Are Idle Balances Costing Your Business Money?

eNewsSweep

Did you know there are several easy, automatic ways to manage the cash flow of your business? You can use sweep, target or zero balance accounts to efficiently direct your money. Here’s how it works:

Sweep Accounts: A Cash Management Sweep account allows your business to earn income on its extra balance. Your Business Checking account is reviewed daily and excess funds are automatically “swept” into a savings account to earn interest or to a Line of Credit to pay down balances. When you need the funds, the money is swept back in to your Business Checking account. This is a great way for your business to optimize its cash flow. Merchants offers two types of sweep accounts to fit your needs.

Target or Zero Balance Accounts: A Target or Zero-Balance Account is a business checking account that is automatically maintained at a “zero balance” or at a target balance that you specify. Target/Zero-Balance Accounts allow businesses to maintain separate accounts for various divisions, locations, or functions such as payroll, while automatically consolidating cash from those accounts.

If you’d like to learn more about how easy and convenient sweep and target/zero balances accounts could be for your business, contact one of our Cash Management specialists today.

How Can Your Business Benefit from Positive Pay?

Tanya Schamaun thinks Positive Pay* “is just smart business sense.” Tanya is the Accounting Director at Winona State University and, along with co-worker Julie Sammann, has been using Merchants Bank’s fraud detection service Positive Pay since May.

“Positive Pay protects Winona State University from fraud. We can detect problems with copied or altered checks quickly and easily,” said Tanya.

Here’s how Positive Pay works: Each day, Winona State provides Merchants with an electronic inventory of checks issued. When the checks presented on WSU accounts each day are processed, Positive Pay matches the account number, check number and dollar amount of each check presented for payment against a list of checks previously authorized and issued by Winona State. All three components of the check must match exactly. When a check is reviewed that isn’t a match in the file, it becomes an “exception item.” Tanya or Julie then has the chance to review the image and can instruct the bank to pay or return the check.

“The whole process is very user-friendly. It only takes a few minutes a day,” said Julie. “Even if you don’t have your own IT department to help you create an inventory of checks to upload to Merchants, you can enter a check manually in a minute or less.”

According to Tanya, “[Positive Pay] is simple to use, even for a small organization. The hardest part is remembering your password!”

To learn more about how Positive Pay can help your business, contact one of our Cash Management specialists today.

*Fees may apply

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)

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.