. Their confidence will waver until they feel helpless in their own careers. As a leader, you should focus on making your employees feel supported and encouraged. Here’s how to prevent perfection paralysis in your workplace.

Every part of a company is important, and without communication and teamwork, your business is unlikely to succeed. But while mediums like email and texting are convenient for quick chats, they shouldn’t be the primary form of communication in your company.

“Individuals today shouldn’t be afraid to meet with their managers face-to-face or, at minimum, on the phone, to talk through ideas and make decisions in real time,” said Orad.

In person, you can avoid tone-related miscommunications, and employees will feel your support as more than just words written on the train or typed hastily before a meeting. In your face-to-face interactions, you should assure your employees that mistakes are not only expected but encouraged.

The fear of failure can be detrimental to performance and hold employees back from reaching their full potential. As a leader, you should take risks yourself to show that it’s all right to fail, so long as you’re trying.

“In today’s fast-paced business landscape, there is no time to wait for everything to align and create a ‘sure thing’ – this doesn’t exist,” said Orad. “If employees – or leaders, for that matter – fear failure, it can poison innovation and disruption in the firm.”

Reassure your workers that innovation is worth the risk by swallowing your own fear and pushing boundaries. Managers should always reward risks and never punish failure, said Orad.

“Company leaders and managers need to practice what they preach, both in terms of ideating projects and campaigns, but also being advocates for employees who bring disruptive – and possibly risky – innovation to the table,” he added.

Your company’s culture should make your employees feel like they can speak up about their ideas, regardless of how timid they may be.

“Employees build self-confidence when they see their ideas become reality and receive acknowledgment for their work,” said Orad.

However, don’t just support ideas that are successful, said Orad – make sure you’re giving all valid ideas a chance, even if you’re not sure they will work.

“That acknowledgment seems obvious for managers when employees win the proverbial lottery with a big idea, but good managers also need to remember to do it when an employee comes up with an idea that’s creative, well-researched, elegant and, unfortunately, wrong,” he said.

Taking the time to show your appreciation for your workers’ brainstorming, researching and planning process will make them feel more comfortable and excited to share future proposals.

Small Business Snapshot of Les Lunes

Les Lunes creates ethically-made, stylish clothing for men and women from eco-friendly fabric sourced from bamboo. We’re also known for ethically manufacturing goods in Shanghai that we design in Paris, and educating the public on why shopping slow fashion is so important.

As a busy business woman jet-setting everywhere, I was frustrated with my fashion choices. Women’s business attire was either shapeless or constricting and uncomfortable. I wanted clothing that would work for me, not against me. I love the way French women always look so effortlessly elegant, and I wanted this look in fabric that felt like a caress. This was a void in women’s lives, and I decided to fill it. From the beginning, the concept proved to be very challenging, which made me even more determined to do it.

I lived in Shanghai for almost 20 years working in branding, sourcing and manufacturing, and know the local culture there very well. I wanted to connect the talented seamstresses I’d worked with in Shanghai to the vision I’d had for clothing – an incredibly soft fabric that was ecologically friendly.

I wound up finding a jersey rayon sourced from bamboo and fell in love with the feel against the skin. I was so excited to get busy creating a comfortable and versatile clothing line for women, so I flew to Paris to find a designer that would give Les Lunes the effortless elegance French women are known for. Many designers told me it couldn’t be done, that there was no way to make anything more than lounge wear out of jersey. And then I met Mélanie Viallon, who also saw this need in women’s lives, and was up to the challenge of creating it. We’re both very passionate about creating timeless pieces in an ethical and eco-friendly way, and it is a great joy to work together.

Because of my background in China, the Les Lunes team is passionate about dispelling the negative stigma surrounding “Made In China” that ultimately comes down to a lack of communication surrounding the reality of the history there. It’s easy to label something good or bad, rather than taking time to learn the whole story, and we’ve found America hasn’t learned the whole story.

China has an ancient culture of making excellent products and product innovation. The economic crisis of 1997 to 1998 blasted the door open for U.S. companies to produce cheaply in China, which is when producers were pressed to offer extreme low pricing and make products that had a short life expectancy. The savings had to come from somewhere, usually being lower grade materials and lowering operational costs, which led to poor treatment and compensation of employees, and lowering standards of facilities and safety.

At Les Lunes, we are very much a family, and all of our Shanghai team is local (no migrant workers). They’re paid almost triple the market rate, and are members of the Paris and San Francisco Les Lunes family.

This photo represents the soft and strong of every woman. We are sexy, smart, fierce, and innately protective of our future. Les Lunes is, too. We will forever be committed to blending our passions together – making beautiful, sophisticated clothing and sharing our story so the world can perhaps shop differently.

Our biggest challenge is getting people to try on the clothes. Once we have them in the fitting room, our capture rate is very high. People think the bamboo jersey is going to be too clingy and not flatter their figure because this has been their experience until Les Lunes. Watching their face light up when they walk out of the fitting room looking and feeling amazing is why we keep pushing to create styles for everyone. We want Les Lunes to be the favorite garment in everyone’s closet. The one you go to for that extra boost of confidence in your day.

I know many companies talk about customers first and excellent customer service, but this is the very foundation of our DNA. We are designing for our customers, we are listening to their needs, and every day we are learning how to do it better from the first draw of the pattern to the sales floor. We want to know their lives and give them comfort, support and something to smile about.

Giving the Best Alternative Loans to the Credit Line

Kabbage’s automatic online approval process and easy repayment terms set it apart from many of its competitors. Here is a breakdown of why Kabbage is our best pick.

While some alternative lenders have you go through a lengthy application and underwriting process, application and approval for Kabbage is completed almost instantly, and totally online.

To get started, you provide some basic information about your business, including the following:

  • Business name and address
  • Company structure
  • Industry type
  • Month and year established

Instead of sending in financial statements, such as tax returns and debt structures, you link your application to a business checking account or other online service that you use, such as QuickBooks or PayPal. Kabbage’s platform automatically and instantly reviews the data on those sites to determine if you meet Kabbage standards for a loan. The company looks at this information to determine your average monthly revenue, time in business and transaction volume, among other things. 

The banks and online services you can connect with are Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, PNC, U.S. Bank, Regions, BB&T, TD Bank, USAA, Citibank, Capital One, SunTrust, Navy Federal, BBVA Compass, PayPal, Authorize.Net, Stripe, Sage, Square, eBay, Shopify, Amazon, Etsy, Intuit QuickBooks and Xero.

As part of the approval process, Kabbage allows you to link your application to your bank account or a business service you already use. Kabbage’s platform automatically reviews the data to determine your eligibility.

After conducting a quick analysis of your data, which also includes a personal credit check, Kabbage quickly lets you know if you’ve been approved for a line of credit and, if so, for how much. The process typically takes only several minutes to complete. Once approved, you can receive the loan instantly. You can also link additional services to your account to potentially increase your line of credit.

Since every business has a different financial makeup, it’s impossible for us to say exactly what it will take to be approved for a line of credit with Kabbage. Your financials, such as monthly revenue, transaction volume and credit score, play a large role in not only whether you get a loan, but also for how much.

However, in order to even be considered, there are two minimum requirements you need to meet. You must …

  • Have been in business for at least 12 months.
  • Have a minimum of $50,000 in annual revenue or $4,200 per month over the last three months.

What separates Kabbage from many other online lenders is the minimum amount of revenue the company requires before it will consider you. For many of the other lenders we looked into, the minimum revenue requirements were at least double what Kabbage requires.

Kabbage also looks at your credit score when deciding whether to give you a loan and determining the term rate you will receive. The representatives we spoke to said they typically look for credit scores of at least 600. However, there have been instances when they have approved borrowers with credit scores as low as 550.

A Kabbage line of credit works more like a credit card than a traditional loan: You use only what you need and pay fees on only how much you actually use. For example, if you’re given a $20,000 line of credit but only use $10,000, you pay fees only on the $10,000. With Kabbage, you can draw money against your line as often as once per day.

The company offers lines of credit up to $150,000. Each draw against your line of credit is considered a separate loan. Each time you take out one of those loans, you have six or 12 months to pay it off. A minimum loan of $10,000 is required for a 12-month loan term.

With Kabbage, you pay a set monthly fee each month, plus an interest fee. If you have a six-month loan, you pay one-sixth of the loan back each month, plus interest fees that can range from 1.5 to 10 percent.

Other than the monthly fees, there are no added costs for a Kabbage line of credit. Nearly all of the other lenders we considered charge at least an additional origination fee.

To make the payment process easier, Kabbage combines all of your payments into one due date each month. Additionally, there are no early payment penalties, which some of the other lenders we considered charge.

Kabbage does not impose any limitations on what you can use your line of credit for. How you use the money is totally at your discretion.

To manage their line of credit, borrowers can use a mobile app. With the app, you can draw money from your line of credit, make loan payments and view your transaction history.

We were pleased with the level of customer service we received from Kabbage. To test the type of support you can expect, we called the lender numerous times, posing as a business owner interested in a line of credit.

Each time we contacted the lender, helpful representatives were immediately available to answer all of our questions. Rather than grilling us on what type of business we had or how much money we needed – which many of the other lenders we called did – the Kabbage representatives made sure all of our questions were answered first.

The support agents we spoke to thoroughly answered all of our questions about the lines of credit, how the repayment process works and who qualifies. By the end of our calls, we had a clear understanding of how the Kabbage loans work.

We were also impressed with Kabbage’s online help center. It features the most extensive FAQs section of nearly all the lenders we investigated, answering questions on payments, fees, loans, applying and security.

Kabbage offers an extensive help center with valuable FAQs and videos that explain the entire lending, application, approval and repayment processes.

You can contact the Kabbage customer support team via phone, email and a form on the company’s website.

One downside of Kabbage is the short time you have to pay back your loans. While the company recently started offering a 12-month repayment term, not all borrowers qualify for that option. Those who don’t have only six months to pay back their loans. If you are looking for longer loan terms, consider our best alternative lender for working capital loans, Fundation.

We also found a number of complaints about Kabbage that were filed with the Better Business Bureau. According to the BBB website, as of August 2017, there were 42 complaints filed against Kabbage over the past three years. Of those, only six were resolved to the satisfaction of the complainants. Although Kabbage addressed the other 36 issues, either the consumer did not accept the response or the BBB has not heard back from the consumer as to their satisfaction.

The Best Alternative Loans for Bad Credit Loans

OnDeck has low credit score requirements, a fast funding process and excellent customer service. Here is a breakdown of why it’s our best pick.

While a poor credit score will eliminate you from consideration with many alternative lenders, it doesn’t with OnDeck. While the majority of OnDeck borrowers have a credit score of at least 660, the lender considers everyone with a credit score above 500. This is one of the lowest minimum credit scores we found among all the alternative lenders we analyzed. Most of the other lenders we considered require credit scores between 550 and 600.

However, the low credit score requirement doesn’t mean OnDeck approves loans for floundering businesses. It just means that instead of using credit scores as a primary factor in lending decisions, the company focuses on how businesses perform financially in terms of monthly revenue and cash flow. To be considered for a loan, you must have been in business for at least a year and have at least $100,000 in revenue over the past 12 months.

Of all the alternative lenders we looked into, OnDeck had one of the quickest application and approval processes. You can fill out an application in just a few minutes by going online or calling the lender and speaking to a loan specialist, who will fill out an application for you.

OnDeck asks for basic information about your business – name, address, tax ID number, years in operation and legal entity – and requires you to provide your estimated gross annual revenue and average bank balance.

After you submit the application, OnDeck conducts a soft credit check. This is beneficial to those with bad credit, because it doesn’t lower your credit score like a hard inquiry does. Many of the other lenders we examined only conduct hard credit checks.

OnDeck also looks at your last three months of bank statements. You can provide these in two different ways. One option is to electronically authorize your bank to send OnDeck the information via a one-time import. This is the recommended option because it streamlines the approval process by quickly allowing OnDeck to review the data.

Providing your banks statements is ne of the final steps of the OnDeck approval process. You can do so by allowing your bank to send the statements electronically to OnDeck, or you can send, email or fax them on your own.

The other option is to send hard copies of your bank statements via mail, email or fax directly to OnDeck. The downside of this option is that a loan specialist needs to review the information manually, which can lengthen the time it takes to get approved.

Depending on how the bank statements are sent, approval can be completed in just a few minutes, with funds deposited into your account within 24 hours. This process was significantly faster than it was with most of the other lenders we researched, which took anywhere from three to five days to approve loans, and five to seven days to provide the funding.

Loan Terms

OnDeck offers both term loans and lines of credit. What most impressed us about OnDeck was the transparency of its loan terms. Unlike other lenders, which seemed to want to hide the details of their loan programs, OnDeck clearly defines all of its loan terms on its website.

OnDeck offers term loans up to $500,000. These are fixed-rate loans, with payments remaining the same over the life of the loan. The lengths of the loans range from three to 36 months. Most of the lenders we evaluated offer loans of only up to 12 months.

Although OnDeck does want to know how you plan to spend the money, there are no restrictions on what you can use the loans for. OnDeck loans are typically used for a variety of purposes, including working capital, new inventory or equipment, hiring of employees, expansion, remodeling, marketing, and cash-flow management.

OnDeck’s interest rates have a total interest percentage, which is the total amount of interest you pay as a percentage of your loan amount, including any fees, as low as 9 percent, with average rates of 23.6 percent. It charges a one-time origination fee of 2.5 to 4 percent.

You pay back OnDeck loans on a daily or weekly basis, with the same fixed amount automatically debited from your bank account. Having the money automatically withdrawn helps with your cash flow and prevents you from missing larger monthly payments. Not all of the lenders we looked into offer this option.

Lines of credit up to $100,000 are also available from OnDeck. Interest rates for lines of credit are as low as 13.9 percent, with average rates at 34.1 percent. There is also a $20 monthly maintenance fee. However, that is waived if you take out $5,000 on your first draw.

We were pleased with the customer service we received from OnDeck. To test the company’s customer support, we called the lender multiple times, posing as a business owner interested in a loan.

Loan specialists immediately answered each of our calls, and, instead of quickly trying to sell us on a loan, they took the time to answer all of our questions. During all of our calls, loan specialists never rushed through their answers. They all took the necessary time to thoroughly discuss each question. Many of the other lenders gave one- or two-word answers and generally seemed disinterested in making sure we had a clear understanding of how their loans worked. By the end of our calls to OnDeck, we had a clear understanding of its loan programs.

OnDeck also offers live chat support. We used this service several times to further inquire about various aspects of the loans. The live support answered all of our questions immediately and in just as much detail as we received over the phone.

The loan specialists from OnDeck are available via phone, live chat and email Monday through Saturday. This is the only lender we researched that provides support over the weekend.

The biggest downside of OnDeck is that it only offers secured loans. However, rather than requiring a specific value of collateral, OnDeck loans are secured by a general lien on the assets of the business and backed by a personal guarantee. This could be a turnoff for some businesses. If you don’t want a lien placed on your business, we would encourage you to consider our second-place winner in this category, SnapCap. This lender offers unsecured loans, a minimum credit score requirement of 500 and an easy, one-page application.

We also found a variety of complaints about OnDeck that were filed with the Better Business Bureau. According to the BBB website, as of August 2017, there were 39 complaints against OnDeck over the past three years. Of those, nine were resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant. All of the remaining complaints were addressed by OnDeck, but the complainant did not accept the response or the BBB has not heard back from them on their satisfaction. It’s important to note that most of the alternative lenders we reviewed had some criticisms levied against them with the BBB. Despite the complaints, OnDeck is an accredited member of the BBB, with an A+ rating.

Another potential negative for businesses with bad credit using OnDeck is the minimum required credit score. Although 500 is the lowest minimum of any of the lenders we examined, it might still be too high for some businesses. The only lender we found that doesn’t factor credit score into its approval process is PayPal. This lender is our alternative best pick for best merchant cash advance. PayPal might also be the best option for online businesses already using the service to collect funds.

Giving the Best Alternative Loans for Startup Loans

After conducting much research and analysis, we recommend Accion as our 2017 pick for the best alternative lender for startup loans. To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology, as well as a comprehensive list of alternative lenders, on our best picks page.

Accion is one of only a few alternative lenders to offer affordable loans to startup businesses, and its customer service was among the best we found. Here is a breakdown of why it’s our best pick.

Whereas most alternative lenders don’t work with startup businesses, Accion, a nonprofit microlender, has a loan program specifically for businesses that have been open for less than six months. Most of the other lenders we analyzed require businesses to be open for more than a year to even be considered for a loan.

Because startups don’t have an established track record for lenders to evaluate, Accion assesses both business and personal finances. The company considers the business’s cash flow, as well as personal income from your job if you have one, when determining whether to approve you for a loan. The lender needs to see proof that one of those two streams will allow you to repay the borrowed money.

Accion is unique in that it evaluates businesses differently based on geographic location. Each state has a different set of minimum requirements for applicants to be considered for a startup loan. These are some of the more common requirements:

  • A minimum credit score of 575
  • Sufficient cash flow to support monthly loan payments
  • No bankruptcies in the past 12 months or foreclosures in the past 24 months
  • No late payments on your rent or mortgage in the past 12 months
  • Proof of income
  • Be current on all of your business and personal bills
  • A business plan that includes a budget and cash-flow projections
  • Collateral – such as real estate, a vehicle or business assets – for the loan

Remember that these are only minimum requirements. Each business and owner has a different financial makeup, so it’s impossible for us to say exactly which businesses will qualify.

Because startup loans are riskier than those for established businesses, there is an extensive application and approval process. You start by filling out an online application, which asks a variety of questions about you and your business, including the following:

  1. Whether you own or rent your business location
  2. What types of bank accounts you hold for your business
  3. How many years of education you have
  4. How long your business has been open
  5. How long your business has been in its current location
  6. Your business’s legal structure
  7. Total monthly personal income and expenses
  8. Total monthly business revenue and expenses
  9. Total liabilities
  10. Total value of the business and personal assets you’ll use as collateral
  11. What you will use the money for
  12. If you have merchant cash advances
  13. If you have received business consultation services
  14. Type of financial records kept
  15. Business assets
  16. Current number of employees
  17. Future number of employees

Accion has a fairly extensive online application that asks a variety of questions about yourself and your business. It takes roughly 15 minutes to complete. After you are finished, a loan officer will contact you to walk you through the rest of the process.

An Accion loan officer reviews the application to determine if you’re a good loan candidate. If you get initial approval, you’ll then need to provide proof of the information submitted in your application, such as revenue, your business plan and cash-flow projections.

The loan officers review all of these documents to make a final determination on whether to approve you for a loan and, if so, for how much. Those who aren’t approved are given specific reasons why, along with advice on what they can do to improve their chances in the future. Typically, you’re eligible to reapply within six months.

In all, the loan application and approval process takes an average of about one month. Although this is much longer than many other alternative lenders’ processes, it is still shorter than the traditional bank loan process.

In addition to the minimum requirements, Accion loans carry different terms based on location. Each state has a different maximum startup loan amount, ranging from $10,000 to $100,000. Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas have a $100,000 limit, while Illinois and Indiana have a $20,000 limit. Every other state has a $10,000 limit.

Although these amounts vary greatly, all are more than the amount that many of the other alternative lenders we examined offer to startup businesses. Most of the other lenders we looked into that work with new businesses offer loans of just a few thousand dollars.

There is a lot of flexibility in possible uses for Accion startup loans. While the lender does want to know what you will use the money for before approving you, there are no set restrictions on those uses. The loans can be used to purchase inventory, buy or lease equipment, hire employees, pay for professional expenses, or finance any other startup costs.

Although the interest rates may vary, most of Accion’s startup loans have annual percentage rates starting at 10.99 percent. This is significantly lower than the APRs on loans from many of the other lenders we considered, which have starting rates between 20 and 30 percent.

In addition to the interest rate, a few other fees may apply, depending on the state in which you live. These fees include closing costs of 3 to 5 percent and a $135 processing fee that’s applied only to closed loans. One big difference between Accion and other lenders is that with this loan, you also need to put up collateral, which is typically real estate, a vehicle or other business assets.

Loans are repaid on a monthly basis over the length of the loan, which can range from six to 60 months. To help ensure that you pay on time, Accion gives you the option of having the money automatically debited from your account.

We were incredibly impressed with the level of customer service we received from Accion. To test the level of support, we called the company several times, posing as a business owner interested in a startup loan. Most of the time, our call was answered immediately by a representative ready to answer our questions. There was one time when we had to leave a voice message for someone to call us back.

Overall, the Accion representatives were much more attentive to our needs than many of the other lenders we examined. Instead of focusing on determining whether we were a good loan candidate, like most of the lenders we contacted did, Accion listened to our questions and answered them thoroughly.

By the end of our calls, we had a clear understanding of how Accion startup loans work, including available loan amounts, the minimum requirements to be considered for a loan, the type of collateral needed, how the application process works, how long it takes to be approved and how you pay back the loan.

It was obvious from our calls that Accion places a big emphasis on helping small businesses. It was refreshing to speak with a lender that seemed more interested in our well-being than in how much money it could make off of us.

We were also pleased with the amount of detailed and helpful information on Accion’s website. You can select the state you live in to see the exact loan types and terms available in your area. There is a comprehensive FAQs section, as well as a library of tips, articles and videos to help you grow your business.

Accion has an entire resources section devoted to helping small business grow and succeed. The section includes a variety of tips, articles and videos.

Accion representatives are available by phone or email Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Accion’s biggest downside is that the application and approval process is significantly more detailed than those of many other alternative lenders. The application is more comprehensive, borrowers need to provide more physical documents, and the entire process is much longer. While it typically takes at least a month to get your loan with Accion, many other lenders we investigated provide funds in less than five days. The collateral for Accion’s loans could also be a problem for some businesses.

If you want a simpler and faster application process, we would encourage you to consider our second-place winner in this category, CAN Capital. This lender provides loans to businesses that have been open for at least two months, doesn’t require any collateral, has an easy online application and makes funds available in as little as two days. However, to qualify, your business must have a yearly gross revenue of at least $150,000. In addition, with CAN Capital, you must be prepared for higher interest rates and smaller loan amounts.

Another potential negative of Accion is that its startup loan programs differ by state, which could be confusing and frustrating for businesses that could qualify for loans in some states but not the state in which they are located. Another downside is the added fees. Although most lenders have an origination fee, they don’t charge borrowers just for filling out an application, as Accion does.

How to Create a Positive Workplace

The power of positivity is something we hear and speak of quite frequently. But how often do we practice what we preach?

Because negativity can spread like the flu throughout an office, you should focus on ways to restore energy and passion in your workers. Learning to see the sunny side of a situation can save employees from anxiety and burnout.

Don’t allow a few letdowns to hurt your company’s overall culture and performance. Chris Haroun, founder and CEO of Haroun Education Venturesand a Udemy instructor, outlined three tips for achieving a positive workplace.

When hiring new talent, you should focus on more than just an applicant’s skills, experience and qualifications. Personality is a major factor to consider, and a worker’s character should complement the company’s values.

“One bad apple can spoil an entire firm’s culture and productivity,” said Haroun.

He noted that it’s important to hire people who will strengthen your company’s productivity and culture. You’ll want a team player who is willing to tackle any problem that might surface – and can do it with confidence. Rather than backing down in the face of adversity, your employees should push forward and find ways to make it through any situation. Note these attributes from the start to avoid recruiting toxic employees.

Your company culture is crucial to retaining motivated, positive talent. To boost productivity, commend your workers for their performance and acknowledge their success among their colleagues.

Employees will want to impress their company, and healthy competition is often necessary in the workplace. This will increase their confidence and encourage workers to support one another while working hard on their own tasks.

However, if there is an issue with an employee’s work, take them aside individually to discuss it.

“There is nothing more demeaning and destructive to a corporate culture and productivity than being criticized in front of your peers,” said Haroun.

Don’t gossip about a mistake a worker made or condemn them in front of their peers, he added. All that will do is embarrass or anger them, which will hurt their performance even more. You are their leader; focus on building them up rather than tearing them down.

There is good in every situation – don’t forget to look for it. Even in the most seemingly impossible scenarios, you can still turn bad days better by focusing on the bright side of the situation.

For instance, if someone quits or is fired, tell yourself that a more suitable worker can be hired to provide the company with unique insight that was lacking.

“Perception often becomes reality when it comes to workplace challenges,” said Haroun. “Rather than seeing a negative situation as a weakness, see it as an opportunity to turn the weakness into a strength.”

Should you find yourself feeling anxious or pessimistic, look for one positive outcome of the situation at hand, Haroun added. Give yourself an opportunity to see the light by remembering to look up.

“If you disagree, then think about how many incredibly successful entrepreneurs have a negative attitude,” he said. “I can’t think of any.”