ACH Makes Financial Transactions Easier for Small Business Owners

Automated Clearinghouse (ACH) transactions and benefits remain largely unknown and misunderstood for most consumers and businesses. The misunderstanding stems from the fact that the ACH has multiple uses and applications. It can be both a credit and debit transaction. It can be used by both consumers and businesses to pay an obligation (ACH credit transaction). Or, it can be used to receive payment by using an ACH debit instruction.

What is ACH?

The ACH, and the association that set its rules and enforces compliance-The National Association of Automated Clearinghouse (NACHA)- was formed more than 30 years ago as a replacement for the paper check.

Direct deposit of payroll was one of its first payment types and is still one of the most popular (now considered a native ACH payment) types of ACH transactions due to the ease, convenience and safety provided to both employers and employees.

As time marched on, businesses, governments and consumers increasingly embraced ACH payments because they are cost-effective, reliable and efficient to initiate and receive. Federal, state and local authorities’ use of the ACH is evidence of its ever-growing popularity to collect taxes and remit refunds. Online bill payments are predominately accomplished using the ACH network. Consumer-oriented businesses (e.g., credit card and mortgage companies) use the ACH to convert checks to settle consumer debts. Retailers, such as Wal-mart, convert checks written at the point-of-sale to the ACH, often surprising consumers when the cashier actually hands back their voided check.

How can small businesses benefit by using the ACH?

The simplest thing to do is to use direct deposit of payroll to pay employees, be it one employee or more. An abundance of companies exist to service the direct deposit needs of small businesses. Their services include calculating and filing all the tax and withholding obligations associated with payroll. ADP, PayChex and Intuit come to mind first, but there are others.

Accounting software providers, such as Peachtree and QuickBooks, also offer direct deposit of payroll. Often their direct deposit service is an add-on to the basic accounting package or requires use of a premium version (at an additional cost).

Financial institutions also offer direct deposit of payroll that automatically link to accounting software and provide the same electronic payroll services as an ADP or PayChex, often at a reduced cost. Banks also offer other ACH services. Ask your bank if they have an online bill payment tool for small businesses to use the ACH to pay vendors and other obligors electronically. It’s easy to use and, again, integrates with common accounting software packages.

Most online bill payment providers make their services accessible via the mobile phone, in addition to the PC, so it is getting even easier and more convenient to pay bills and employees every day. Intuit, for example, recently announced a mobile app for small businesses.

Make the management of your business simpler by using the ACH payment system. Eliminate the time spent on calculating what is owed to employees and vendors by leveraging the tried and true, safe and sound ACH payment tools available to small businesses today. Then focus on what is really important: making your business successful.

When Your Small Business Should Call In a Debt Collection Lawyer

It’s a sad reality, but sometimes customers just have no intention of paying you. There might come a time when you have exhausted all possible resources-when you have sent numerous letters, called countless times and maybe even met in person-but all to no avail. The account continues to be delinquent and each and every day it seems more and more likely that your money will be lost forever. If this is the case, it might be time to bring in the big guns, to enlist those infamous suited figures in the back room-it might be time to hire a debt collection lawyer.

When Your Small Business Should Call In a Debt Collection Lawyer

Simply by their presence, lawyers can be pretty effective in getting people to pay. Just the threat of going to court has the potential to incite people into action. Thus, before you hire a lawyer, it is a great idea to enlist his or her counsel and services in writing a demand letter for you (if, of course, the one you wrote before didn’t do the trick). As Justin Tenuto from Rocket Lawyer points out, “Sometimes, a professional correspondence from a practicing attorney will motivate your debtor to pay up. After all, debtors don’t want to end up before a judge, explaining their motives for not paying you.” You can sometimes even find a lawyer to do this for quite cheap (such as from Rocket Lawyer), but it is also a good idea to go with someone that you can develop a relationship with, just in case you want to pursue the matter further.

To Hire or Not to Hire?

If you do in fact have your sights set on fully enlisting a debt collection lawyer, you first have to run a cost benefit analysis to make sure this move makes financial sense. Debt collection lawyers are expensive and you don’t want to end up paying more for their services than you actually are trying to recover in the first place. The last thing you want to do is lose more money on this whole situation. Therefore, when deciding whether to go the legal route, access the financial viability of each option. If the account is very large and you can get a good chunk of it back even on top of the lawyer’s fees, then it might be a good idea to go ahead with the decision. Alternatively though, to hire a debt collection lawyer, you have to be willing to take your customer to court. If not, getting a debt collection lawyer might not be the best path.

Choosing the Debt Collection Lawyer for You

You should always do your research before committing to anything, and choosing a debt collection lawyer is no exception. It’s hard to imagine, but there are many different types of debt collection lawyers, specializing in a variety of areas. So, just like in choosing the right small business bank, you should also hire a lawyer that has experience with the specific situation you are struggling with. Dive a little deeper to figure out exactly what the qualifications are of a specific lawyer. Speak to references, examine track records and ask about strategies. Do what it takes to determine whether this lawyer is the one for you and the type of debt you are trying to recover. Remember that you have to balance the cost of the lawyer with the actual money you are trying to recover, so choosing the right lawyer definitely involves finding one with the right payment structure. After all, the whole point is to get paid.

Debt Collection Lawyer vs. Debt Collection Agency

You might ask yourself, why get a debt collection lawyer when I can just get a debt collector? While debt collectors are indeed an option, and often times less expensive than a lawyer, sometimes a lawyer is need for more difficult clients. Lawyers, as Attorney Jeffrey Curl explains, have a lot more flexibility and options of what they can actually do and how they can go about getting you your money.

The Last Resort

Debt collection lawyers are in fact the ultimate last resort. While there might be such a thing as a free lunch, there is no such thing as a free lawyer. Lawyers, as mentioned, are expensive and come at a hefty cost, a cost that will consequently cut into the money that you are trying to recover in the first place. Furthermore, getting lawyers involved definitely hurts the relationship you have with your clients, regardless of whether you want to do business with them in the future. For these reasons, lawyers should be the very last call, when everything you have done has failed to produce actual results.

Small Business Bookkeeping Simplified

Small business bookkeeping could be one of the tasks most generally avoided today in industry. The majority of entrepreneurs begin their small business companies because they have a passion for their product or service – bookkeeping is frequently seen as drudgery which must be tolerated to remain in the business. For this reason, hiring a small business bookkeeping service can be a great way of maintaining your energies concentrated on the business, leaving an expert take care of the financial details.

In bookkeeping, an accountant keeps a complete trace of how much your small business owes creditors and how much is owed to you. The accountant also traces how much you have invested in tools and inventory. In general, accounts receivable, accounts payable, bank reconciliation as well as financial statement preparation such as balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements are all included in small business bookkeeping.

The cost of small business bookkeeping depends on your company’s explicit needs; however, accountants typically charge a flat rate per month for basic services. The cost rises while the volume of work increases – the more transactions and statements you expect your bookkeeper to prepare, the more you will pay.

The bookkeeping rates can vary depending on your geographical sector, the size of the company, and the experience and seniority of your accountant. For the most basic bookkeeping services, you can intend to pay $500 to $1,500 per month for a skilled accountant to handle your finances.

In certain cases, the accountants will charge an hourly rate until they get a feeling for your business and how much hours is implied in the work that you wanted to be done. Following a few months, they will have clarity of your needs and you will be able to discuss a long-term flat monthly fee.

Selling a Small Business With a Business Broker

If you are a business owner thinking that the time is right to sell, there are a few options that are open to you. Usually though, it boils down to selling the business privately or using the services of a business broker. This article will focus on a few items to bear in mind if you do decide to sell your business with a business broker.

Patience. It takes time to sell a business. Most reputable business brokers are constantly being approached by small business owners who would like to sell a business. Unfortunately, many of these businesses are losing money or are very difficult to sell for a host of other reasons. Business brokers usually turn down more business listings than they take on. Even with this being the case, it usually takes several months for a business brokerage to find a buyer for a company listed for sale. Many times, business owners that have “just listed” their business with a professional business intermediary expect rapid response and a lineup of buyers hoping to view the business. Things don’t usually work this way, unfortunately. If you have decided to list your company with a business brokerage then there are many positive benefits you can expect from the relationship. However, please do be patient.

Multiple Showings. After you enlist the services of a business brokerage to sell your small business, don’t expect the first buyer to be shown your business to be “the one”. Often, it takes showings to 10-12 different ‘qualified’ buyers before a purchaser of found. Sellers tend to get excited at the first showing of the business to a prospect but the reality is that it many take many different people to see the business. There are times, however, where the first person who sees the business ends up buying it so please take these comments with a grain of salt.

Expect False Starts. Selling a business sometimes means being expected for a few false starts. When a business is sold, the first step is (usually) the conditional sale agreement. Typically then, buyers enter into a conditional due diligence period where the operations and financials of the business are scrutinized. In this scenario, the business buyer can walk away from the deal at any time. Sellers are usually quite disappointed if this happens since they put so much time and effort into the deal and now they must start again at square one and start the process over to find a new buyer.

Deal Must Be “Win Win”. In a business sale, the dynamic between the buyers and the sellers must be such that both parties to the transaction feel comfortable with the terms. Unlike some real estate transactions, a business sale must not be confrontational in order to successfully come to a close. The process in a business transaction, especially small business sales, can be quite emotional. The buyer must feel good about the seller and vice versa. The process is much too long and there are too many “outs” along the way for both parties that if a confrontational or aggressive negotiating stance is taken that the deal process could potentially fall apart. The role of the business broker is to ‘reign in’ the emotions of both sides. Be prepared for frank discussions with a business brokerage professional if negotiations (or emotions) get heated.

Selling a small business with a business broker is a good decision that should increase your chances of selling significantly.