Learn the Secret to Understanding Quickbooks and Your Business Finances

ONABusinessSeminarbloggraphicPlease join us for one or more of the following FREE business sessions featuring speakers from JRM and Associates. All sessions include breakfast and will be held at Stoney Creek Inn (3060 S Kinney Coulee Road, Onalaska) from 7:30 – 9:30 a.m.

  • Quickbooks Beyond the Basics Part 2 on Thursday, November 6 – Learn how to understand and utilize the income statement.
  • Year-End Tax Update on Thursday, December 4 – Prepare for your year-end taxes.

RSVPs are appreciated for planning purposes:

  • Becky Herrmann (blherrmann@merchantsbank.com or 608-779-8268)
  • Tricia Barnes (tricia@jrmcpa.biz or 608-781-8712)

Retreat Away for a Good Time

Have you ever wanted to have a family gathering but didn’t have a space big enough to host everyone that you wanted to invite? How about being able to quilt or scrapbook with a large group of friends but never had the space to use your creativity to the max? Well don’t fret; you can do all of this at Glad Gatherings.

Glad Gatherings, which opened November 2013, is a retreat house in Spring Valley, Minnesota, that is perfect for crafters but can be rented out for any occasion. “It is the perfect space for bridal showers, baby showers, graduations, weekend getaways, girls’ weekend, and much more,” said Co-Owners Denise Erichsen and Jenny Gurenwald.

According to co-owner Alissa Gibson, “It sleeps 12 people comfortably and has a dedicated craft space which comfortably accommodates 12 people plus their craft supplies.”

Denise Erichsen with her sister, Dolores Bierbaum, niece, Jenny Gruenwald, daughter, Alissa Gibson, are all co-owners of Glad Gatherings.

What started off as a special family occasion for the owners and their family is now a successful retreat away for families or big groups that are looking to be crafty or looking for a big enough space to fit all of their guests. The girls would get together a couple times a year to quilt or scrapbook and had done so in many other retreat houses. “We just really loved the memories we were making and we thought it would be really fun to find a place we could do our crafts that was big enough for all of our nieces and daughters. It is something really special that we wanted to share with everyone.” Erichsen said.

When it came to relying on a lender to help with getting Glad Gatherings started, Levi Livingood from the Merchants Bank Rochester, Northwest Plaza, location was an easy choice and is highly recommended by the owners. “He has been so helpful every step of the way,” stated Erichsen.

“He is fantastic, answers my emails right away, and has been here to visit us in Spring Valley multiple times already. Merchants Bank is great to work with because they make you feel warm and welcome. We would highly recommend any start up business to work with Merchants Bank. They really help make what may seem like work, easy.”

 

Loans are subject to credit approval.

Three Ways Technology Is Changing Small Business Finance

New technology helps entrepreneurs get their products and services to customers more efficiently.

New technology helps entrepreneurs get their products and services to customers more efficiently.

Technology is an entrepreneur’s best friend. With the right tools, entrepreneurs are finding that it is easier than ever before to bring in customers, design new products and manage day-to-day operations. Here are a few of the latest ways that technology is changing the world of small business finance.

Mobile Payments
Before the era of mobile devices, if you didn’t want to alienate customers by only accepting cash, you needed a traditional register (point of sale) system. This left many entrepreneurs, such as those working booths at craft fairs or providing services outside of a brick-and-mortar setting, out in the cold.

Now, it’s possible to use a mobile device to accept plastic from customers anywhere you have reception, opening up a range of possibilities. Square is a device that allows you to swipe cards and process payments right on your smartphone or tablet. Its monthly subscription service is best for those who “do five-six digits in sales every month,” and “have very few transactions over $400,” and “key in very few transactions,” according to Forbes contributor My Say.

For those who make many monthly transactions, or those who have many transactions over $400, or those who don’t make sales in the five or six-figure range, Say recommends Breadcrumb by Groupon. Another excellent and flexible option to consider is PayPal.

3D Printing
When 3D printers arrived on the scene, they seemed like something out of a science fiction novel, but they quickly proved to be a tremendous asset in many fields. Businesses currently using 3D printers are quickly discovering just how many ways this tool can revolutionize the way they work.

“For some, it creates an opportunity to differentiate from the competition. For others, it’s a chance to improve internal processes, like design and development, and streamline production,” states Fox News Business contributor Elizabeth Palermo. “But in some industries, especially those that create highly customized products, such production methods are essential.”

Entrepreneurs who want to make a model of a product no longer have to find a factory able to produce it before they can show potential investors and clients. With the invention of 3D printing, the process is faster than ever, making it easier for would-be entrepreneurs to take the leap into the business world.

Fox News Business profiled the development of an ergonomic baby spoon called Spuni, which “owes its existence in large part to 3D technology,” according to Palermo. “The company was able to print the first versions of Spuni using medical grade, BPA-free plastics that could be tested safely by parents on their babies. The ability to test their prototypes helped Botha and his colleagues churn out a final version of the product much faster than if they had used traditional manufacturing methods for prototyping.”

Predictive Analytics
Predictive analysis uses technology to maximize sales opportunities by attempting to accurately predict the future behavior of customers. Entrepreneur.com contributor Mikal E. Belicove describes how he would use predictive analysis to make more money at a hypothetical pizza shop.

“If I knew exactly how many cheese, pepperoni or veggie pizzas I was going to sell on a given shift, I could have those ingredients on hand, and maybe even make them ahead of time, so the customers get their pies fast,” describes Belicove. “And if I knew that half my customers order a large soda with their pizza, I could offer them a pizza/soda special to keep them coming back.”

A Business Intelligence tool is necessary software to run these types of analytics. Entrepreneurs who know how to program can make use of free tools like R from Revolution Analytics. You don’t have to know how to program to use this technology, however.

“If you just want a way to visualize your data to make it easier to understand and follow, there are inexpensive dashboard tools like Geckoboard and Leftronic that you can try out for less than $100 a month,” states Belicove.

With technology like 3D printing, predictive analysis and mobile payments, more people than ever are realizing that they truly can start a business.

Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Six Ways Your Business Can Save More Money

A cost-saving plan to uphold your business budget.

A cost-saving plan to uphold your business budget.

If you own a small business and are on a budget, you’re not alone. Running a company is no inexpensive task. That’s why it’s important to put saving money on the top of your priority list. Cutting costs in every way possible is essential to ensuring that you’re gaining profits.

The good news: saving may be easier than you think. There are tons of ways you can tighten your belt on the job. Try these penny-pinching tips:

Utilize the web - You already know to use social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, but also take a look at discussion groups and message boards, too. These groups are a convenient way to get your business’ name out there quickly and easily—all you have to do is sign your name with your web URL. And best of all, it’s free!

“I didn’t start [participating in online discussion groups] to generate business, but as a way to find information for myself on various subjects,” said Shel Horowitz, owner of Accurate Writing & More, Northampton, MA, and author of several marketing books, including Grassroots Marketing. “But it turned out to be the single best marketing tool I use. It costs only my time. [One] list alone has gotten me around 60 clients in the past five years.”

Form relationships with vendors – Being a loyal customer can take you far. When you frequently use a vendor, they’re more likely to let you in on certain deals as they occur or even offer you a reduced price on a regularly bought item.

“In order to approach this, make sure you have the same employee work with the vendor each time you contact them, always contact them in advance, and benefit them whenever you can by referring business to them,” advises Emily Swartz, marketing communications specialist at Broadview Networks. “Even if they don’t cut you deals, having a vendor that’s dependable and consistent is more money-saving than you might think.”

Go paperless – Chances are, the amount spent on paper, ink and postage can add up. If you get rid of it all, over time, you’ll see your savings grow steadily.

“Businesses should shift towards paperless payments for many reasons,” said Mitch Rose, vice president of BillTrust. “Businesses should not be reliant on the USPS for receiving payments. There is already too much going on with the USPS from rising rates, closing of postal locations, lost mail, delays due to disasters or vandalism, etc. Just as important, the cost to a business to apply a paper check payment is significant. They struggle with keying it in, getting the payment deposited in a timely manner and applying the payment to a specific invoice.”

Pay attention to how much you spend on the little things – There are certain small items that may be bought when you’re running a company that are easily overlooked — things like office supplies, cleaning tools, coffee, etc. And although small and not necessarily the most pricy, these items can add up without you ever really noticing. Spending a little extra time searching for good deals on these items can keep these costs from accumulating. Compare prices and also check for free shipping, which many companies offer on bulk items. You may also opt for cleaning the office yourself or save on package-related costs by delivering something to a close-by client. Also, get creative: buy recycled printer cartridges, buy used equipment on craigslist.com, etc.

Don’t overspend on taxes - Sometimes if businesses are new to a location, they’re subject to a higher tax rate. In order to avoid spending too much on taxes, take action.

“Go to city hall to determine what your neighbors are paying, and use this to negotiate a better rate,” suggests Pete Collins of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in NYC. “Expanding businesses can often negotiate with community authorities, who want them to stay in town rather than move and take jobs elsewhere.”

Go green - A double whammy: save money and help the planet. Things like recycling, for one, can help you scrimp and save at the office. “More and more businesses are recognizing the benefits of reducing their waste,” said Carrie Hamblen, executive director of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce. “Not only can it save businesses money by reducing their overhead (but) recycling (is) good for business and benefits us all.”

Other ways to “go green” include using reusable items like mugs instead of cups for coffee, buying products locally and investing in energy-saving utilities, such as lighting.

Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Net Income Ahead of Plan and Last Year for the First Half of 2014

Rod Nelson

CEO Rod Nelson reports a net income of $6,335,210 for the first six months of the year for Merchants Financial Group, Inc.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) reported net income of $6,335,210 for the first six months of the year. The income is both ahead of plan and ahead of last year’s income of $6,104,872 for the first half of the year, according to MFGI President & CEO Rod Nelson.

Nelson pointed out that MFGI has continued its focus on credit quality and has experienced significant loan growth. Mortgage activity, while not at the levels of the past several years, also contributed positively to growth.

“Our growth was excellent across our entire organization. All of our regions finished the first half of the year above plan,” Nelson said. “I believe it is a direct result of the service-oriented approach that all of our employees embrace when interacting with our customers and co-workers.”

Nelson said that as he looks forward to the remainder of the year, he expects continued strong performance, including achieving planned income for the last six months of the year.

Jeff Zwiefelhofer Joins Merchants Bank as a Business Lender

ZwiefelhoferJeff

Jeff Zwiefelhofer

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. –Jeff Zwiefelhofer has joined Merchants Bank as an Assistant Vice President and Commercial Banker, according to Merchants Bank’s Eau Claire Market President Mark Willer.

Zwiefelhofer has been a business lender at Alliance Bank since 2009. He has worked as a community banker since 1983. Most of that time has been spent in the Chippewa Valley. Merchants Bank acquired Alliance Bank’s Mall Drive location February 14.

“Jeff is very well known in this area. That will be a benefit for Merchants as we build our brand in the Chippewa Valley. More so, it will be a benefit for Jeff’s customers as they build a relationship with a bank that has the resources to be a strong financial partner.” Willer said.

Zwiefelhofer has been an active community member. He is currently Treasurer of the Hastings Way Business Association, and a former Board Member of the St. Croix Economic Development Corporation and Chippewa County American Red Cross. He’s also a former Treasurer of the Chippewa Falls Jaycees, and a former member of the Chippewa Falls Main Street Marketing Committee, and the Woodville Lion’s Club.

“I look forward to sharing all that Merchants Bank has to offer. The people I know will be impressed by Merchants’ commitment to community banking and the resources that I will have available to me,” Zwiefelhofer said.

Merchants Bank Completes Acquisition of Eau Claire Location from Alliance Bank

Mark Willer

Mark Willer

Merchants Bank has taken ownership of the deposit accounts, loans and the physical location of the Alliance Bank office at 2728 Mall Drive in Eau Claire, as well as the loans and deposits of Alliance Bank’s Pinnacle Way location, according to Merchants Financial Group, Inc., President & CEO Rodney R. Nelson

“We look forward to exceeding the expectations of our new customers, and we look forward to showing the Chippewa Valley our commitment to the communities we serve,” Nelson said. “We are excited to be a part of this vibrant area.”

The sale was completed earlier today, and Merchants Bank will be ready to open its doors at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Mall Drive location. Long-time financial services leader Mark Willer has been named Market President and many of the Alliance staff have been retained.

“We recognize that Merchants Bank is new to the area, but we aren’t new to banking. Our philosophy is to be customer-centric, and we believe the best employees to serve the needs of our customers are people that they know,” Nelson said.

Merchants Bank acquired approximately $48 million in deposits and $17 million in loans from Alliance. Terms of the sale have not been disclosed.