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  • What are the Best Small Business Loan Platforms? 
    Nearly two-thirds of small business owners start out with less than $50,000, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. If you’re looking to stand out from the competition and increase your cash flow with a loan, you have a lot of options from which to choose.  It can be daunting to sift through all of the available routes for your business funding, but luckily we reduced the potential headache and narrowed down the list to a few great options for loans. Here are a few of the best loan programs for small businesses, along with some details about why they may be right (or wrong) for you.  Lendio Lendio may perhaps be the best loan program for small businesses because it works to find the most suitable loans and lenders for you and your needs. To get started, you simply fill out one 15-minute application online, and then it’s time for Lendio to put its matchmaking skills to work. You’ll be presented with a list of loans for which you qualify within 72 hours and you’ll have the ability to decide on one yourself.  Your odds are improved with Lendio because they partner with more than 75 lenders, who offer a range of loans from business financing and equipment loans to merchant cash advances and SBA loans. You’ll also get personalized guidance and expertise to help you along the way.  While Lendio might seem like a no-brainer, it’s important to note that some of the loans can come equipped with high interest rates, and hard credit report inquiries may be conducted.  BlueVine BlueVine is good for those seeking a higher loan amount and also boasts an easy, quick application process. You can choose from three different options within the platform: term loans, business lines of credit, and invoice financing.  You’ll be in good hands no matter what you choose, but it’s the invoice financing that is offered for up to $5 million that puts BlueVine in a league of its own. You use your invoices as collateral for your loan, which means these loans are easier to qualify for than other types.  Speaking of easy, the BlueVine’s application requirements are pretty lax. All you need is $100,000 in annual revenue, three months in business, and a credit score of 530. The only downsides to BlueVines are that it has limited availability in some states and the fees can potentially stack… Read more »
  • Acceptable (and Unacceptable) Interview Questions To Ask Candidates
    When searching for the perfect candidate to fit a role in your business, it’s just as important for you to prepare for the interview as it is for the applicant to do the same. You should be thinking about the thoroughness of the questions, but you should also be thinking about the legality of what you’re asking.  There are certain questions that you cannot ask in an interview because federal and state laws prohibit it. Protect yourself and your business by familiarizing yourself with what is acceptable to ask in an interview and what is not. Name Acceptable: “Have you ever worked for this company under another name?” Unacceptable: “Have you had any other names?” “What is your maiden name?”  Birthplace Acceptable: There are no acceptable questions surrounding an applicant’s birthplace. Unacceptable: “Where were you born?” “Where were your parents born?” Age Acceptable: “Are you over 18 years of age?” If you’re interviewing for a driver, you can ask if the applicant is over 21 years of age. Unacceptable: “How old are you?” Any questions that are geared towards figuring out the age of the applicant are unacceptable.  Religion Acceptable: There are no acceptable questions surrounding an applicant’s religion. Unacceptable: Any questions about a person’s religion or what days they may need off for religious holidays are unacceptable.  Work Schedule Acceptable: “Can you meet the attendance requirements of the position for which you’re applying?” Unacceptable: “Do you have any health conditions that would lead to absences from work?” Race Acceptable: There are no acceptable questions about the applicant’s race or color. Unacceptable: Any questions that are geared towards determining the race of the applicant are unacceptable.  Citizenship Acceptable: “Will you be able to prove you are employable if you are offered the job?” Unacceptable: “What nationality are you?” National Origin Acceptable: “What languages can you read, write or speak?” “How fluent are you?” Unacceptable: Any questions about an applicant’s lineage or date of entry into the U.S.  Education Acceptable: “Tell me about your educational background.” Unacceptable: “When did you graduate high school?” “When did you receive your degree?”  Experience Acceptable: “What is your work experience?” “Do you have experience with the U.S. Armed Forces?” “Why did you leave your last job?” Unacceptable: “What type of discharge did you receive from the military?”  Criminal Background Acceptable: Only follow-up inquiries to the application are acceptable. Unacceptable: “Have you ever been arrested/indicted for… Read more »
  • Who are the Best Small Business 401(k) Providers?
      Small business owners have historically stayed away from offering their employees 401(k) plans. Why? Because they believe the administrative costs to be too high and frankly, they see the process as too complicated to get started.  Luckily more and more 401(k) companies are using technology to provide more cost effective, easier plans to attract smaller businesses and allow them to provide valuable retirement benefits to their staff members.  First, it’s important to have an understanding of what criteria you should be using to compare companies and determine which plan is best for you and your business. Let’s take a look at what you need to evaluate:  What kind of small business fees is the provider charging? A study by BrightScope found that small businesses are paying 401(k) fees at a rate five times higher than large enterprise companies. Sounds pretty nuts, right?  Going with a low-cost plan is key to your plan’s success. Even the smallest increase in a fee (such as a few tenths of a percent higher than it needs to be) can highly decrease how much you and your employees end up with in your account when it comes time to retire. Make sure you’re getting charged the lowest fee possible.  Which provider is offering the easiest plan? As mentioned before, many business owners avoid offering 401(k) plans because they’re simply too complicated. However it’s hard to get around the complexity of retirement accounts because of how strictly they’re regulated and how important it is to run them properly to stay compliant.  Reduce your own personal headache by finding a company that takes on the complex and tedious obligations and assumes legal responsibility for your investment fund lineup.  Here are a few financial service companies that are leading the pack by only providing great, affordable retirement plans, but also leading in customer service by taking on obligations that would normally fall on you such as administrative services and investment fiduciary duties. How flexible is the plan? Your 401(k) plan should have flexibility in:  Investment options: With the tens of thousands of investment products such as mutual funds and index funds out there, savvier small business owners and employees may want to expand outside of the simple index funds lineup. It’s important that they have access to the plethora of investment options so they can reach their portfolio goals. Plan design: Your plan design consists of the… Read more »
  • Cyber Attacks, Adobe’s Small Business Tool & Other Weekly News
    This week in Homebase News we cover a recent study on small businesses and cyber attacks, a $30 minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers, Adobe’s new tool for business owners, and more. Read below to get the details on these stories and other happenings involving local businesses and hourly workers. Study: Majority of Small Businesses Don’t Take Cyber Attacks Seriously  A recent study from Keeper Security found that 66% of SMB decision-makers don’t feel threatened by cyber attacks, and 60% admitted that they don’t have a prevention plan in place.  The study comes after a report by Verizon found that while cyber attackers have targeted enterprise-level businesses more frequently in the past, 43% of all cyber attacks are now aimed at small to medium-size businesses.  In addition to these findings, the study also revealed that only 9% of small business leaders listed cybersecurity as a top priority, and 25% said they have “no idea where to start” when it comes to creating a strategy for digital security.  Adobe Releases Tool to Help Digitize Small Businesses  Adobe introduced a new tool that lets small businesses digitize signing documents and integrates with Adobe Scan and Adobe Reader.  According to their website, Adobe Sign allows you to “stop chasing down signatures and get documents signed in minutes — not days” and “give your customers a convenient, modern way to sign electronically that also grows your business.”  “Adobe Sign for small business, helps digitize paper-based processes for anyone who wants to move on from pen, paper, printer and filing cabinets,” Adobe Group Product Marketing Manager Lisa Croft told Small Business Trends. “It is applicable and necessary for any business who cares about their bottom line.” San Diego Named Top City for Work-Life Balance A new report from software company Kisi listed San Diego as the top city for work-life balance.  Kisi scored cities on work intensity, hours worked per week, commute times, vacation days taken and more and found that the top five cities for work-life balance are San Diego, Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and New York City.  “This index is not designed to be a city livability index, nor is it intended to highlight the best cities to work in,” the company said. “Instead, it aims to be a guideline for cities to benchmark their ability to support the fulfillment of residents’ lives by improving the aspects of life that help… Read more »
  • Homebase Users Reveal Why they Started a Business, Share Advice with Others
    We recently surveyed around 1,000 Homebase users around the U.S. about their experiences in starting a business and not only figured out the top reasons why they started their ventures, but also compiled some pretty compelling advice for those looking to follow in their footsteps.  We asked our merchants to rate, from “not important” to “very important,” which factors motivated them the most when it came to why they started a business in the first place. The results showed that while income and flexibility are big factors in the decision-making process, another top reason for starting a business is simply to get unique concepts out into the world.  Top 5 Reasons for Starting a Business Based on the Percentage of Users who Found them “Very Important”: Best avenue for my ideas/services: 61%  Greater income: 61% I wanted to be my own boss: 57%  Always wanted to start my own business: 52%  Flexible hours: 47%  Advice for new business owners When asked what tidbits of advice they would give to people with an inkling to start their own businesses, Homebase merchants didn’t hold back when it came to their thoughts on the heavy workload, employees, finances and more.  Most of our merchants agreed on one thing — The amount of work you must put into launching a new business is most likely more than you’d expect:  “Be willing to work to see your dreams through.”   “Be prepared for long, long days and juggling home life and work, work usually takes precedence.” “Be willing to do everything by yourself. Make sure you are willing to sacrifice your time to help build your business. No matter how many days your business is open, there is no such thing as a day off. Understanding this is important because if you are truly wanting to build a successful business, no one will care about something you start or build more than yourself. Be available to customers and employees if there are any issues, and work fast to correct any of those issues.” The merchants also offered up advice on hiring employees and how to treat them:  “Hire good workers and pay them what they deserve so your turn around is minimal and you keep them happy. In doing so, they will keep your customers happy.” “The hardest part and the best part is working with the employees. If you treat them like family, they will… Read more »
  • Yelp’s Ad Products, AI Impact Study & other Weekly News
    This week in Homebase news, a study reveals how business owners are feeling about AI and automation, Yelp offers a deal for businesses to increase their engagement with customers, a senator’s roofing company faces another wage theft lawsuit, and ADP reports more hiring among small businesses.  Read below to find out more on these stories and other happenings involving local businesses and hourly workers. Study: Business Owners Don’t Fear Impact of Automation, AI Web hosting site GoDaddy recently conducted a study and found that most small businesses aren’t feeling nervous about the impact of artificial intelligence and automation and are instead “optimistic about business growth, the power of technology, and their contributions to local communities.” According to GoDaddy, the study found that “70% of small businesses globally felt that these external factors were not going to have an impact on their business, that they were confident in their ability to grow over the course of the next three to five years.” Yelp’s New Ad Products Can Increase Engagement by 38%  Yelp’s newly-debuted ad products gives small business owners a better way to manage and control their business image on the most popular review site in the world.  The features are designed to help you reach customers who are ready to make a purchase, stand out from the competition, and even set your own daily budget.  To develop these tools, Yelp analyzed thousands of listings around the U.S. and determined the best practices that every business needs to grow. Currently, they’re extending an offer to business owners that want to explore these features $300 in Yelp Ads.  Fla. Senator’s Roofing Company Sued for Wage Theft Florida Sen. Keith Perry is facing his sixth wage-theft lawsuit against Perry Roofing, brought forward by an employee who says the company owes him overtime wages.  Perry Roofing employee Dearmus Lovett’s lawyer, John Davis, said he’s not sure exactly how many hours Lovett is owed because the company doesn’t log hours and charges a fluctuating “piece rate,” which means workers are paid for each piece of square or shingle they lay.  “Under the current law, everyone has the right to overtime unless they are exempt,” Davis said. “The employer has the burden of keeping records of how many hours each person works. I don’t believe they do that.” The class action lawsuit is asking for a jury trial and could potentially bring forward past and current… Read more »
  • DOL Final Rule Reduces 401(k) Headaches for Small Employers
    A new regulation implemented by the Department of Labor will make it easier for unrelated employers to reduce costs and duties of offering 401(k) packages to their employees by joining together in a single defined contribution retirement plan.  Under the new rule, which will take effect Sept. 30, businesses in the same geographical area will be able to band together to provide a retirement plan, regardless of their industry. If the businesses are not in the same area, they can team up if they are in the same industry.  Experts say defined contribution multiple-employer plans (MEPs) will help employers provide retirement plans to employees thanks to certain advantages, including an increase in funds under management, which lowers fees and allows employees’ assets to grow more over time.  “The purpose of this rule and the reason we wrote this rule is because there are a lot of smaller employers in particular that would like to set up a 401(k) plan for their workers, but they don’t for a number of reasons. One is expense; probably an even larger problem of concern to a smaller employer is the administrative [duties], the paperwork and the IRS filings that go along with offering a 401(k),” said Preston Rutledge, assistant secretary of labor for the Employee Benefits Security Administration.  The DOL went public with the regulation on July 29 and will take effect Sept. 30, 2019. Here’s a breakdown of what it means and how it works.  What is an MEP? An MEP, or multiple employer plan (also referred to as an association retirement plan), is a group retirement plan managed by two or more unrelated businesses. The plan presents an attractive option for an employer because it reduces some of the “responsibilities of sponsoring or administering its own plan,” according to the DOL.  The plans will be offered through organizations such as local chambers of commerce or specific firms that manage human resources for businesses. “Many small businesses would like to offer retirement benefits to their employees, but are discouraged by the cost and complexity of running their own plans,” acting secretary of labor Patrick Pizzella said. “Association retirement plans offer valuable retirement security to small businesses’ employees through their retirement years.” The DOL also says another benefit of an MEP is that it can “reduce the employer’s cost of sponsoring a benefit plan and effectively transfer substantial legal risk to professional fiduciaries responsible… Read more »
  • What is the Best Schedule Maker for Business Owners?
    Scheduling employees is an essential step in running a business. It’s important to have the right scheduling software to serve as your sidekick and alleviate one area of stress in the hectic world of business management, and in this high-tech, connected world, the ol’ pen and paper routine just doesn’t cut it. You need a scheduling app.  Still, searching through the array of apps that seemingly do the same thing can take a long time, and the stress of deciding which one comes with features that work best for your business can be a bit counterproductive (isn’t that what you’re trying to minimize?). We took the guesswork out of choosing an online schedule maker and compiled a list of five great options so you can decide for yourself which one would make the process easier for you. Of course, we included our free scheduling app on the list and firmly believe it’s the best on the list. But don’t take it from us. Let the features do the talking!  Homebase  Building your work schedule is quick, easy, and painless when you use Homebase’s free scheduling app. Our comprehensive tool takes away the unnecessary headache that’s associated with scheduling and allows you to:  Drag and drop team scheduling: View the team schedule by role, time period, or employee and watch hours calculate automatically.  Schedule your team anytime, anywhere: Publish work changes no matter where you are and no matter what device you’re using with the scheduling app.  Put your schedule on autopilot: Easily copy over last week’s shift schedule, or use automatic scheduling, which takes into account your team’s availabilities and roles.  Reduce no-shows and errors: Your team will always have an up-to-date schedule, and can update their availability or request shift trades, and you’ll be notified for approval. Then, Homebase will update the schedule in minutes.  Stay connected: You can send the schedule to your employees via the text tool, email, and the mobile app and confirm they’ve received it, track time-off and availability changes, and manage shift trades and covers without phone calls.  Easily manage labor costs: Homebase will total hours and overtime, and even subtract break times, input your sales data to make sure you’re hitting budget targets, and forecast your sales automatically with a connected POS.  Speaking of POS, Homebase integrates with the top companies, including:  Clover  Poynt Talech Square  Upserve Lightspeed Revel  Toast  Pair the employee… Read more »
  • Bad Google Reviews, Inmate Food Service Training, & Other Weekly News
    This week in Homebase news, a study finds that Google reviews impact a business the most, the NRAEF wins funding to prepare inmates for food service jobs, and Minnesota passes a law guaranteeing paid sick leave. Read below to find out more on these stories and other happenings involving local businesses and hourly workers. Study: Bad Google Reviews Worse than Yelp, Facebook A recent study conducted by marketing and CRM software provider Womply provided the first comprehensive look at online review patterns and revenue for small businesses in America.  The Impact of Online Reviews on Small Business Revenue found that small businesses are more damaged by bad ratings on Google than they are by poor reviews on Facebook or Yelp. According to the study, businesses with an average Google star rating of 1 to 1.5 generate 33% less revenue on average annually than the average business.  Businesses with the same rating on Yelp or Facebook generate 19% and 9% less yearly revenue than the average business, respectively.  Restaurant Industry Wins Grant to Prep Inmates for Jobs The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation secured a $4.5 million grant to help released prison inmates transition into jobs in the food service industry.  The organization will use the funding to develop training and job placement programs for young people who have been in prison. The initiative, which will begin providing the training during participating inmates’ incarcerations, was dubbed HOPES, or Hospitality Opportunities for People Entering Society.  “We are honored to be part of a national effort to create positive employment opportunities for young adults involved with the justice system,” NRAEF president Rob Gifford said. “The program fits perfectly with our mission to attract, empower and advance today’s and tomorrow’s restaurant workforce and is an excellent way for anyone seeking to get back on track to becoming a productive and responsible member of society.” New Rule Makes it Easier for Small Businesses to Offer Retirement Plans The Department of Labor established a rule on Monday that makes it easier for small businesses to offer 401(k) plans to their employees in the form of Association Retirement Plans. The ARPs can be offered by employer associations in a city, county, state, multi-state metropolitan area or in a nationwide industry, or can be sponsored through a Professional Employer Organization. “Many small businesses would like to offer retirement benefits for their employees, but are discouraged by the cost… Read more »
  • A Guide to Taking the Headache Out of Tip Splitting
    Many restaurant owners implement a tip splitting system between servers and supporting staff — mainly because while the servers are the main point of contact for the restaurant patron, good service cannot be delivered without the help of other staff members.  Between complying with different legalities around tip splitting and choosing between different options, the process can be a difficult one– that’s why Homebase is here to help. We’ve laid out everything you need to know to make tip splitting as seamless and simple as possible, from legal information to a breakdown of the differences between the choices and how to implement them with ease.  We even included a custom template for you to use to execute your process with ease and tip split like a champ. But first, let’s go over some of the basics.  What is a tip?  The Internal Revenue Service defines a tip as “discretionary (optional or extra) payments determined by a customer that employees receive from customers.” These payments include:  Cash tips directly from customers. Credit card, debit card, gift card or any other electronic payment method.  Any non-cash tip value such as tickets.  Tips received from other employees paid out through tip pools or tip splitting, or other formal or informal tip sharing arrangement.  What exactly is tip pooling?  Tip pooling is one form of tip splitting that takes all of the tips collected by servers such as bartenders and waitstaff, “pools” them together at the end of a shift, and redistributes the total tips among all employees.  This option is to make sure all of the restaurant staff — including back of the house employees such as cooks and dishwashers — benefit from tips like the serving staff.  Is tip pooling legal? According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers must pay minimum wage to all employees, but they are allowed to take a “tip credit” of up to $5.12 an hour of employees’ tips against their minimum wage obligation.  If the house keeps any tips or requires employees to share tips with non-tipped staff members, the employer cannot take this tip credit and must pay the employee full minimum wage. Employers are allowed to require servers to share their tips with non-tipped employees as long as everyone is earning the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, minus the tips.  This federal policy is a result of a recent change. In 2018… Read more »
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