Entrepreneurial

Credit crunch forces small businesses to get creative

United National Consumer Suppliers, a Ft. Lauderdale, Florida broker of clothing, toys and other merchandise for discount stores such as Marshalls, has been seeing more suppliers ask to be paid up front amid worries over the uncertain economy.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, said CFO Todd Hartstone, who in exchange for complying can often garner deeper pre-payment discounts.

“We’re going to monopolize on that opportunity,” said Hartstone, whose business has been putting up good sales numbers as consumers seek more bargains from discount stores. “Fortunately having a little cash strength puts you in a position where you can drive the purchase.”

During a downturn, successful entrepreneurs work to create their own financing infrastructure by improving trade terms with suppliers and vendors, said Jeff Stibel, CEO of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp, which studies credit ratings of small businesses.

“They’re becoming a proxy for credit and debt,” he said. “What they’re trying to do is build stronger relationships.”

10 questions to find the right bank for your business

– Mary Goodman and Rich Russakoff are co-founders of Bottom Line Up Enterprises. This article originally appeared on The Money Dept. column for BNET. The views expressed are their own. –

Finding the right bank for your business is not all that different from finding the right mechanic for your car, or the right surgeon for an operation. You need some objective information first.

The best way to determine whether or not to consider a particular bank is to find out the answers to the following 10 questions. Use them as your starting point, but know that you should dig deeper if you can.

Exclusive: Survey says small businesses upbeat about 2011

Small businesses are feeling better about the economy and are looking to grow in 2011, according to a new survey released this week by online marketing firm Constant Contact.

Of the more than 1,400 small business owners that responded to the survey (view full results), 73 percent expected their companies to grow over the next 12 months and nearly 40 percent felt “positive” about the economy over the course of the next year.

“They see the darkness behind them and looking forward they see some light,” said Eric Groves, Constant Contact’s senior vice president of global market development. He added the survey is a “followup” to the Waltham, Massachusetts-based company’s larger spring polling of roughly 4,000 small businesses. Groves said Constant Contact has more than 400,000 clients, predominantly small to medium-sized businesses.

A startup financing strategy that works

– Kenneth H. Marks is the founder and managing partner of Raleigh, North Carolina-based High Rock Partners. He is also the lead author of the “Handbook of Financing Growth”. The views expressed are his own. –

Statistically no one gets venture capital. The ratio of the number of companies started each year vs. the number of companies funded is minuscule. For most companies it’s just plain unrealistic. So, how do the 99.9 percent of startup businesses get funded?

The financing strategy is bootstrapping in stages based on iterative phases of success and only doing what must be done to get to the next phase with minimal capital. This is a resourceful and practical approach:

What to do when the money runs out

- Seth Kravitz is the co-founder and CEO of Columbus, Ohio-based InsuranceAgents.com, which has been named one of Inc.com’s 500 fastest growing companies in the U.S. The views expressed are his own. -

Maybe you saw it coming, maybe it blindsided you, but whatever the cause you may run into a huge challenge millions of business owners have faced: you’re out of money.

A couple times over the course of the last six years my company has hit some pretty significant money problems. Each time we made it through, but it was a struggle.

Can’t pay your taxes? Don’t worry

- Thomson Reuters Tax Analyst Jim Keller provides some options available to help taxpayers pay their balance due. This article originally appeared on ThomsonReuters.com. –

Are there options for Americans who cannot pay their taxes? According to Jim Keller, senior tax analyst for the Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters, if you discover on April 15 that you have a balance due on your 2009 Form 1040, you won’t be alone.

In addition to the traditional causes of tax underpayment (such as the receipt of interest, dividends, or other non-wage income), the government estimates that more than 15 million taxpayers will be unpleasantly surprised to discover that they owe taxes with their 2009 returns as a result of the way income tax withholding was reduced to account for the “Making Work Pay Credit”.

“Taxpayers who fail to file on a timely basis and pay their taxes face penalties and interest charges,” said Keller, “these folks can expect to come up against a more aggressive IRS. For example, the IRS filed more than 683,000 tax liens during 2008 and served over 2.6 million levies during that same period.

Would a CIT bankruptcy hurt your business?

CIT’s bailout talks with the government have fallen apart, setting the stage for a possible bankruptcy filing.

The lender provides crucial funding to small and mid-sized U.S. businesses, from clothing manufacturers to Dunkin Donuts franchises.

Founded in St. Louis in 1908, CIT boasts on its website that 1 million business customers depend on it for financing. Many may now have to depend on someone else, at a time credit markets remain tight, reducing business activity as the government tries to lift the economy out of recession.

Free financing tool to help startups get legal ball rolling

MILKEN/Leave it to a savvy law firm headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley to develop an online tool that actually generates draft financing term sheets for startups using the simplicity of a web-based questionnaire.

The so-called “Term Sheet Generator” comes courtesy of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a Palo Alto-based firm that’s played legal adviser to the likes of Apple and Sun Micro. It works with the responses and information provided by users to build fully formatted term sheet documents that can help entrepreneurs seeking outside capital get the ball rolling.

As Startup CFO blogger Mark Macleod astutely points out, the tool is no replacement for the advice of a skilled lawyer but can help cut costs when pondering early round funding. This is a sentiment shared by WSGR, which notes in the user terms and conditions that the service is “for general informational purposes only” and does “not constitute advertising, a solicitation or legal advice.”

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