Category Archives: Consulting

Need 2016 Q1 Consulting?

Consulting
Consulting

As Q1 2016 comes to a close in a few weeks, is your small or mid-sized business on track to achieve or exceed your strategic goals? Are there particular metrics that don’t measure up?

Are you driving revenues as expected with decent margins? Are you gaining profitable customers? Is cost control your only salvation to date? Are any new initiatives working?

Do you have links to your subsidiary functional plans that align so that your entire business is hitting on all cylinders? Is your communication process good at getting specific expectations to those colleagues that need to perform? Does everyone have “walking around” understanding of goals and objectives? Do they “buy-in”? In our experience, many planning processes are either too “elegant”, cumbersome or non-specific. Plans can fail if they don’t lead employees to the correct behavior every day.

Planning Maxim

“Doing the right thing is more important than doing things right”.

An independent consulting check-up can help determine if your internal planning, budget and operational reviews have identified material issues and any corrective actions that may be required. It may also uncover other factors that may be missed or are considered off-limits or sacrosanct.

Now may be the time for a fresh set of eyes. All too often, owners and managers are great cheerleaders for their business (as expected) at the expense of simultaneously being vigilant and fierce critics. It’s important to identify and mitigate any competitive weaknesses before your competitors or customers do.

As fabled GE CEO Jack Welch reportedly once said “change before you have to”.

The end result of a consulting evaluation may assure your company’s ongoing high performance results. Western Equity will consider consultative, interim, temporary, or part time senior engagements. Please contact us regarding your requirements.

Make 2014 Your Best Business Year Yet!

“I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.” – Estee Lauder. What a great quote. Simply put, you need to believe in yourself and your endeavors, and never give up. It’s been the mantra of successful entrepreneurs forever. Have a strategic plan and work it relentlessly. Make 2014 your most successful year. Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year

Everyone’s Jumping Into The Payment Systems Business!

Everyone wants a share of your payment systems (digital) wallet. This year’s Black Friday online sales tally alone hit $1.2 billion, a 15% increase over 2012. The continued explosion in mobile device usage is creating a plethora of payment delivery system advancements and initiatives.

Facebook plans to test a new payment systems product that would allow online shoppers to make purchases on mobile apps using their Facebook login information.This capability would allow any shopper who has previously provided Facebook with their credit card details to make purchases on partnering e-commerce mobile apps without entering billing information each time it is used for a purchase.

Another intitiative, like Square, Leaf makes software that helps small businesses sort, track and analyze their in-store transactions and access that information anywhere from the cloud. Unlike Square and others, Leaf makes and sells its own tablet that runs on a custom version of Android so it can have end-to-end control over the experience the merchant receives.While wanting to own the hardware and software, Leaf is attempting to build an open platform on which others can build apps. Leaf won’t actually process payments; it lets its customers choose from several payment processors.

Yet another much ballyhooed, but not fully-defined payments product is an app called Clinkle. Said to rival PayPal, it has considerable venture capital funding to speed its development. PayPal, too, is focused on expanding its mobile reach. On top of these options, there are a number of smart card ventures that seek to add all of your payment account numbers on a single card, whereby you choose which to use for any particular purchase. All in all, expect to see a change in how consumers pay and small businesses accept payments, particularly in the mobile environment going forward.

Small Business Twitter Advertising

You may want to check out small business Twitter advertising and lead generation products at business.twitter.com. Using their self service advertising platform, you can examine promoted accounts, promoted tweets, and promoted trends. There are analytics available as well. According to a recent survey, about 24% of small businesses have tried Twitter ads and about a third of those rate the results as excellent or extraordinary.

Twitter has added new advertising features including pre-scheduled tweets and more specific search targets.  They have also added capabilities that make it easier for advertisers to reach the burgeoning mobile audience by targeting Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems, as well as searching device type and wi-fi connectivity options.

Just another FYI from Western Equity LLC Consulting Services, as you seek to broaden your company visibility with the goal of increasing leads and sales. Good hunting!

 

 

EMV and NFC Credit Cards Coming

There is growing attention to EMV (Europay, Mastercard, Visa) ‘smart” micro-chipped credit cards here in the U.S.  Added functionality includes NFC (near field communication), both contact and contactless, like you might see at “pay at the pump” gas stations or your local coffee shop where you wave your card in front of a reader and go. Like everything related to “smart” cards, timelines for a full card association-mandated rollout in the U.S. probably will get pushed back. But over the next 6 to 18 months, expect to have to make some decisions related to how your business processes these new credit cards. If you’re thinking of changing processors, it would definitely be good to ask about EMV card processing if they expect to sign you to a multi-year contract.  The compelling benefit to this new technology is improved card data security and significant reductions in fraud loss. Despite the industry requirement to begin to accept these cards here especially in 2015, the business reality is that over 99% of domestic association-branded cards only carry a mag stripe. Additionally, processing equipment needs to be reconfigured to read these microchip cards (although they will retain a mag stripe) or be replaced entirely. So the reality of substantial costs and the logistics of such a phase-in will challenge changeover timelines. And, overriding all of this is the absolute surety that the card associations, card issuers, processors, and businesses won’t do anything that will disrupt the trillions of dollars in card processed sales.

Boring Budgeting Brings Best Results!

It’s now November. Have you completed your 2014 financial plan or budget yet? If not, do it now, before year end crunch time. An old quote says that “planning without action is futile, action without planning is fatal”. By carefully establishing best estimate revenue and expense projections now, you’ll get a glimpse into the future, good or bad, based on these assumptions. That one year plan is also the foundation for longer range financial goals over three to five years.

This plan typically starts with an unimpeded “run rate” based on a continuation of today’s activities. These first pass results are normally not acceptable, unless your company is enjoying great 2013 partial year growth and profitability that you will fully realize next year. Next, your subsidiary plans for capital expenditures, marketing and advertising, HR, sales, technology, and other new initiatives need costing and timing inclusion in order to understand the impact on 2014 results. It can take several iterations before an acceptable plan is finalized.

Whether complex or simple, you need this financial barometer to measure your actual results against. It gives you both an early warning and real time indication as to whether you’re on course with your desired goals. Want some help? Western Equity LLC’s Consulting Services can help you draft a planning framework that meets your requirements.

 

 

Square Cash – A New Debit Card to Debit Card Money Transfer Product

Square Inc. has announced the roll out of Square Cash,  a new free email personal debit card to debit card money transfer product. As it works informally and simplistically by email, there’s no new accounts, passwords or logins and no new app to add. It works on any email-capable device such as a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Initially, Square Cash is designed to work on a person to person basis and is not intended for retail sales purchases of any kind. It requires either a Visa or MasterCard debit card from any U.S. bank. To utilize the service you compose an email to the party you wish to send money to, you cc: cash@square.com, and in the subject field you enter the amount you’re sending. You can either leave the message body blank or describe the payment. Then press Send. International transfers are not presently supported.

There are obvious questions regarding security, liability, dollar limits, and why or what Square gets for these “free” transfers. Starting out, transfers are limited to $250 a week without providing more information to Square. There is a one time requirement by Square to enter your debit card information which they use to verify the legitimacy of your card and check your balance (ala normal card processing protocol) before acting on the email. Funds are expected to be deposited in one to two business days. Because there is no account per se, there is no transfer record or reconcilement feature available. You would only have your email trail to verify any transfers. An interesting concept from some creative thinkers. Let’s see where it leads.

 

 

More Twitter and Mobile Device News

In their recent IPO disclosures, Twitter, Inc. indicated that users now exceed 231 million. Importantly, 70% of their advertising revenue comes from mobile devices. You might say that should come as no surprise given the nature of their business model, but that said, it also means your business needs to be a part of that dialogue. As a side note, many venture capital and other investor groups now carefully evaluate a company’s social media success while contemplating an investment. They see it as an important indicator of a company’s ability to leverage their brand, communicate with their customer and follower audiences, and further demonstrate their overall marketing savvy. In addition to ensuring that all general websites are mobile device-enabled, Western Equity LLC has secured domain names for certain mobile-only URL’s in anticipation of future PDA-specific marketing campaigns.

Venture- Financing Syndicates Help Small Business

The federal government’s easing of general solicitation rules pertinent to securities registration has created more and faster opportunities for small business start-ups to raise investment dollars from third parties. These actions are the result of the J.O.B.S. Act passed in 2012. This means that companies can now publicly fundraise via their website, social media, or solicitation of online syndication groups. Online syndicates look to take funding positions in promising business start-ups. These early stage investor groups take ownership stakes in companies they fund unlike other so-called crowdfunding initiatives which may take product or in-kind benefits. These syndicates have been formed for specific single investments or for more open ended investing. Businesses looking to raise capital can find interested investors through  Google searches such as “Business Crowdfunding” or “Business Syndicates”.

Small Business Confidence

An August survey by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) indicated a downward bias in small business confidence from the prior month. This survey went on to say that reported earnings continued on a downward path with little opportunity for business owners to reprice their goods or services more favorably given weak demand.

August is traditionally a vacation-laden month so it’s not necessarily a bellwether indicator for the remainder of the year. It does reinforce the constant necessity of performing a sales result analysis. This review should tell you who your customers are, why they’re buying from you and not your competitors, and what marketing or outreach vehicles are driving them to you. You can then focus your resources on those channels that are creating these sales. Whether tepid demand or more competition are underlying root causes, the business that gets its message out most effectively will be a sales winner.