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Finding a Business Partner? Weigh the Pros and Cons First

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• Apple Partners Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak met in an early summer job
• Microsoft Partners Bill Gates and Paul Allen met in high school
• Hewlett Packard partners Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard met in college
• Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream partners Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield met in high school

Stories like these may inspire you to find a business partner or even bring in a pal, but each year thousands of failed business partnerships end up in court with accusations of negligence, mismanagement, embezzlement and even theft. Even the best of friends break up, turning into bitter enemies. Business partnerships can be like a marriage in many ways, and we all know how 50+% of those go. Before you find a business partner,
consider what’s best for your personality, the business you envision and the market you plan to serve.

Business Partners Provide Great Help with:
• Start-up costs and continuing cash flow. If you and your business partner both work, you’ll be able to use income from two jobs rather than one. You also have access to another’s assets as start-up and continuing costs. It may be easier to get an affordable business loan with two borrowers as well.

• Benefits of collaboration. Most business coaches encourage owners to pick a partner with complementary skills. That way the initial partner doesn’t have to learn all new skill sets, a process that requires extensive time and energy. Having two opinions on business matters can either be a great help or cause for contention and stress.

• Shared risks and business loan costs. Depending on the terms of your partnership, you split all loan costs.

• Pooled network. A business partner brings with him or her a network of contacts who can provide services or ideas for the company.

• Company and support! As mentioned above, comparisons of marriage and business partnerships pop up everywhere. A common quote about marriage is that it needs to be, “more bulwark than confinement.” Similarly, the connection that emerges from the business partnership should have far more positives than negatives.

Business Partners Can Hinder a Business and It’s Owner When:
• Partners default on loan. You will be liable if your partner declares bankruptcy or disappears.
• Business profits can’t support two people. While of course how profits will be shared should be set out in the business plan, poor income can create stress between two individuals when the rent or mortgage is due.
• Shared decisions cause friction. Two different personalities and life experiences lead to very different opinions on important matters. When each one of you is certain they’re right and the success of the business depends on the right decision, the stakes are high. Think of how you operated in college. Did you appreciate working in groups and partnerships or where you a solo operator? Take a careful self-inventory before you find a business partner.
• The friendship starts breaking up. Good friends are hard to find. Do you really want to jeopardize a nurturing friendship by becoming business partners?

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A+ Rated First Financial Supports a Wide Range of Business Borrowers, Even High-Risk!
First Financial is the nation’s leading provider of business loans for all kinds of businesses and even those in the high-risk category. Big banks and processors put many reputable businesses in high-risk categories like golf club manufacturers, vendors and imply because they’re new. Fill out our business loan application in minutes and find out how much you qualify to borrow. Follow First Financial on Facebook to get smart cash flow, marketing and business growth tips online, too!

9 Smart Steps to Choosing Your Business Merchant Services

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Industry research confirms what we all suspect and even have experienced: consumers using credit cards spend from 20% to 250% more than those who rely on checks or cash.

The average cash payer at McDonald’s spends $4.50 while those using debit or credit cards part with $7.00. The theory goes that those handing over dollar bills want to conserve them, but those using credit cards focus more what they’re getting from their purchase.[ii] In short, this second set focuses more on that steaming burger than the money in their hand.

American consumers love convenience of credit cards. Where 66% use credit and debit cards to buy both items and services, just 27% use cash. Further, experts expect the number of cash-using consumers to drop another few points to 23% by 2017.[iii]

These statistics lead to one conclusion: even the smallest business needs to accept credit cards to maximize sales. While a large corporation can put a team on finding the best merchant services provider for their needs, small business owners must evaluate competitors in the minutes between running their marketing program, taking calls and re-stocking shelves. It’s not easy juggling so many tasks. We well understand the saying,

“It’s great having a small business.
You get to choose which 100 hours per week to work!”

If you are looking to accept credit cards while maintaining solid creditworthiness for your business, finding an ethical merchant services provider who will be your partner in success is critical. These steps will shorten and clarify your research process.

1. Understand that to be able to accept credit cards you need to create a merchant account with a third party so that the money can move from the customer’s account to the merchant or business owners.

2. Determine your monthly sales volume. This step will weed out the merchant service providers that have a monthly minimum higher than your volume.

3. Determine whether you’ll be processing transactions online or at a bricks and mortar location. Equipment and software options will vary depending on this factor. You may need to integrate your account with third party services that also charge monthly fees.

4. Determine how many times each day will you run cards. Estimating this keeps you from over-buying features you don’t need.

5. Determine whether you’d prefer to rent equipment ($20 to $50 per month) or buy it (several hundred dollars). If you’re not sure about the business viability, renting for the first few months could be your best option.

6. Create a comparison sheet with these features listed down the leftmost column.

• Transaction rates: the majority of small business costs
• Equipment and setup costs
• Customer service: critical for small business owners who are not finance or technology experts
• Contracts and service terms: make sure you have clear confirmation
• Funding and processing time
• EMV capability: for smart cards that read data from integrated chips rather than magnetic strips. Credit card companies switched to this method in fall of 2015.
• Customization
• Simplicity of setup and use
• Possible third-party disintegration
• analysis and reports: to make your costs clear
• Types of processing
• Types of payments they accept: Visa, Mastercard, giftcards, debit cards and more
• Service constraints: what your merchant service provider WON’T provide
• Any additional features and benefits

7. Call the merchants you’re interested in and fill in the details.

8. Make sure the new merchant services integrate with any other ecommerce or other accounting software you currently use. Ask your tech people about the merchant services provider you’re considering.

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A+ Rated First Financial’s Small Business Merchant Accounts
Accept Revenue-Boosting Credit Cards to Ensure Your Business Longevity

First Financial is the nation’s leading provider of merchant accounts, particularly for the high risk borrowers. Apply for a small business merchant account here. We know that lots of reputable businesses exist in high-risk categories like Information Technology, simply because they’re new. Fill out the application in minutes. Follow First Financial on Facebook to get smart budgeting and saving tips, too!

Smart Ways to Manage Your Merchant Account for Long Term

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How to Apply

blank You don’t have to tell us how tough it is to win a high-risk merchant account, we hear about it every day from our callers. Luckily, because First Financial specializes in high-risk merchant accounts, every day, we ease minds and get scores of businesses on the path to accepting credit cards. Adult related services, golf club manufacturers, travel agencies and airlines all have one thing in common: relegation to the high-risk merchant account category. Despite a few extra steps, businesses in these industries and 30 or so more niches run profitably. Here at First Financial, we urge applicants to rid the term “high-risk” of its typical, negative meaning and instead consider it just another category that requires a few more steps before credit card money payments start pouring in.

Once a business has proven its reliability and business potential to a merchant services provider, it doesn’t relish the idea of going through the whole process all over again. That’s why it’s key to skillfully manage the high-risk account you win to avoid charge backs and other issues that the processor could see as a red flag. We find that lots of these red flags simply amount to oversights typical of the hard-working, thinly stretched entrepreneur. Still, knowing exactly how to run your merchant account can save you hassle, time and money and hopefully win you a dedicated merchant service provider that stays with you for decades.

Avoid Chargebacks by Providing Helpful, Available Customer Service
We tackle the biggest issue first. A high rate of chargebacks (returns) is the number one reason so many large banks refuse to even speak to the businesses in the 30+ high-risk industries. Airlines and travel agencies get chargebacks when travelers decide last minute that Las Vegas is too just crowded and Yosemite calls to them instead. Golf club manufacturers get chargebacks when their clubs DON’T turn buyers into LGPA tour competitors (imagine that!).

While many put chargebacks in “the price of doing business” category, conscientious customer service reduces them significantly. Giving your ideal clients easy ways to contact you—rather than the merchant service provider—reduces your chargeback rate significantly. Make your business transparent and easy to contact by making the following adjustments to your website and other customer contact points.

• Clearly post email addresses and phone numbers on your website.

• Create Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube channels where customers are free to post their opinions, complaints and even praise. Recognize that every business now has customers posting criticism and praise every day. Most readers can differentiate the crackpots from the reasonable people.

• Consider setting up an email newsletter that keeps your customers in contact with you. Make it clear that the newsletter’s purpose is to support the customer’s optimal use of your products and services.

While this level of transparency can intimidate some business owners, rest assured that research consistently confirms that customer service representatives and others easily turn complaining customers into brand evangelists simply by listening to customer complaints, sympathizing and rectifying any errors.

One of the most respected ways to indicate a business’ transparency is to make sure to include complete descriptor information on the consumer’s monthly credit card statement. Make sure the consumer can read the full company name and complete customer service number. High-risk merchant accounts get cancelled when incomplete phone numbers or business names appear. Ensure your contact information is correct by running a test transaction.

Other ways to limit chargebacks include:
• Manually review transactions where the customer’s authentication request was declined. Consider calling the buyer.
• Create and disclose all return, privacy, refund, return and cancellation policies.
• Review and batch transactions on a daily basis.
• Insist on proof of identification upon delivery for high priced items.
• Cancel orders immediately upon client request.
• Consumers change credit cards frequently. Work with your merchant account provider to set up automatic credit card updates.

Demonstrate Client Service
In the era of digital marketing when businesses have to provide all kinds of value before winning a sale, businesses must go the extra mile to forge lasting relationships with each and every customer. Merchant service providers appreciate signals that a business works to benefit its clients. Express client services take the form of emails to customers to report when an order is shipped that also provides the tracking code. Emails that explain an order is on backorder also indicates to merchant service providers that the high-risk business operates for the benefit of their customer base. Finally, satisfying customers demanding refunds may feel like short-term pain, but long-term reliability and respectability. Even if a business wins a chargeback dispute, that chargeback still remains on their record. Is it worth it?

Fast Response to Merchant Services Inquiries
When the merchant services agency contacts the business to discuss a dispute, a fast response reassures the agency that the business operates in a responsible, efficient manner. Business occurs between people. A merchant services representative that gets a satisfying, friendly answer from a customer service representative or business owner will of course view that case more favorably than the business without this courtesy.

Take the Time to Monitor Accounts and Use Fraud Protection
Increasingly sophisticated Internet criminals attempt fraudulent purchases in hopes for a return that results in cash. Always manually review your monthly statements and consider calling buyers that seem suspicious. Do not ship until you’ve established the buyer’s sincerity.

Most merchant services offer fraud protection that block transactions from countries notorious for high levels of fraud. It also compares each credit card transaction against reliable standards to reduce instances of fraud.

First Financial Merchant Services Welcomes Businesses In High Risk Industries
First Financial has found the merchant service providers who are hungry to get businesses in high-risk industries accepting credit cards. With the majority of American consumers using credit cards more than other payments at a rate of three to one, any business that wants to reach optimal cash flow must accept credit cards. Apply for a high-risk merchant account here. Follow us on Facebook to get smart budgeting and saving tips!

4 Ways to Reduce Your Merchant Credit Card Processing Fees

Credit card processing fees just come with the territory. That customers spend 20 t0 50 percent more when using credit cards should reassure you that accepting them feeds your profits. Use these tips to keep even more of your profits when you reduce your merchant credit card processing fees.

Find the Processor that Wants You

GET STARTED

Just as lenders can specialize in certain types of borrowers, processors like to stock their portfolios with merchants that meet carefully selected criteria. They marshal the software and hardware that caters to different transaction amounts and volumes. They may also design their offers by a merchant’s average ticket price (ATP) or lifetime value (LTV). That’s why you should evaluate several merchant processors to see which wants to work hardest for your business.

This said, make sure that processors offering low rates also provide sufficient services and aren’t hiding fees. When you find a possible processor, check its Better Business Bureau rating. Create a spreadsheet and get answers to the following questions:

· What is the total interest rate when including all fees?

· What are the application, cancellation, statement and service fees? Can these be waived?

· Do you require contracts? What are the terms?

· How can I get a lower fee per transaction?

Those not willing to work with you do not deserve your business. Review the answers other merchant account services. Always read the fine print.

Hardware Considerations

Leasing credit card terminal means you’ll end up paying up to 20 times the machine’s cost. Typically, leases run for three to five years. While the terminals cost $200 to $400 up front, leasing can run from $40 to $70 each month. Keep in mind that you can also consider mobile credit card readers that plug into smartphones. These include Paypal Here, SparkPay, Intuit GoPayment and more.

There are also a handful of new mobile credit card readers merchants can consider. These inexpensive devices plug into a smartphone or tablet and allow credit cards to be accepted from anywhere. Examples include Square, Etsy, Intuit GoPayment, Paypal Here, Spark Pay and Amazon Local Register. Evaluate them to determine which fit your sales type and volume.

Remember to Swipe Rather than Entering Manually

When the merchant enters the cardholder’s information manually, they’ll pay more in fees per transaction than if swiping the card. Accounting software Intuit tells us that this is because processors know that manually entered transactions can be more easily hacked by thieves. A credit card’s magnetic strip or EMV chip has the most state-of-the-art security features. When a merchant enters numbers manually, those security features are not engaged. With risk of fraud high with manual entry, processors balance their risk by charging more. If you have to retrain cashiers, do it.

Use Minimum Sales Amounts to Maximize Profits

Convenience stores and restaurants have credit card use minimums for good reason. Small transactions with thin margins can make the sale a money loser. Some merchants worry that a minimum could cut sales. If customers push back on this policy, explaining the costs involved usually helps them understand.

All it takes is putting up a note that says you accept credit cards, but require a minimum sale of $10 or $20. If a customer doesn’t understand, simply explain that the cost of processing plastic can be burdensome.

Today, all businesses must accept credit and debit cards. With all of the additional payment methods requiring a processor, no business can go without a merchant account. The fees involved should not scare you away from providing your customers a wide variety of ways to pay.

Merchant Services Help You Increase Your Sales – Call 1 (800) 950-0212

How Wedding Expenses Pay for Themselves Long-Term: Recent Research

bride and groom holding hands in heart shape

Couples getting married today may wonder if the investment in a big wedding is worth it. And of course all kinds of family members have their opinions. And they have a point: the average cost of a wedding in the United States in 2017 was nearly $26,000. That money could go to the down-payment on a house, a superstar honeymoon or zucchini spiralizers for everybody!  (Millennials love their vegetable pastas.)

How to Save For Your Wedding Without Going Broke

Don’t jump to thrifty Aunt Gargamel’s notion that a wedding is a waste of money, however.

Psychologist Charles Kiesler studied the correlation of weddings and long-term marital success. He found all kinds of advantages to spending for that once-in-a-lifetime celebration.

After decades of research Kiesler concluded, “commitment is strengthened when it is publicly declared because individuals strive to maintain consistency between what they say and what they do.” In other words, a big wedding with many witnesses typically leads to a drive–even a need–to follow through on the commitment. The couple says their vows in front of their community, making a pact, not only with each other, but with all the onlookers as well.

Kinda makes sense, right?

The other advantage of a having a meaningful wedding is the effect it has on the two families involved. During the run up to the event, family members and even friends of the two partners get to know each other. They work together on different projects and share their experiences with the couple. Any time more connections are made throughout our society, the better. New friends are made at weddings. New couples even form when members of the wedding party peek around the bride and groom to bat eyes at each other. We are a social species after all, and extensive research has proven that the stronger and more numerous our connections, the happier and healthier we are as individuals. Having the wedding creates a strong network for the couple to rely on as they tackle big challenges like children, work stressors and deaths in the family. This safety net is priceless.

We know: the wedding is still $26,000! And with the economic downturn of 2008 – 2012, many parents of the those getting married are working madly to save for their own retirement rather than a child’s wedding.

One way to make the price a little more bearable is to take out a personal loan that you pay off monthly for several years. A $26,000 loan at a 7% rate for a 5-year term will run a couple $515 per month. Cost-cutting couples who marry in a park and follow it up with dinner at a reasonable venue can get away with a $10,000 wedding. Amortized at 7% for 5 years, the monthly payment comes down to $198 per month. Both of these figures assume borrowers have “good” credit in the 700 to 720 range.

The personal loan at 7% is a far better option than running up credit card debt where rates run from 15% to 29%. With the money coming up front, however, couples must learn how to budget carefully and with discipline. Having a big lump sum tends to tempt even the cautious to be more loose with cash, getting those extra centerpieces or consenting to let extra people come to the wedding.

With this in mind, take these steps to stretch every penny of the personal loan you qualify for.

  • Get quotes for all venues and services up front
  • Create a spreadsheet that makes comparing venues clear
  • Use cash for the down-payments to reserve venues and vendors
  • Enter all down-payments and payoffs into a budget spreadsheet, including dates

This way, when the loan arrives in your bank account, you can quickly send it to the appropriate vendors before you’re tempted to spend it. Luckily, you have an accountability partner: your betrothed!

But this could be where it gets tough. You don’t want this exciting time to be marred by bickering and disagreement. Be ready to compromise and give up some of your own wishes. Set expectations from the beginning and try to keep it fun rather than stressful. Of course, no two people approach finances similarly. Consider even working with a pre-marital counselor to figure out how you will negotiate different decisions and the budget. That $150 (per session) will come back to you many times over.

Get a Personal Loan for a Wedding: What the Bank Wants

That you’re even reading this post indicates your sincerity about doing everything you can to plan your wedding the right way. Because you won’t need to put up any “security” (car and home loans are “secured” loans), it’s considered an “unsecured loan.” Prepare to apply online for a personal loan for your wedding when you get these documents together.

Proof of income:

  • Bank statements
  • Any and all debts you may have including student loans
  • Basic income and identity documentation such as W2’s, drivers license
  • Social Security card
bride and groom after wedding

A+ Rated First Financial Has the Low-Cost, Online Personal Loans for Your Wedding

First Financial has connected thousands of brides and grooms with low-cost personal loans for weddings. Financing your wedding with an online personal loan is smart money-management. Online lenders can offer lower cost-loans because they don’t have the bricks-and-mortar branches, labor and marketing costs traditional banks do. More, online lenders offer MORE loans to MORE applicants because, with lower costs, they can take risks on more applicants. In fact, online lenders are renowned for acceptance rates far higher than those of traditional banks.

5 Ways to Be Debt Free by Christmas

Family Celebrating being Debt Free

 

blankMost people have some debt, but if your situation has gotten out of hand, now is the time to figure out how you can pay it off before it gets even worse. By figuring out how much you owe, picking a strategy to pay it off, and making a couple sacrifices along the way, you could be debt free by Christmas.

Here’s how to get started:

Know how much money you owe

The first step to paying off the debt you owe is to figure out exactly how much debt you’re in. You may have avoided doing this because you’re scared of the number, but it essential as it will help you keep perspective and figure out a plan to pay it off. Gather all debts you owe, from credit cards to student loans to medical expenses, and calculate how much it all adds up to.

Develop a strategy

The next step is to develop a strategy to pay off the debt. This is important. Picking and being able to stick to a strategy will help you pay down the debt faster, while also knowing that the sacrifices you’re making to do so have a set end date, giving you some peace of mind. There are two main strategies to pay off debt: Debt avalanche and debt snowball. The first one is the fastest, and has you pay off the debts with the highest interest rates first. This can save you a lot of money over the long term, but you won’t feel much progress is being made at first.

If you feel as if you need to see yourself making progress to stick to a strategy, debt snowball is likely for you. This strategy takes the opposite approach. Arrange your debts from smallest to biggest (ignore the interest rate) and begin paying off the smallest ones first. This will help you see that you are making progress, but will likely cost you money over the long term due to interest.

 Commit a set amount of money to the debt

 Another excellent way to help you pay down your debt steadily is to set aside a set amount of money every month and put it towards the debt. Start out by calculating how much you need to spend per month on necessities (include building up an emergency fund) and then subtract that from your total monthly income to get an idea about how much you can put towards the debt every month. The higher the debt, the more of that money you will want to dedicate towards it.

Get a side job

Even with these strategies, paying off these debts is no easy task. It takes persistence and sacrifice for possibly years. One way to help you but a bigger dent in the amount you owe is to get a side job. Even if it’s just on the weekends doing something simple, you could easily find yourself with a couple extra hundred dollars at the end of every month to put towards the debt. It may not sound like a lot, but it could save you hundreds if not thousands over the long run, and you’ll have that debt paid down much quicker.

Happy debt-free people

Renting a room

When calculating your total monthly expenses, chances are the rent towards your apartment is what is eating up most of your budget. You could downsize to a smaller apartment, but this would involve lots of paperwork and being stuck there for a few years. An alternative solution is to rent out a room in someone’s house or apartment. There is little to no hassle, and with the money saved, you could put even more towards the debt or perhaps avoid getting that side job. Either way, if you owe a lot of money, this is certainly an option to look into.

 

First Financial

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