Top 5 Technologies to Implement in Your Small Business

Between new tablets, VR, AR, and Zoom calls, Americans are practically swimming in new technology. Advancements are getting faster every day. So, what does this mean for business owners? You have more tools to help your small businesses thrive! From automating key work processes to hosting data, we’ve listed our favorites below. Here are our top 5 technologies to implement in your small business:

 

CRM Software

If you work with lots of clients, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool is a game changer. A CRM acts as your personal database, tracking critical information about your contacts. Then, by processing the information, your CRM allows you to assess and organize each of your relationships.

A CRM acts as your personal database, tracking critical information about your contacts.

A CRM will streamline both your inbound and outbound logistics. By streamlining contact information, A CRM can help your sales, marketing and administration departments operate smoothly.

Companies like SalesforceZoho and Hubspot offer their CRM software online, so you can access your leads – anytime, anywhere.

 

Online Team Communication Apps

Gone are the days of yelling office-to-office, crowding the water cooler (wait, what’s that?), and sending unnecessary emails. Now, more than ever, small businesses can compete with the ‘big dogs’ thanks to this tech!

Now, more than ever, small businesses can compete with the ‘big dogs’ thanks to this tech!

Team communication apps are taking the business world by storm, and for good reason. These apps keep all your team communication online. Apps like SlackMicrosoft Teams, and more streamline employee discussions. They even organize them by team, project, or subject. Talk about a huge time & stress saver!

Need to send an all-staff update, ask just your marketing department a question, or speak with a specific teammate? You can assign corresponding channels for each.

Additionally, these apps allow you to easily find information shared between you and your teammates.

These apps allow you to easily find information shared between you and your teammates.

The best apps even integrate with your favorite productivity apps. For example, Slack can integrate with everything from Workday to Google Drive. This way, you can easily access all your files online. And most of these apps are available both desktop & mobile, allowing you to work whenever, wherever.

 

Project Management Software

When you’re running a small business, you’ve got a lot on your plate. With projects spanning your company’s capabilities, trying to keep track of all projects can be overwhelming. Enter, project management software.

Apps like AsanaBasecamp, and Microsoft Projects help businesses schedule, track, and collaborate on projects.

Project management software allows managers to break down projects & easily delegate. These apps make delegating specific tasks, details, and deadlines easy! Communicating about projects has never been faster or easier!

 

Cloud-Based Storage

With data exponentially expanding, more and more businesses are opting to store their data in the cloud. Remember those office servers? Now you don’t have to keep your servers on site, and it can be more secure and less expensive to do so.

Cloud-based storage offers a number of perks, namely the ability to access your files at any time. Services such as OneDriveGoogle DriveBox and Dropbox offer both desktop and mobile access. This allows you and your coworkers to collaborate on files and projects even when you’re not physically together.

Cloud storage services are also scalable, perfect for a small business! You can just pay for the storage you need. When storing your data in the cloud, you increase security while cutting down on hardware costs. These cloud services have added benefits of enterprise-level security and unlimited data backup. Great right!

When storing your data in the cloud, you increase security while cutting down on hardware costs.

 

Mobile Point-Of-Sale Systems

Mobile Point-of Sale (POS) systems are a game-changer for small businesses! With the ease of an app and small addition to your phone, you can set-up shop anywhere!

Apps like SquareVend and Shopkeep have become increasingly popular for restaurant and retail businesses over the past few years. Mobile POS systems have made sales much easier for businesses across the nation.

Most mobile POS systems allow options for paperless receipts, where customers can opt to receive their receipts via text or email. While saving the environment, you can integrate your CRM with updated information for invaluable strategic marketing.

While saving the environment, you can integrate your CRM with updated information for invaluable strategic marketing.

 

In Closing

In our increasing technological world, small businesses are able to compete with the “big dogs” thanks to new technology. From CRM’s to mobile POS systems, there’s plenty of opportunity for entrepreneurs to learn and grow.

If you want to update your technology, but don’t have the cash flow to support the new equipment or software, Amerifund can help you with equipment financing and working capital.

What technologies are you planning on implementing into your business? Or has tech made a crucial difference in your day-to-day work flow? Comment below and let’s keep the discussion going!

 

5 Factors That Will Make or Break Your Personal Credit Score

When was the last time you checked your personal credit score? If you hesitate to answer, you’re not alone. 60% of American consumers have not checked their credit in the past 6 months, and 18% have never checked their credit scores. On average 24% check their credit “every few months.” according to Next Gen Personal Finance. And a much smaller percentage understand the number behind their credit score.

Of course we don’t blame them! Credit scores are multifaceted and can be complicated when you don’t understand the factors impacting the numbers. But we’re here to make the credit waters clearer. The Fair Issac Corp, or FICO, score is the most commonly used credit score, running from 300 to 850. Read on to understand the 5 categories FICO uses that will make or break your credit score.

 

1. Payment History

Payment history accounts for the most crucial part of your FICO score at 35% of your total score.

Why is it so important? Well, you wouldn’t visit a restaurant that had cases of food poisoning, would you? And you’re more likely to choose a 5-star barber over one who occasionally leaves his customers with bald spots, right? Your credit history functions very similarly.

Payment history accounts for the most crucial part of your FICO score at 35% of your total score.

Payment history shows how you’ve handled debt in the past and helps project how you’ll handle it in the future. This includes revolving trade lines, such as credit cards, as well as installments, such as an auto loan. It’s also important to know that your trade lines are all weighted differently. Defaulting on a larger loan (ie. mortgage payment or student loan) will hurt your credit score far more than a smaller default.

Making consistent, timely payments is one of the best ways to improve your credit score overall.

 

2. Amount of Debt

Your total outstanding debt is highly important when factoring in your FICO score. In fact, it accounts for 30% of your total score.

Your amount of debt is calculated similarly to your payment history as revolving and installment accounts are weighed differently. But when calculating your debt, revolving accounts weigh more. Revolving accounts allow you to borrow as much or as little as you want up to a limit (ie. credit cards).

Because revolving accounts do not have a predetermined amount, they are more risky.  Habitually maxing out credit cards or toeing the line of your limits indicates that your unable to responsibly handle your debt.

To score high in this category, keep your credit card balances low. It’s recommended to keep credit card spending contained under 25% of your credit limits.

It’s recommended to keep credit card spending contained under 25% of your credit limits.

 

3. Length of Credit History

If you’re new to credit, you’re not going to have a perfect credit score.

FICO looks at credit history to predict long-term financial behavior. The more history, the higher they can score you (assuming the other 4 categories are also positive).

FICO looks at credit history to predict long-term financial behavior. The more history, the higher they can score you.

Credit history makes up 15% of your total score. And the best way to improve that 15% is to start (or continue) building that history early! You can start building credit early by simply using a credit card and staying well below the limits.

 

4. New Credit

While on the subject of building credit, we want to caution that opening too many new accounts at once can actually harm your score.

New credit makes up 10% of your total score, as FICO analyzes how many new accounts you choose to open at a given time.

We suggest that you only take on new credit when it makes financial sense for you. Building credit the right way takes time, but it pays off in the long run, reflected in your credit score!

Only take on new credit when it makes financial sense for you.

 

5. Credit Mix

The final 10% of your FICO score is determined by your mix of revolving credit and installment loans.

Having a good mix of both types of credit shows that you can handle all kinds of credit. You are showing your monetary responsibility to lenders. When you have a great payment history across multiple trade lines, from credit cards to auto loans, you prove that you are less risky for lenders.

Having a good mix of both types of credit shows that you can handle all kinds of credit.

 

Action Steps

In closing, if you’re unsure what your credit score currently is, we highly suggest checking it. Knowing your number will be a huge asset to determine where you can grow. This way you can get the best rates for loans, rentals, and even financing for your business!

Be careful to check your credit sparingly. Too many hard credit pulls can decrease your credit score.

The FRCA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) allows individuals to pull their credit report once every 12 months to check for discrepancies, up-to-date information, and even check for identity theft. While this free service does not include the credit score itself, it includes helpful information and is the authorized site for all three major credit bureaus. It’s also considered a soft inquiry, minimally impacting your credit score.

Some banks offer to show your FICO score, and some bank apps have your score built in!

We hope you learned tips on how to improve your credit score. Check out our other blog resources to set your business up for success!

 

VIDEO: How to Be Proactive with Your Identity Security

In our data-rich culture, are you taking control of your information? Today, we are concluding our Identity Protection Video Series with LifeLock’s Chief of Identity Education, Paige Hanson. This final video ends the series with a bang! Watch this 3-minute video to learn how to be proactive with your identity security.

Why Proactive Protection?

In this final video, Paige reveals her tips and tricks on proactive protection of your personal information. This video will give you key takeaways and practical steps to keep your identity information safe!

“As a consumer, when you’re asked for information, you can ask,what for?” – Paige Hanson

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Key Takeaways
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TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR INFORMATION

    • When you are filling out forms, you can ask, “Do you really need my Social Security number?”
    • And if they don’t, you’re protecting more of your information.

MONITOR YOUR INFORMATION

    • Check your Credit. The Federal Government allows you to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit-reporting company. Paige recommends www.annualcreditreport.com.
    • Check your Social Security Payments. You can check your deposit amounts and see what you have paid to better plan for retirement and track your accounts. Paige recommends www.ssa.gov.
    • Monitor your Medical Information. Check what information insurance companies have on you. Paige recommends www.mib.com.

Take Action

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires companies who gather your personal information to give you annual access to your report, and you can request access. It’s time to take control of your information and monitor your information.

It’s time to take control & monitor your information.

If you’ve enjoyed this video series, or you have yet to watch all the videos in the series, check out our helpful Identity Protection Series, featuring over 25 unique resources for you and your business!

In this series you can watch all the videos in one place and even download them. View them on-the-go or present them at your next business meeting for some employee training – win-win! It’s the ultimate resource for business owners who value their identity protection.

 

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Thank You!

We hope you’ve enjoyed these videos as much as we’ve enjoyed providing you with the educational tools necessary to secure and protect yourself in an increasingly vulnerable world. We’d like to thank Paige Hanson of LifeLock for her invaluable insight into identity protection and cybersecurity, Brad White of Square Pictures for his help in producing these incredible videos, and most importantly, you, our readers and viewers. Thank you for taking ownership of your identity protection and taking the steps necessary to ensure that you are keeping your information safe.

VIDEO: How to Combat and Recover from Identity Theft

There’s a lot to consider when protecting yourself from identity theft. But what if you or someone you know has already experienced identity theft? Is there any hope to bounce back? We say, “Absolutely.” In this short video, LifeLock Identity Education expert Paige Hanson tackles how to combat & recover from identity theft.

 

The Video

 

 

The Threat of Identity Theft

Identity theft can stop someone dead in their tracks and cause a pit in their stomach, and for good reason. A stolen identity can wreak all kinds of havoc on an individual’s life. Even a 2017 FICO survey cited identity theft as a top security concern for US consumers. At 44%, identity theft was consumers’ highest concern, more than fear of death and fear of a terrorist attack combined.

Identity theft was consumers’ highest concern, more than fear of death and fear of a terrorist attack combined.

This is why it is so important to stay vigilant in an increasingly vulnerable world of information.

 

What if I’m a Victim of Identity Theft?

Whether it’s credit card fraud or someone opening a line of credit in your name, face it head on. With something like credit card fraud, Paige encourages consumers to contact their bank. These situations can be resolved reasonably simply.

Whether it’s credit card fraud or someone opening a line of credit in your name, face it head on.

But if someone opens a line of credit in your name for a new account or mortgage, that can be more daunting. It means the identity thief had enough information to impersonate you. In this case, you want to file a police report. Then, file an identity theft affidavit form from the FTC. Paige notes this could even take up to a year as you have to prove yourself innocent.

 

How Can I Protect Myself from Identity Theft?

Great question, here are some of Paige’s simple steps:

First, every consumer should look at their credit report once a year to ensure all activity is yours. Check out this secure site directed by Federal law to provide your annual credit report. And due to COVID-19, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are all offering free weekly online reports through April 2021. When you’re checking these, ensure no new lines of credit are opened in your name.

First, every consumer should look at their credit report once a year to ensure all activity is yours.

Next, make sure you’re keeping all your information secure. Paige’s video on protecting your identity and cybersecurity is full of tips to keep your online information safe.

Anyone who has a name, social security number and birthday is at risk for identity theft. So make sure your information is secure. Paige notes that we all need to stay on top of the latest bills to protect our privacy.

“We, as consumers, need to stay on top of the latest bills and things on the ballots that might protect our privacy. It’s important for us to be more involved because that is how changes are going to be made.” – Paige Hanson

 

What Next?

We hope this video was informative and will help keep you and your loved ones safe. We’ve still got one more video in our Identity Protection Series. Subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss out!

And don’t forget to check out the rest of the series, starting with fraud alerts and credit freezes, then your identity and cybersecurity and protecting yourself from cyber attacks.

If you’ve enjoyed this video, check out our helpful Identity Protection Video Series resource, featuring over 25 unique resources! You’ll be able to watch all the videos again in one place and download them. Feel free to use this for employee training at your business’s next meeting as well. Click below for the ultimate resource for business owners who value their identity protection.

 

VIDEO: How to Protect Yourself from Cyber Attacks

Our Identity Protection Series with identity education expert Paige Hanson continues with her best tips and tricks against cyber attacks. From ransomware to cyber scams, Paige has a vast understanding of the threats against vulnerable internet users. She answers our burning questions on which common internet scams we should be looking for and what ransomware actually is. To top it all off, she gives us the tools and knowledge we need to outsmart scammers in this installment of our five-part video series.

If this is your first video, be sure to check out the previous installments on fraud alerts and credit freezes and your identity and cybersecurity! Watch this 2-minute video to learn how to protect yourself from cyber attacks.

 

The Video

 

 

Scammers’ Two Messages

Paige mentions 2 types of messages scammers like to use: “Too Good to be True” & “Fear-Based”. Both have the end goal of getting you to react, to click that link and send them your data.

The “Too Good to be True” messages promise something that is just too good to be true. Whereas the “Fear-Based” messages taunt users into taking action. Paige recommends training employees to recognize both of these. This way they can send them to IT or raise the concerns with you instead of clicking on the link.

Scammers want you to react, to click that link and send them your data.

 

Action Items

Have open trainings with your employees. Paige notes that every company is as weak as their weakest employee. Proactive trainings will help protect you and your employees. They will ensure you are educated on potential threats and better prepared for when threats come knocking.

“You are as weak as your weakest employee. If you have ongoing, proactive training within your company dynamic, that will definitely make you more safe.” – Paige Hanson

If threats do affect your company, especially in the case of ransomware, Paige encourages you to connect with law enforcement. That way they are made aware and can help you as well.

 

In Closing

We hope you learned how to better protect you and your company from cyber attacks in this video. Check out our helpful Identity Protection Video Series resource, featuring over 25 unique resources for you and your business!

You’ll be able to watch all the videos again in one place and download them. Feel free to use this for employee training at your business’s next meeting as well. Click below for the ultimate resource for business owners who value their identity protection.

 

VIDEO: The Expert’s Opinion on Your Identity and Cybersecurity

We’re back for another installment in our Identity Protection Series with identity education expert, Paige Hanson. As Chief of Identity Education at LifeLock, Paige has educated thousands on the importance of protecting their personal information.

In this video, Paige tackles cybersecurity and shares valuable tips on how to keep yourself safe while browsing the web. From securing your network to managing your online passwords, this video is full of tips to keep your identity safe.

 

The Video

 

 

Use a VPN

A VPN is an encrypted, virtual private network, that keeps your data safe. When you access the internet, Paige recommends using a VPN so search engines can’t sell your history. Then, she recommends only visiting secure sites. These sites will have ‘https’ at the beginning of the URL, showing you their website is secure.

 

Use a Password Manager

Password managers are encrypted sites that store and create passwords. By being encrypted, these managers scramble your information so it can only be read by the intended party. They also keep all of your passwords in one location so you only have to remember 1 password to unlock all passwords. Therefore, you can create more complicated passwords and keep them in your password manager.

“Your password manager generates passwords for all your other online accounts. So they can be as complex as you want, and you really only have to remember one password” – Paige Hanson

 

Use 2-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication requires one extra step when logging into a site. After asking for your username and password, the site will ask for an additional confirmation either via email or phone. This ensures if a fraudster gets usernames and passwords, they still can’t get your personal data.

Paige encourages you to set up 2-factor authentication on your email, bank accounts and social media. Each of these has personal information that if a hacker had access to, they could wreak havoc on your life.

 

Closing Notes

We hope you learned simple ways to keep your personal information private on the internet. Lastly, Paige recommends keeping up-to-date on your updates. This includes updating your phone and tech software as updates become available. And she also recommends keeping a password on your phone since it contains so much personal information.

Be sure to subscribe to our blog to ensure that you don’t miss out on the next installment of our Identity Protection Video series. If you still need to get caught up on the videos you’ve missed, check out Paige’s tips and tricks regarding fraud alerts and credit freezes.