cfaproperty – Severn Valley Business Group
 

Author: cfaproperty

cfaproperty

CFA provides business finance solutions for SME's looking to understand the maze that is business funding today, whether than business is brand new and just starting out or indeed it has a track record upon which it is growing. Specialties include auction and short term finance, commercial and investment mortgages, cash flow funding and access to the 'Alternative' lending marketplace

Is your credit score really that important?

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You will probably have seen a range of adverts on the TV highlighting how important knowing our own credit score it – and the ability to receive them ‘Free for Life’ – take them with a pinch of salt, why?  Simply put they are a marketing ploy to encourage you to source financial credit products, loans and credit cards though them for which they receive an introductory commission or to sign up for their enhanced services where you will be ‘shown’ how to improve your score.crscore

For starters, a score of 600 from one provider means exactly the same as a score of 857 from another – because they use a different figure to measure it from, 700 or 1,000 in these examples, all it can give you is a flavour for how your finances (by their assessment) are fairing.

There are three principal Credit reference agencies, Experian, currently doing the rounds with the moody dog on the adverts, Equifax and Call Credit.  The scores from all of them come free but it is only the latter one through their website, www.noddle.co.uk that will give you your Full Credit Report every month for free, and one I would recommend everybody sign up to.  The others can charge between £7 and £15 per month just for the same information.  Are they all the same?  Broadly yes as they will capture most loans, credit cards, mortgages, mobile and utility contracts, occasionally something may be missed out but as lenders and credit providers use a combination of them all, a general idea of where you stand will help.

Do remember that 6 years of data is recorded so if you have had problems in the past they will not disappear from the report for a long time and can seriously dent your chances of getting the best credit solutions when you need them.  Remember too, If you run a company, a poor personal credit file can often hold your company back as it looks to expand

Is improving your credit score a myth though?  No it isn’t and here are some tips to do so.

  • Don’t take out payday loans – they will bite you when trying to get conventional financial products for ages
  • If your credit cards have high limits but very low balances consider asking for them to be reduced as having too much ‘available credit’ is viewed negatively
  • If you have been a ‘rate tart’ in the past by moving balances around to get the best deals, close the unused cards afterwards for the same reason as the point above
  • Try and pay off your credit card in full each month or if you don’t make sure you pay more than the minimum required
  • If the provider offers to increase your limit, don’t take them up on it
  • If you have had past credit challenges and have come to a financial arrangement with a creditor, get the arrears paid off otherwise you will constantly be moving the ‘bad news’ forward
  • If you have a judgement against you, get it paid off AND recorded as satisfied, if you never pay your debts after losing in court, few, apart from the very expensive lenders will want to know you.
  • Make sure you are recorded on the electoral roll, you may not want to vote, but being ‘anchored’ in the community helps a lot
  • Don’t go hunting around for credit as each enquiry will leave a footprint on your file. Too many, and the later applications will fail.  It is much better to get a professional adviser to make sure what you are applying for is likely to be available.
  • Pay your bills on time – paying a mobile phone or gas bill just one day late will show as 1 month in arrears to anybody looking at your credit file

Finally as one of the fastest growing areas of crime relates to identity theft, a monthly review of your credit file can help you spot something that is wrong early on, and you can get it put right.

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Time Management by Minimising Distractions and Time Wasters

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timeagainThere are many things in our lives that can potentially waste an awful lot of time so if Time Management is something you are trying to get to grips with, cutting down on distractions can help in managing your limited time much easier.

Although the following are slanted towards running a business, a lot of them also apply to every other aspect of our social and private lives……

The Phone

  • When you’re busy turn your phones (especially mobiles) onto silent or use a call answering service to weed out the wasteful calls
  • Use voice-mail wisely (leave a suitable message and keep it current) and set aside times to return missed calls.
  • Schedule times in the day when you will receive calls – let others know when that is
  • Have a personal mobile phone and use that for Friends and family who can then still reach you in an emergency.
  • When making or receiving a call, be polite, listen and clarify but try to avoid excessive small talk keeping calls as brief as possible.
  • Take calls whilst standing up, research shows people who stand up while on the phone keep their conversations much shorter and to the point.
  • If you agree to take on tasks as part of the phone call, act on them straight away – even if this means adding them to your ‘to-do’ list or ‘to-do book’ in my case..
  • Store numbers that you dial frequently in your phone or keep a list readily available near the phone. With the size of phone memories there is no reason why you shouldn’t add the caller’s details to your contacts if you ever expect to speak to them again, it looks professional when they next call you too!.

Managing Emails

  • Only check your emails a couple of times a day.  Close your email client (Outlook, Thunderbird etc) when it is not being used.  New emails flashing up on your computer screen will be a huge distraction and time waster. The people sending them are very adept at adding a catchy subject line to encourage you to open them
  • Set up folders and rules in your email client helping to automatically filter and file email messages. Simon Collingridge recommended NeoPro (http://www.emailorganizer.com) to make that task easier
  • Schedule a block of time each day for sending and responding to emails.  Don’t let emails build up to unmanageable levels. If you have to respond straight away, do so with a 1 line acknowledgement and an indication when you will be able to give their query/question proper or considered attention
  • Delete all spam emails immediately. Don’t even bother opening them!
  • Delete all irrelevant emails immediately.  We are often included when someone ‘replies to All’ – put it in the bin if it is not relevant
  • Forward emails to somebody who can provide a better response if appropriate.
  • Try to handle each relevant email only once, read and respond immediately within your scheduled time.  Once done file the email away.
  • Be wary of emails marked urgent or high priority, they in most cases never are, and at the end of the day it is up to you and not someone else to decideg what takes priority

The Post (snail mail)

  • Open your mail over a waste-paper basket and bin (recycle) what you can immediately.
  • Deal with mail immediately if possible, read, process and reply or action.  Aim to handle each piece of mail only once.

Computers

  • Turn off any instant messaging applications or applications that are constantly updating, like Facebook, your local weather App or indeed the ‘Live’ pages on the BBC, they will steal your time
  • Close programs and documents when you have finished using them – file your documents in a logical way.  This not only removes distractions but also means your computer has more resources for doing the next job, and you will know where to find those earlier files in double quick time without having to resort to file ‘searches’.
  • If you are tempted to distract yourself with a computer game then either ration the amount of time you play or uninstall it from your computer.
  • Make sure your computer is protected from viruses and malware.  Backup your work and test your backup; Be aware of security at all times, trying to retrieve lost work or data will wipe out any positive steps you have made to manage your time
  • Work within your means whenever possible.  Trying to learn new IT Skills when you are pressed for time can be a disaster, ask somebody for help or find a simpler way of achieving your goal.  Schedule time in the future to learn specific IT Skills or outsource the bits that you can.
  • Invest in any software that will save you time, I currently use ‘Roboform’ (http://www.roboform.com) which not only populates online forms for us but using the paid version (£7.95 pa) will store all of your commonly used passwords safely (using a master password access) which can be used across multiple PC’s, laptops, tablet and phones. I suspect I save the cost of the annual subscription in 1 – 2 days of normal business, so well worth it

Pre-Arranged Meetings

  • Only attend meetings that are relevant to you.  Is the meeting necessary and does it have a specific purpose?
  • Aim to arrive on time for meetings, neither early nor late. Always factor in travelling times if they apply
  • Know the purpose of the meeting and get a copy of the agenda in advance if you can.  Arrange to leave the meeting early if it is only partially relevant.
  • Agree in advance how long meetings will run for.  Start and end the meeting on time.
  • Use a timed agenda, especially for longer meetings or where the chairperson is less effective, it is your time that could be wasted.

Visitors – Impromptu Meetings

  • Let people know when you are available to meet with visitors
  • Schedule blocks of time when you can meet with visitors and refer to these as appointments – try to limit each appointment to 10 or 15 minutes.  The word appointment is more formal and people are less likely to think they are ‘popping in for a chat’ and more likely to come for a specific reason. If people (sales people and BDM’s here) are’ just in your area, can they call on you?’, unless you are free let them know you are too busy, their 10 minute pop-in could easily turn into an hour
  • Learn to say no.  If visitors arrive at an inconvenient time then politely explain that you cannot see them and schedule the visit for a mutually convenient time.
  • Don’t forget to schedule time to spend with friends and of course family!

Family Commitments

  • Use a calendar or wall planner for which each member of the family is responsible for recording their commitments and activities (can be a challenge with teenagers who lose the ability to communicate around the age of 13!).  Include clubs and societies, social events, days off, doctor and dentist appointments, planned events such as holidays and car services, hairdresser appointments, visits from friends and extended family – as much information as possible so that each day can be managed effectively.
  • Use a tray or box for keeping important paperwork together near the calendar.  Include appointment reminders, – post it notes on the fridge work in our house – phone messages and other relevant documents.  Throw away documents as soon as they expire or are superseded.

Stress

  • When we’re busy or even when we are not and would like to be busier, we are more likely to have a shorter temper than when we are more relaxed.  Little things are more likely to irritate us and we’re more likely to snap at people or colleagues.  Stress and anger will both potentially waste more time – and you run the risk of damaging your health and the feelings of others.  Always try to stay as calm as possible, let others know that you are busy and that you need time to complete your tasks.  People usually understand and may even offer to help!
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forumI think most people know how I feel about Blogs and they can be likened to ‘Marmite’, you either love them or hate them, as came out in the recent presentation on them.

The second part of the presentation on using Forums to promote our businesses perhaps fell on more receptive ears, so what about them?

The general consensus is that most people end up on forums because they have a problem, if the members of the forum come across as both knowledgeable and helpful, we tend to follow them more often whilst we have need for their expertise. But it is worth just being associated with those that touch on our own areas of business.

Because we lend to property investors I actively follow two forums, Property Tribes and Landlord Zone, aiming to answer as many finance based questions as arise, not to promote my business as many don’t allow that, but if they do, a judicious forum ‘signature’ with a link to my website can do no harm. As far as both of those forums are concerned they also cover other ‘questions’ outside of my level of expertise and on at least 4 occasions I have been able to promote other SVBG members as a specialist who could help the poster.

It is all about building a reputation as someone who has the answers, or maybe just knows someone who does, and last year just being around these two earned us over £2k in fees, so worth a bit of forum lurking!

Why not try for yourself, as long as you go in with a giving rather than a receiving mindset and associate with those that could benefit your business further down the road, after all Facebook is just a forum, and look how many people use that!

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Business Networking has its rogues too!

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Dodgy

Image courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Business networking generally has a good press, but it seems that some people are using it to exploit others as the following missive from one of the cash flow funders we deal with highlights.

Fraudsters are using a new scam to target small firms with established finance facilities, according to Ashley Business Finance.

The company is warning others to beware after two of its small business clients lost over  £100,000 between them.

In both cases, which involved firms in Wigan and Manchester, the fraudsters met their victims at networking groups. They posed as genuine businessmen who had clinched a major order from a big company which they were unable to fulfill themselves and offered a share of the profits in return for help to buy stock.

Jonathan Cranston, chairman of Ashley Business Finance, said the losses could have been much greater and believes there may be many more similar cases which have not yet come to light.

He said: “In both these cases the fraudsters had infiltrated networking groups, where people tend to assume they are dealing with bona fide businesses.

“They then cleverly use the conversation to identify firms with access to established factoring or invoice finance facilities, and claim to have won a big contract which they are unable to fund themselves. They persuade victims to buy stock and invoice them for it and, to build confidence, may even pay the first invoice.

“These are highly sophisticated fraudsters who catch people off guard, come up with a plausible story and even provide a viable paper trail using the names of real companies and directors who are unaware of what is happening. However frauds such as these can be devastating for small firms.

“We are advising businesses to beware of deals which may appear too good to be true, check out the companies concerned and never offer to let others take advantage of their finance facility, no matter how good the deal seems.”

Both cases were reported to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting service.

It all comes to, in the end, that if something seems too good to be true it probably is, and if the opportunity is a legitimate one, even the most awkward of lenders would be prepared to listen and help them.  Jonathan was more than happy for me to share this with you as these con artists are becoming more resourceful every day.

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Twenty five years ago this month the following was in the news:

  • Nelson Mandela was released after 27 yrs in prison
  • The US, Britain & France agreed to Germany reunifying (I didn’t realise they needed our say so)
  • Sinead O’Connor was in the official charts with ‘Nothing Compares to You’
  • Perrier recalled 160m bottles of their water potentially contaminated with a carcinogen (Where are they now?)
  • Voyager 1 took a picture of the earth from 3.5 bn miles away (I was waving then honest and it’s 12.16 bn miles away as of this afternoon and still going strong)

And the big one:

  • Corporate Finance Associates opened the door for business – doesn’t time fly (and the waistline expand)

25yrs

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