Create your Square account and provide your business information.
Customize your online store website.
Add your products.
Choose a domain name, if applicable.
Set up shipping, taxes, and checkout options.
Launch your online store.
Promote and manage your store.
If you’re a small business owner, you’ve more than likely heard of Square. Since their founding in 2009, Square has become a household name in payment processing and technology for small businesses. With the relaunch of the Square Online Store in early 2019, Square continues to expand their omnichannel offerings, allowing business owners to sell their services online with this ecommerce platform in addition to using their POS or payment services.
Therefore, whether you’re looking to add an ecommerce operation to your brick-and-mortar business, or simply are interested in starting an online store for the first time, you might consider using Square Online Store. To help you decide if this is, in fact, the right ecommerce platform for your business, we’ve created this ultimate guide to Square Online Store. We’ll break down both the features and pricing of Square’s ecommerce solution, as well as explain how to set up Square Online Store for your business. Plus, we’ll offer top ecommerce platform alternatives, so you’ll have all the information you need to find the best option for your business.
Square Online Store: The Basics
With Square Online Store, which is powered by the website builder Weebly, you can quickly and easily build and launch your ecommerce website, as well as manage the whole of your digital selling operations. Square Online Store allows you to list your products, accept payments, fulfill orders, and more. As part of the Square product suite, Square Online Store integrates and syncs with Square Point of Sale, allowing brick-and-mortar businesses to expand into the online space.
Square offers four different service plans for their online store platform, including a free version, where you only pay the cost of payment processing.
Square Online Store: Features
With these basics in mind, let’s dive deeper into the feature set Square Online Store has to offer business owners.
Square Online Store gives you the ability to create your ecommerce website, choosing from one of their pre-built layouts and customizing it for your business—editing colors and fonts, as well as adding your logo. The “what you see is what you get” editor allows you to modify your online store without needing technical knowledge, plus all of the Square Online Store designs are mobile-responsive.
Additionally, Square provides you with free SSL security for your site, unlimited storage for all of their paid plans, and the ability to connect a custom business domain name.
Products and Inventory
With Square Online Store, you can list and sell physical and digital goods and services, as well as utilize online ordering for in-store pickup. Square Online Store includes unlimited product listings, product options, badges, and tools for inventory management. If you’re using this ecommerce platform with Square POS, you can sync online and in-person orders, items, and inventory and track everything in one place with your Square dashboard.
As you might imagine, Square Online Store gives you the ability to accept payments through Square. Therefore, Square serves as your merchant of record, simplifies PCI compliance and data security, and allows you to accept a variety of different payment methods. Additionally, with the higher levels of the Square Online Store plans, you can accept payments through PayPal as well.
Shopping Cart and Order Fulfillment
Square Online Store includes online shopping cart functionality, giving customers the ability to add items to their cart and complete their order on your website. In addition, Square provides an automatic tax calculator, coupon code capabilities, Square gift cards, and an in-store pickup option, as we mentioned above.
For fulfilling your orders, Square Online Store offers a shipping calculator, integrated shipping labels, shipping discounts, and even real-time shipping. You can select your shipping carriers and track shipments all from your Square dashboard. Moreover, Square Online Store also offers abandoned cart email functionality, allowing you to send emails to customers reminding them to complete their order.
Example of Square Online Store dashboard. Source: Square
Marketing, Insights, and Integrations
To help with the success and promotion of your ecommerce business, Square Online Store provides built-in SEO features, lead capture and contact forms, and Instagram integration. Additionally, Square offers pop-up notifications, Facebook ads, and product reviews.
Furthermore, using the Square dashboard you can monitor your site statistics, transaction history, customer information, and generate a variety of pre-designed and custom reports. The Square dashboard also gives you the ability to connect to other products in the Square suite, like their marketing, payroll, and loyalty add-ons. Moreover, you can integrate your online store with the apps in the Square marketplace, ranging from shipping and inventory tools to invoicing and accounting software.
Square provides several customer support resources on their website, including a support center, how-to guides, and community forum. With your Square Online Store account, you also have access to the Weebly support website and can contact customer service via email, chat, or phone.
Square Online Store: Pricing
Now that we know a little more about what Square Online Store has to offer, let’s talk about one of the most important elements of any ecommerce solution: cost. As we mentioned earlier, Square Online Store is offered in four different plans—Free, Professional, Performance, and Premium.
The Free plan has no monthly cost and only requires that you pay for payment processing at Square’s flat rate of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. The free plan includes the following features:
Free SSL security
Up to 500 MB storage
Accept payments through Square
Product badges and options
Automatic tax calculator
Square gift cards
Lead capture and contact forms
Email, chat, and phone support
The first paid plan, the Professional plan, can be purchased annually or on a month-to-month basis. If you opt for the annual payment, you’ll only end up paying $12 per month, as opposed to $16 per month if you choose monthly billing. This plan includes all of the functionality of the Free plan, as well as:
Connect a custom domain
Remove Square ads
The next plan, the Performance plan, costs $26 per month if billed annually and $29 per month if billed month-to-month. The Performance plan offers all of the capabilities of the first two plans, plus:
The final plan, the Premium plan, offers the most functionality, at a cost of $72 per month if billed annually and $79 per month if billed month-to-month. This plan also has the added benefit of a discounted processing rate, 2.6% + $0.30 per transaction, compared to 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for all of the other plans. On top of the features of the three previous plans, the Premium plan also includes the best shipping discounts and real-time shipping.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that if you decide to utilize any of Square’s add-ons (loyalty, payroll, marketing, etc.) that you’ll have to pay the associated monthly cost for each. Moreover, if you want to connect any third-party integration to your Square Online Store, you may also have to pay for those services, as well.
How to Set Up Square Online Store for Your Business
Considering everything we’ve discussed thus far, you may be wondering exactly how to set up Square Online Store for your business. Luckily, one of the benefits of Square Online Store is that it’s pretty quick and easy to get started—plus, you can set up your ecommerce site for free and upgrade to a paid account later if necessary.
This being said, let’s walk through the steps of how to set up Square Online Store, to provide a better sense of exactly how this platform works.
Step 1: Create your Square account and provide your business information.
To get started with Square Online Store, you’ll need to create a Square account. Once you’ve clicked “start a free online store” from the Square website, you’ll be redirected to a page that asks for your email and country, and prompts you to create a password.
After you complete these fields and agree to the Square terms, you’ll provide more information about you, your business, and the online store you want to create. First, Square will ask for basic information about your business, including: business type, category, name, EIN (also known as a business tax ID number), estimated annual revenue, and employees.
Next, you’ll enter your personal information—name, address, date of birth, last four digits of your social security number or individual tax ID number, and phone number.
Then, you’ll be directed to answer questions about creating your store. Square will ask if you’re looking to create a single ordering page or a multi-page site. If you’re looking to create a fully functional online store, you’ll want to click “multi-page site.” Once you’ve made this choice, Square will ask you what you’re looking to sell in your online store, as seen in the photo below. You can choose multiple options and they can be changed later.
Step 2: Customize your online store website.
Once you’ve created your account and provided all of the information we described above, you’ll be able to design and edit your website through Square’s Weebly-powered builder. First, you’ll choose from a series of layouts, customize the basic colors and fonts, and add your logo. Next, you’ll be redirected to the Square Online Store editor where you can make additional customizations and add sections and pages. As you can see in the photo below, you’ll be able to edit features like your header, banner, footer branding, and more.
From this editor view, you’ll be able to preview your site, view a desktop and mobile version, and eventually set your store live.
Step 3: Add your products.
After you’ve made all of your modifications to the design of your online store, you’ll need to start adding your products. This is perhaps one of the most important and time-consuming steps.
To add a product, you’ll click the plus sign in the upper left hand corner and then select “product.” You’ll then want to add all of the relevant information about your product: type, title, description, photos, SEO options, and fulfillment settings. If the product has any variations, like size or color, or modifiers, you’ll be able to adjust these as well. Once you’ve completed all of your product fields, you’ll be able to save and view it using a test site link.
Once you’ve set up your products, you’ll want to choose a domain name. It’s important to remember that if you’re using the free plan, your URL will automatically generate to squareup.com/store/your-store-name. To utilize a custom domain, you’ll need to purchase one of the paid Square Online Store plans.
Step 5: Set up shipping, taxes, and checkout options.
Before you set your online store live, you’ll need to indicate how you’ll be shipping your products, collecting taxes, and allowing your customers to check out. From your store dashboard, you’ll find these modifications under “Store,” then “Setup.”
For shipping, you’ll need to indicate where you’ll be shipping your products from, the regions that you’ll ship to, and your associated shipping rates. You’ll also be able to utilize real-time shipping settings, like shipping services and packaging, if you have a paid plan. Additionally, if you’ll allow customers to pick up their orders in-store, you’ll indicate this setting—including dates, times, and other relevant information, under “Setup,” then “Pickup.”
Next, under the “Taxes” section, you’ll list all of your physical store locations to calculate U.S. tax rates for your orders. You’ll also be able to set the tax rates for every country and state that you ship to, as well as indicate if you’ll charge taxes on shipping rates. If you use the automatic tax calculator in the U.S., Square Online Store will perform all of these calculations for you—all you have to do is indicate your shipping address and regions.
Finally, you’ll need to edit your checkout settings. Again, on the left hand side you’ll see the label “Checkout.” Once you’ve navigated to this page, you’ll see that you’re automatically connected to Square to accept payments online from your customers. Here, you’ll also be able to enable Apple and Google Pay, connect PayPal (with a paid plan), add store policies, and adjust advanced settings including checkout mode, gift cards, and other checkout options.
Step 6: Launch your online store.
After you’ve adjusted all the necessary settings, you’ll be ready to take your store live. From the store editor (as seen above), you’ll be able to click the button in the upper right hand corner that says “Publish” to officially launch your site.
Once you’re live, you’ll be able to see the front end of your site and your customers will be able to start placing orders.
Step 7: Promote and manage your store.
With your live storefront, you’ll be able to promote your business and utilize the other tools and settings in Square Online Store. You will be able to connect Square POS, create coupons and store emails, connect your business Facebook and Instagram, and set up email signups and customer forms. If you have a paid plan, you’ll be able to utilize some of the more advanced tools like abandoned cart emails and product reviews.
Additionally, you’ll be able to manage your orders, view your transactions, and generate reports from your Square dashboard. As you progress with running your store, you’ll be able to determine if you need to adjust any settings, add pages or products, and even upgrade your plan.
Pros of Square Online Store
Now that we’ve explored how to set up Square Online Store for your business, let’s discuss how Square compares to other ecommerce solutions on the marketplace. All things considered, here are some of the most notable benefits of the platform:
As you can see from our step-by-step break down, it’s really quite simple to start an ecommerce business using Square Online Store. On the whole, the interface is intuitive, clean, and gives you the prompts necessary to edit, customize, and publish your online store. Additionally, by clearly illustrating the options you need to launch your site and enabling you to change them at any time, Square Online Store allows you to start selling very quickly. Moreover, Square Online Store makes ecommerce approachable for business owners of all backgrounds—you don’t need any technical experience to get started with this platform.
There are very few ecommerce platforms out there that allow you to run your online store and only pay credit card processing fees—but Square Online Store is one of them. If you’re looking to get started selling online for the first time, the free version of Square Online Store gives you the ability to do so, at an extremely low cost. Plus, with Square’s payment processing, Weebly editor, and feature set, you can quickly and easily start and manage an effective ecommerce business using the free version of this platform.
Square POS Integration
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of this ecommerce solution is that it comes from Square, and therefore, is easily connected to the Square suite of products. Square, of course, is not only known for their robust point of sale system, but their other offerings as well, including Square Payroll, as well as their payments platform. As such, Square Online Store carries over many of the qualities that Square is known for: tech-savvy, easy to use, and approachable.
Furthermore, Square Online Store’s ability to connect and sync with Square Point of Sale makes it a simple and affordable option for brick-and-mortar or service-based business owners who want to venture into the ecommerce space.
Sign Up for Square for Free
Cons of Square Online Store
Although these benefits are certainly impressive, there are also drawbacks to using Square Online Store for your business as well. Here are a few worth considering:
Even though Square Online Store is user-friendly and easy to set up, it is definitely limited in its offerings. Despite the fact that there are four different Square Online Store plans, each plan is not that different from the next, and even the most expensive plan is lacking in capabilities. In fact, many of the paid plan features—like abandoned cart emails, ecommerce statistics, and shipping tools, come standard in competitors like BigCommerce or Shopify.
Moreover, many other platforms on the market can offer greater capabilities at a lower cost for paid plans. As an example, BigCommerce’s most basic plan, at $29.95 per month, includes much more functionality, like real-time shipping quotes, a built-in blog, product ratings and reviews, and multiple payment integration options. On the whole, Square Online Store doesn’t offer quite a comparable advanced feature set or scalability compared to other platforms on the market.
Although Square Online Store’s direct connection to Square can be an asset, it can also be a disadvantage if you’re not already using Square. Square Online Store essentially requires that you use Square as your payment processor, which alienates business owners who already work with a different merchant services provider. Therefore, whereas other ecommerce platforms give you the ability to connect to a variety of processors, including more international options, you’re once again limited in this way with Square Online Store.
Square relaunched their online store in March 2019 and has used their acquisition of Weebly to power the platform. Although this seems to have given Square the ability to offer a robust ecommerce solution, as of the writing of this review, it seems unclear exactly how this connection will continue to work.
It certainly seems that the integration between the two systems could be more seamless, instead of having to separately use the Weebly editor and base, as well as the Square dashboard. Plus, although easy to utilize on the whole, the setup system seems to toggle back and forth between Square and Weebly, making the process a little more confusing than it should be. Moreover, both Square and Weebly describe their online store services on their respective websites without indicating that they’re essentially becoming one in the same. With a competitive and growing marketplace for ecommerce, this integration could definitely be improved.
Square Online Store Reviews
What do users have to say about Square Online Store? Unfortunately, with the popularity of other Square products, it’s rather difficult to find specific Square Online Store reviews. However, the reviews that are available are positive, with customers highlighting the platform’s simplicity, ease of use, and affordability.
Kisha Mays, founder and CEO of Just Fearless, uses Square Online Store for her business and says that she likes it because it’s simple and doesn’t require code to maintain. “I love it, and my team loves it,” she says.
Similarly, Jessica Rhoades, owner of Create IT Web Designs, told us she just set up a client using Square Online Store. “We chose Square because it is a free..
Shift4 Payments is a large payments technology provider based in Pennsylvania. Their flagship product is the Shift4 payment gateway, which can integrate with a wide variety of POS tools and features advanced security features. Shift4 Payments also sells restaurant POS systems, business intelligence tools, POS hardware, and gift cards. Pricing is quote-based.
Shift4 Payments is one of the biggest names today in merchant services. The Pennsylvania-based payments technology purveyor processes more than a billion transactions annually for nearly 200,000 businesses, representing over $100 billion in payments each year. Shift4 owns several point of sale (POS) brands and integrates with over 300 additional POS and property management system platforms. Shift4 also has an army of over 7,000 sales partners reselling their products.
In other words, Shift4 Payments is one of the most ubiquitous merchant services brands in the U.S. Therefore, there’s a decent chance you will encounter them or one of their resellers as you traverse the merchant services market. So let’s learn a little bit more about Shift4 Payments, what they do, and what kinds of solutions they can offer your small business. By the end of this Shift4 Payments review, you’ll have a clear picture of whether they’re right for you—and if they’re not, we’ll also highlight some Shift4 Payments alternatives.
Shift4 Payments: The Basics
Shift4 Payments was founded in 1999 as a credit card processing company under the name United Bank Card Inc. Over the next 20 years the company expanded their offerings greatly while also going through several rebrands and acquisitions. Today Shift4 Payments is a complete payment processing solution servicing a broad range of industries, including retail, food services, hospitality, and ecommerce.
Shift4 Payment’s most notable product offerings include one of the most widely used payment gateways on the market; the Harbortouch, POSitouch, Restaurant Manager, and Future POS systems; and integrations with hundreds of other POS software. Shift4 also sells POS hardware, business intelligence tools, and gift cards and loyalty programs.
As previously mentioned, Shift4 primarily relies on resellers to distribute their products. Merchants should proceed with caution when dealing with resellers. These businesses tend to have a reputation of misleading clients, stuffing contracts with hidden fees, and offering poor customer support. While many resellers are reputable, we recommend doing your research beforehand to make sure you don’t partner with someone who will put their interests before the interests of your business.
Shift4 Payments Features
We’ve given you a broad overview of all the services Shift4 Payments provides. Now let’s get into detail on the type of services you can acquire from this payment technology conglomerate.
Shift4 Payments sells one of the most widely used payment gateways in the world. Its popularity is due to the fact that it connects both ecommerce and brick-and-mortar merchants with a huge selection of back-end payment processors, including First Data, Elavon, Worldpay, and Heartland Payment Systems.
The Shift4 payment gateway also has a range of advanced security features, including EMV certification, point-to-point encryption, and payment data tokenization. The gateway accepts all major credit cards, as well as digital wallets like Google Pay and Apple Pay. Other features of Shift4’s payment gateway include pre- and post-settlement auditing, a 24-month rolling transaction archive, fraud prevention services, multi-location management, and offline functionality.
When you sign up for a Shift4 payment gateway, you’ll receive a free EMV (chip card) credit card reader with a warranty and replacement plan. Shift4 also waives gateway and setup fees.
On their website, Shift4 Payments says you’ll get the “lowest total cost to accept credit card payments.” However, it does not specify what that cost is. What we can say is that Shift4 Payments offers interchange-plus pricing, and that the specific cost you will pay is quote-based. Factors that will determine your payment processing rate include your industry type and transaction volume.
As previously mentioned, Shift4 Payments owns four major restaurant POS brands: Harbortouch, POSitouch, Future, and Restaurant Manager. Merchants can use Shift4 Payments as their payment processor with all these POS systems. Each also offers POS hardware through Shift4 Payments and onsite installation.
Collectively, these four POS brands service some of the largest food service businesses in the world, including Denny’s, KFC, Dairy Queen, Outback Steakhouse, Arby’s, Little Caesars, Houlihan’s, and more.
Shift4 Payments also integrates with an array of POS and property management system software brands across a broad spectrum of industries, including lodging, food and beverage, retail, ecommerce, gaming, golf, spa, and more.
Shift4’s payment processing technology also integrates with dozens of different POS hardware brands and devices. Merchants can even mix and match from Shift4’s list of devices to meet the needs of all of their individual revenue centers. Among the payment devices sold by Shift4 are mobile, handheld, and countertop POS terminals, as well as mobile and countertop credit card readers. Options sold by Shift4 Payments can support magstripe, chip card, and contactless forms of payment. POS hardware brands that are compatible with Shift4 Payments include Ingenico, Verifone, ID TECH, PAX, and Innowi, among others.
One proprietary payment solution you can purchase through Shift4 Payments is SkyTab—a handheld restaurant POS terminal with a built-in magstripe, EMV, and NFC card reader that is designed for tableside ordering and payment. SkyTab can run on Harbortouch, POSitouch, Future, and Restaurant Manager POS software. Some of the features available with SkyTab include:
Customer payment interface
Option to rate dining experience
Email and text receipts
Ability to save customer emails
Another unique product sold by Shift4 Payments is the Lighthouse Business Management System. This tool is available on any computer or mobile device and offers numerous reporting and customer engagement tools, plus a variety of other management features.
With Lighthouse you can create a customized dashboard with widgets that provide you quick access to your most important business information. You can also use Lighthouse to remotely add, edit, or remove menu items, discounts, pricing information, table layouts, and POS settings. Lighthouse also provides you with remote access to your POS’ employee management and customer engagement tools.
You can integrate Lighthouse with a variety of other business management tools to extend its functionality, including MailChimp and Sling.
The last product Shift4 Payments sells to merchants is a gift card program. Those who sign up for the gift card program will receive gift cards customized with their business’s branding and an extension for their POS that will track gift card balances, monitor for fraud, and track analytics on your gift card program.
Shift4 Payments offers 24/7/365 customer support via phone and email. There is also a Customer Support portal with documentation and videos on how to use different Shift4 Payments products and services. Additional tips and advice can be found via their blog.
Shift4 Payments Pricing
Shift4 Payments does not provide any pricing information on their website. This is not surprising, considering Shift4 Payments sells their products through sales partners. Typically, these resellers set their own prices, or offer a quote-based pricing model that varies depending on your needs, business size, transaction volume, industry, and other factors. This is why we say you should proceed with caution when dealing with resellers: You could get an unfair deal because different resellers may sell the same products at different prices.
To help get a better understanding of what Shift4 Payments’ offerings may cost, let’s look at the pricing of two of their most popular POS products: Harbortouch and POSitouch. The price of Harbortouch ranges from $29 per month to $49 per month depending on the subscription plan you choose (price does not include hardware costs or payment processing fees). POSitouch’s pricing, on the other hand, is entirely quote-based.
Shift4 Payments Pros
Here are the benefits of using Shift4 Payments as your merchant services provider:
The best thing about Shift4 Payments is that it can work with so many different third-party tools and services. The Shift4 payment gateway integrates with just about every major back-end processor, as well as over 300 POS and property management systems, and most major POS hardware brands. Plus, Shift4 Payments is expanding their offerings every day, meaning their payment technology will become compatible with more devices in the future.
Restaurant Management Software
We see Shift4 Payments as a particularly desirable solution for merchants in the food service industry, given that Shift4 Payments owns four major restaurant POS brands. Users who sign up for Harbortouch, POSitouch, Future, or Restaurant Manager can bundle their payment processing with their POS, and receive lower rates than those who go with a third-party payment processor. Plus, all four POS brands offer a wide range of features, and merchants also get access to the popular SkyTab POS terminal.
A large merchant services provider like Shift4 Payments provides a scalable solution: As your business grows and your transaction volume increases, you can expect Shift4 Payments to offer you lower per-transaction rates. Shift4 Payments can also provide you with all of the payment technology solutions you need to accommodate your growth—and if they don’t sell it themselves, they probably integrate with someone who does.
Shift4 Payments isn’t the perfect solution for every business. We do have one main point of concern with their offerings:
Shift4 Payment’s pricing, or lack thereof, is always a concern in an industry like merchant services, where transparency is sometimes hard to come by. We don’t like when merchant services providers aren’t upfront about how much they cost for their services. This often leads to merchants getting unfair deals. Sure enough, Shift4 Payments’ Better Business Bureau page is rife with comments from customers complaining about contracts with predatory terms and hidden fees. This is often the byproduct of working with a sales partner, and why we urge merchants to tread carefully and always read the fine print.
Shift4 Payments Reviews
Shift4 Payments isn’t as widely reviewed as their subsidiaries, but their Better Business Bureau page is revealing. While the company maintains an A+ rating, customer reviews give Shift4 Payments 1.5 out of 5 stars. The company also has 32 complaints filed against it in the last year. In critical reviews of Shift4 Payments, customers complain about poor customer service, deceptive sales tactics, and expensive hidden fees.
But to get a more well-rounded picture of Shift4, here are the customer ratings for some of Shift4 Payment’s subsidiaries:
What these ratings tell us is that public sentiment toward Shift4 Payments’ offerings is mixed at best. There’s a chance you get a solution that works for your business, but there is also a chance you get something that ends up hurting you in the long run.
Shift4 Payments Alternatives
If you’re not sold on Shift4 Payments, allow us to recommend some alternatives.
While Shift4 Payments is unclear about their payment processing rates, Square sets the standard for transparency. When you sign up for Square, you’ll be able to start processing in-person payments at a rate of 2.75%, and ecommerce transactions at a rate of 2.9% + $0.30. You’ll also get a free mobile magstripe reader, and access to Square’s free POS software. For additional fees, you can sign up for Square’s paid POS software: They offer one version for retailers and another version for restaurateurs. What’s more, Square offers some of the most popular and intuitive POS hardware on the market, including the Square Register and Square Terminal.
Sign Up for Square for Free
If you’re going to work with a large merchant services brand, might as well go with the largest one in the world. Like Shift4 Payments, First Data offers quote-based pricing on all their products, but there is nearly no limit to the product options you get. First Data owns Clover POS, and sells their popular POS hardware. They also sell payment gateways, gift card programs, reporting tools, and financing products. First Data’s ratings on customer review websites are also noticeably higher than Shift4 Payment’s, for what it’s worth.
Is Shift4 Payments Right for Your Business?
Shift4 Payment’s product variety, flexibility, and scalability can work for most businesses—if you are able to acquire a fair deal. For that to happen, you have to have a good understanding of the services you need, find a good reseller, and know how to negotiate. It may also help to have your business attorney review any contract before signing. If you can get a fair deal, there is no limit to how far Shift4 Payments can take you.
At one point or another, small business owners find themselves faced with the opportunity or need to travel to pursue new partnerships, build relationships with customers, and ultimately grow their businesses.
The costs of business travel can quickly pile up, especially with purchases you weren’t expecting. (Overpriced cup of coffee at the airport, anyone?) Using a business expense tracker app to keep tabs on business travel can keep costs from getting away from you. It also pays to be prepared well before your trip, during travel, and once you arrive at your destination to have a seamless business travel experience.
Read on for the ultimate list of business travel tips, or jump right to the infographic to learn how to expertly pack the perfect carry on for your next business trip.
Before You Travel
Whether you’re a frequent traveler or about to embark on your first business trip, you should never go into a business trip unprepared. Whether or not you plan ahead of time can set the course for your whole trip. These business travel tips will help get your trip in order before you set off on your journey.
Business Travel Planning Tips
Sign up for TSA PreCheck. Make every flight on time by signing up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry to bypass long security lines.
Book an early flight. Taking a flight that’s early in the day can protect you in the event that your flight is delayed or cancelled. Try not to take the last flight of the day.
Make copies of important documents. Scan or take a picture of your driver’s license, passport, and other important documents for peace of mind if you lose your wallet or luggage.
Manage your money. Use a business travel credit card to reap the benefits of frequent travel, like rewards that go toward travel purchases (airfare, rental cars, and hotels).
Create a travel itinerary. If an itinerary is not already provided to you, use an app to organize your travel plans and make the most out of your business trip.
Business Travel Packing Tips
Bring an extra outfit. Bring an extra change of clothes or two for if you have time for a leisure outing on your trip, or just in case.
Charge all your electronics. Ensure that all of your devices are fully charged before setting out for your trip. Don’t count on having the option to charge at the airport or in-flight, so bring a portable charging option when possible.
Pack healthy snacks. Skip overpriced airport food and unhealthy in-flight snacks by bringing your own snacks. Opt for mess-free goodies like trail mix, crackers, or dried fruit to keep you fueled on the go.
Don’t check any luggage. Avoid the stress of lost or late luggage by sticking to carry-on bags only. You’ll save time in lines and won’t have to wait for checked luggage to exit the airport.
During Your Trip
With business travel comes new connections and opportunities for significant business growth, but navigating the airport and being comfortable in-flight can be a challenge. Use these business travel tips to avoid stress and find maximum comfort on the way to your destination.
Business Travel Airport Tips
Check in before you arrive. Skip the hassle of check in lines and streamline your airport time by checking in for your flight online or on your airline’s app.
Lessen TSA time. Avoid excess time at security checkpoints by packing lightly and checking your luggage ahead of time for prohibited items.
Use the business lounge. Sign up for the American Express Business Platinum Card to get free access to over 700 airport lounges worldwide—perfect for getting work done between flights in quiet comfort.
Fly on (not around) holidays. Days leading up to major holidays can mean crowded airports, but flying on the actual day (like Christmas) can help you avoid bustling airports and overbooked flights.
Business Travel Flight Tips
Keep a tennis ball handy. Roll a tennis ball under your feet or along any aching points to reduce stiffness or cramps in-flight.
Bring a pair of earplugs. Don’t lose sleep because of a crying baby or loud seatmate. Earplugs can help keep your sanity intact by minimizing the annoyance of noisy flights.
Be kind to the flight crew. Being pleasant to the flight attendants (or even bringing a small gift like candy to share) can improve the crew’s mood, ultimately giving you a better flight experience.
Skip the alcohol. Don’t indulge in a cocktail mid-flight—alcohol can increase dehydration and make jet lag worse.
Once You Arrive
After a potentially long flight, you’ll want a smooth experience getting to your final destination. Whether or not you have a car service in wait to take you to a luxurious hotel, see these business travel tips for once you arrive.
Business Travel Car & Lodging Tips
Negotiate a better car deal. After booking your rental car, ask for an upgrade to a premium car and then negotiate (nicely) to get a lower price on a higher-quality car.
Ask for a room upgrade. If you’re staying in a hotel, ask the front desk staff for a room upgrade if the hotel doesn’t seem busy. In slow times, you may be able to get a better room at no extra cost.
Look into alternative lodging. Booking alternative accommodation like Airbnb can help you avoid exorbitant hotel costs and lend to a more comfortable stay.
Business Travel Health Tips
Sleep your way to better business. Avoid sleep deprivation and the effects of jet lag by taking short naps and going to sleep and waking up at normal hours for your destination.
Make time for exercise. Increase productivity and reduce travel stress by getting a walk in after meetings or hitting a hotel gym if available.
Hydrate often. Both air travel and extended road travel can lead to dehydration. Drink water often and consume water-rich foods like cucumbers, watermelon, or apples to stay hydrated and nourished.
Keep the hotel fridge stocked. Don’t make unhealthy food choices out of convenience on your trip. Plan ahead to stock up on healthy foods for snacks and meals.
Take an immune booster. Avoid post-travel sickness by taking immune supplements throughout your trip and traveling with hand sanitizers to avoid germs in crowded spaces.
Stick to a routine. As much as possible, keep some routines consistent—like eating at the same time or working out after lunch—to keep stress at bay.
Bonus Business Travel Tips
Carry extra business cards. Make a great first impression and arrive prepared for sudden networking by keeping extra business cards easily accessible.
Sign up for frequent flyer programs. Once you start traveling often for business, you’ll be glad you signed up for at least one frequent flyer program to earn miles and other airline-specific perks.
Book an extended trip. Adding an extra day to your stay can help you balance work and leisure on your trip. Rest or explore during your free time to get the most out of your trip.
Armed with these business travel tips, read through the infographic below to learn the pros and cons of business travel and how to pack the perfect carry-on for your trip.
As a child care professional, you know that there is far more to setting up a daycare than playing with kids all day. These types of businesses require big capital for big purchases, which often require loans for child care businesses or daycare equipment financing.
No matter whether your needs for daycare loans are big, such as renovating a building and transforming your center—or smaller, like making sure your assistants get paid, there’s a capital solution that’s right for you. In this guide we’ll review the different child care business loan options, how to pick the right one, and the process for obtaining them. By the end of this piece, you should be able to figure out which of the many business loan options are right for you and your growing business.
Child Care Business Loans: First Steps
The first step in understanding all of the options you have for daycare loans is understanding what your business’s needs are. What exactly are you looking to do with this capital?
Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself as you’re considering your child care business loan options:
How flexibly do I need to be able to spend this money?
How quickly do I need this money?
How much paperwork am I willing to do?
Do I have any other loans?
How much capital do I need?
What’s the window in which I’d prefer to pay back this money?
Also extremely important are the questions that can either help or hinder your approval:
How much revenue does my business make?
How long have I been in business?
What is my credit score?
These last three questions are the key to business loan approval. But, if you had to isolate one as the most important, it’d likely be your credit score, since this tells the story of your history with debt (and, subsequently, whether lenders can trust you with their money). Have a sense of your number by monitoring your credit score and pulling your credit report for free before you start applying.
What to Look for in a Good Loan for a Child Care Business
A good child care business loan is a loan that suits your needs, full stop. So, understanding what it is you need from the capital you’re borrowing is a huge piece of finding a good match. (Go back to those questions above and make sure you know the answer before you continue, trust us.)
A good daycare business loan is also one that bolsters your business and enables you to accomplish what you want to, which means getting a hold of enough—but not too much—capital. Otherwise, you’re in jeopardy of not being able to repay and having to default on your loan. While we’re talking about repayment, a good business loan also has terms that your company can realistically meet knowing your revenue expectations, seasonality, and cash flow patterns.
How to Choose Between Different Loans for Your Child Care Business
When looking through your child care or daycare business loan options, begin with what you hope to accomplish. If you have a few different goals you’d like to accomplish with your funding, you won’t want to take out any business financing that isn’t flexible enough for your needs. On the same token, though, many daycare center owners just need to finance one thing, and therefore, a more rigid financing option works for them.
You’ll also want to consider a few different options. You may not be eligible for the loan or financing option you want the most (an SBA loan is more difficult to qualify for, for example). But, by learning about your different loan options for your child care business, you might be surprised by some of the alternatives that are within your reach.
The Top Loans for Child Care Businesses
Now that you’re familiar with what you want to accomplish with this capital and where your business financials stands, let’s look through the top loans for child care businesses.
Best Daycare Loan for Gear: Equipment Financing
Daycare equipment financing is one of the far-and-away top options for child care businesses that are looking for a loan to finance specific purchases. As you know, there’s a lot of stuff involved in starting a daycare and keeping it running: furniture, mats, toys, computer systems, and so much more.
With daycare equipment financing, you work with a lender to secure funding just for the items you need to buy. You’ll submit a quote for the cost of the equipment you’re looking to buy, and if accepted, the lender will front you the money. You’ll pay back the loan in installments, plus interest, according to the lender’s terms.
The good news with daycare equipment financing is that people with less-than-perfect credit are still eligible. One reason why is because the loan is self-secured, which means that the gear your purchase with your equipment financing becomes the collateral for the loan. (And the open-market value of the collateral affects the interest rate on your loan.) You also have the possibility of being approved for these loans quickly, so if you need a loan fast, daycare equipment financing is a good option.
Best Daycare Loan for Expanding Your Child Care Business: SBA Loan
Been in business for a while and have stellar credit? You could be a candidate for an SBA loan, which are furnished by private lenders (often banks), and guaranteed up to 85% by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The government’s safety net on these loans enables lenders to offer preferred terms, including relatively low interest rates, high capital amounts, and long repayment terms. As you might expect, these loans are very competitive—which is why that great financial track record is so important to get approved.
Particularly, you’ll want to look at two programs. The first is the SBA 7(a) loan program, which is the most popular. This enables you to get ahold of working capital at a premium rate, structured as either a traditional term loan or a business line of credit. The second, the SBA 504/CDC loan, is specifically to purchase significant fixed assets, like a new building.
Depending on your goals, you’ll be able to figure out which is best for you. Working with a representative who really knows SBA loans can help, too, and give you a sense of whether you’ll be qualified. One note of caution: SBA loan requirements are very paperwork-intensive, so if you need cash fast, regardless of how good your credit is, SBA loans won’t be your best route.
Best Daycare Loan for Working Capital: Term Loan
If the idea of an SBA 7(a) loan is appealing, but you don’t have the business financials (or the time) to support your application, you may want to look at other traditional business term loans for your child care business financing.
We say “traditional” because term loans are likely what you think of when you imagine a business loan: a lump sum of cash deposited into your business bank account, courtesy of a lender. There are a few different kinds of term loans that many online lenders offer—short-term and medium-term—which have different repayment periods and structures. And you’ll be glad to know you can find much faster approval for these working capital loans than with SBA loans.
Best Daycare Loan for Cash Flow: Business Line of Credit
Is cash flow your biggest issue? For instance, do you ever struggle to pay your staff or worry that you won’t be able to afford an emergency should it happen? For businesses with thin cash margins, a business line of credit could be your most flexible weapon.
This kind of child care business loan enables you to draw against a line of credit to get the money that you need. In one sense, it’s like a traditional term loan because you work with a lender to get approval. In another sense, it’s like a credit card cash advance, in which you’re able to access cash against your credit line—except with way lower interest rates. The biggest bonus of this type of child care business loan is that you only pay interest on what you actually use, which means that if you only draw out a third of your line of credit then, you guessed it, you’re only paying interest on a third of your approval amount.
The flexibility is key with a business line of credit. Since you can draw against it as you need it, this financing can be a crucial tool for months when your enrollment is lower but you still have to pay the same staff and overhead expenses, for instance. It’s also nice for many business owners to have on hand in the case of any unforeseen costs—like when a child throws a ball through a window (oops!).
You can find approval quickly for this kind of loan—sometimes, in as little as one day. You may also be interested to find out that some business owners who already have other types of business loans are able to access a business line of credit in addition to their current financing without incurring the automatic default often common in loan stacking.
Best Daycare Loan for News Businesses: Business Credit Card
You may not typically think of a credit card as a financing solution, but for business owners who don’t have a lot of time-in-business or revenue history, they can be effective financing tools. Specifically, 0% introductory APR business credit cards.
These kinds of credit cards enable cardholders to spend on the card—interest free—for a select period of time. These 0% intro APR periods often last a year or longer, which means for that time you won’t pay any interest on the balance you carry. Of course, it’s not all upside; as soon as your intro period is done, an APR based on the market Prime Rate and your creditworthiness kicks in, so you’ll need to be sure you have a plan for paying off your purchases within the 0% APR introductory period.
But, as you do pay off your balance, you’re also building credit, which can be valuable information for lenders as you graduate into more traditional business loans down the line.
Loans for Child Care Business: Your Best Options
As you build out your daycare business, you’ll learn a lot—and one of those things is the kind of capital that you require on a daily, monthly, and annual basis. Part of being successful is being prepared, so don’t wait until you’re in a capital crunch to apply for daycare loans. Work with your accountant to know your numbers inside and out, and pay attention to trends in your financial statements, especially your cash flow statement and profit and loss.
Something else to keep in mind while you decide which loans for child care businesses are right for you: Even though child care is a business that’s needed no matter the economic landscape, seasonality does happen. Your trends may be different than other businesses, but if you take a look at your revenues and enrollments, you might find that you can spot patterns.
If you do, this is good to keep in mind when applying for loans; with seasonality, you want to apply at the very tail of your peak season, since you’ll have to show lenders several consecutive months of business bank statements. You want them to see you at your best, most flush with cash, so they’ll view your financial position favorably.
Besides that, remember to be diligent about pulling your documentation together in advance, especially if you’re looking to obtain capital quickly. You just might find that the business loan you want isn’t too far away at all.
Harvest is a software designed to help small business owners better manage their time and finances. It includes time tracking, expense management, invoicing, team management, and scheduling tools. Harvest offers a free subscription as well as two paid subscriptions that each cost $12 per month.
When your business’s financial operations are running smoothly, it makes everything—including managing your business accounting needs—that much simpler. And simplifying processes whenever possible means the more time you have to dedicate to your business. Fortunately, there are lots of software products on the market today that aim to help business owners manage their finances more efficiently. One such option is Harvest—a time tracking and invoicing software used by over 50,000 businesses across the U.S.
According to their website, Harvest aims to help small business owners “work better, get more accomplished, and make smarter decisions.” How do they do this? Harvest’s software shows business owners where their time is going, how much their projects cost, their cost of labor, and more.
In this Harvest review we are going to see just how well Harvest executes their services, and if they’re a good option to help your business run more efficiently. In particular, we’ll look at all their features, including Harvest invoice capabilities, as well as the price you’ll pay to access them. Finally, we’ll show you some alternatives so that you can come away with a complete picture of the market.
Harvest: The Basics
Harvest is a cloud-based time tracking and billing software, meaning your data is stored on Harvest’s servers and transferred to your device via the cloud. Harvest can run on any internet-enabled device, and also has a mobile app for both iOS and Android devices.
Harvest’s product is designed primarily for project- and service-based businesses, as well as businesses that charge by the hour. Examples may include manufacturers, personal trainers, makeup artists, photographers, web designers, wedding planners, and landscapers.
Furthermore, Harvest is ideal for small businesses that would rather not hire designated staff members to oversee time tracking and invoicing responsibilities—whether for cost or size limitations. A significant segment of Harvest’s user-base is made up of freelancers. Now, let’s explore what Harvest can do for your small business.
Harvest’s core capabilities center around time and expense tracking, as well as invoicing and team management. It’s important to note that Harvest is constantly adding new features to their software, which are offered to customers at no additional charge. Currently, here is what Harvest can do:
Time and Expenses
Harvest’s Time Tracking interface allows you to enter new tasks into a daily timesheet and press a button to start tracking the time it takes for you to work on that specific task. When you finish working on the task, Harvest will calculate the cost based upon the rate you enter. You can also add notes to each task to explain exactly what you worked on.
There is also a weekly timesheet that adds up the hours worked on different tasks each day and creates an invoice based on the total hours worked for the week. If you have the Harvest app, you can also take pictures of receipts, upload them, and add them to expense reports.
Team managers can use Harvest to oversee the hours worked by their employees. The Team interface displays all the members of your team, their available work capacity (in hours), and the amount of billable hours they’ve already worked for the week. It also allows you to set custom rates for each employee, and differentiate between full-time employees and independent contractors.
The top portion of the Team interface will display the total hours worked by your entire organization and the billable hours accrued. Harvest also has a feature to track burnout amongst employees, and will notify you when hours worked exceed employee capacity.
Other features of the team management interface include the ability to evaluate tasks based on what is billable versus what is not billable to see if your employees are investing their time in the right things. You can also view hours worked by time of day and task. Additionally, you can send team members reminders to submit their timesheets, and approve all timesheets. Team managers can set custom permissions to determine what functions team members have access to.
Harvest’s Projects function turns timesheet data into visual reports to help you make decisions and ensure your projects run smoothly. From the Projects dashboard you can see how much time you’ve tracked for a project and how close you are to your budget. You can also view hours, budgets, billable amounts, costs, and uninvoiced totals, and break down all your data by person or task.
Other features include the ability to set hourly and fee-based budgets to track your project’s progress. Harvest also sends you automatic reminders when you’re about to reach your budget, and Harvest lets you pinpoint the areas that are eating into your budget the most.
The Projects dashboard also lets you see how much you need to invoice for each project based on the agreed-upon rate, and how much each project brings in compared to cost. You can then create an invoice for the unbilled amount directly from the Projects dashboard.
Harvest Invoice allows you to turn timesheets into digital invoices that can be emailed directly to clients for free. Each Harvest invoice features a breakdown of the billable hours worked on different tasks. Harvest accepts over 180 different types of currency, and integrates with Stripe and PayPal, allowing clients to pay your invoices in a matter of clicks. You can also send reminders to clients for outstanding invoices.
The Harvest Invoice dashboard also creates a graph that gives you an overview of your revenue for the year, and the filters let you report on a particular client or timeframe.
Harvest doesn’t come with a built-in scheduling feature, but integrates with another paid app created by Harvest called Forecast. Forecast organizes your team’s schedule into visual plans that let you map out your upcoming projects in order to make resourcing decisions. When integrated with Forecast, Harvest can determine if you have enough budget to see a project through to its completion, and provide you with a warning ahead of time if you need to readjust your rate with your client in order to stay within budget. Pricing for Forecast starts at $24 per month.
Harvest integrates with over 100 different apps, including project-management apps like Basecamp and Trello; customer-support apps like Atlassian Jira and Zendesk; communication apps like Slack; and many more. While Harvest is not an accounting software, you can utilize the Harvest accounting integrations and seamlessly export your expenses and invoices from Harvest to an accounting or finance app like QuickBooks, Xero, and FundBox. Furthermore, Harvest works with Zapier, which allows them to integrate with over 1,000 additional apps. To see a full list of integrations visit the Harvest app marketplace.
Additionally, Harvest boasts a browser extension for Google Chrome and Safari, and also provides users with a free widget that they can add to any third-party app with a few lines of code. For the more technically inclined, Harvest has an API that allows you to customize how you integrate Harvest with third-party tools.
Harvest offers phone support during regular business hours and the option to submit queries online to the Harvest support team. The Harvest support team will typically respond to these queries within a matter of hours. For more immediate assistance, Harvest has a thorough Help Center on their website with guides on how to use all of Harvest’s tools. There are also webinars, a blog, and a resources page with general tips on how to manage time, price projects, and more.
Harvest offers three different pricing plans. There is a free plan that provides access to the software for one user and the ability to manage two projects at a time. The Solo plan costs $12 per month and is also designed for one user, but with the ability to manage an unlimited number of projects at once. Finally, there is the Team plan, which costs $12 per person per month and provides account access for an unlimited number of employees. All accounts come with the following features:
Time and expense tracking
Unlimited invoices and estimates
Project budget alerts
Integrations with 100+ apps
Apps for iOS, Android and Mac
Phone and email support
Harvest offers a 10% discount for customers willing to pay yearly instead of each month. Businesses with more than 50 employees and nonprofits and educational institutions are eligible for a 15% discount when paying yearly. Harvest also offers all users a 30-day free trial, which is a great way to try out the software before committing.
Now that we’ve touched on everything Harvest does, let’s discuss the benefits of using this software.
Even for small businesses, the cost to use Harvest is pretty insignificant. In theory, Harvest could more than pay for itself by identifying inefficiencies in your business and helping you resolve them. Furthermore, if you’re a freelancer with only a couple consistent clients, you can utilize Harvest’s free option and still get the full range of features.
The other thing we like about Harvest is that you can extend the software’s functionality to satisfy your business’s needs. This is made possible through their wide range of integrations, as well as their developer tools. This helps make Harvest a much more practical solution for business owners, as they can fit right into your business’s other processes, rather than functioning as a standalone tool.
While there are plenty of benefits to using Harvest, there are also some drawbacks. Here are the cons:
Integrations aside, Harvest is somewhat limited in their core capabilities. For comparison’s sake, QuickBooks can perform many of the functions available with Harvest, but also comes with a (very advanced) accounting tool built in. While QuickBooks is also more expensive than Harvest, some business owners might just prefer to use one software to manage their finances, rather than using two and integrating them together.
On the topic of functionality, business owners we spoke with also complained about the absence of specific features within Harvest. Examples include the inability to apply a payment schedule or integrate your business bank account, a lack of options within the proposal feature, and no location tracking feature.
Here is how customers rank Harvest on major review websites:
Additionally, we spoke with Harvest customers about their experience using the software. Here is what they had to say:
“For small businesses and consultants like me, Harvest is a godsend. I was in the process of creating my own system for invoicing and payments. Finding this service eliminated my need to invest my time into creating the service. It is much more affordable and easier to use than QuickBooks, the popular platform accountants recommend.”
“I appreciate that we can, at a glance, see how projects are doing budget-wise. It allows us to be really transparent with where our client’s budgets are being used and by whom—which is a big perk of working with us for a lot of our clients. We can also get some quick job costing figures at a role or employee level when needed.”
“Harvest is an extremely easy system to use, with little to no training required. Our team was able to jump right in! We all know we can rely on Harvest’s customer support team. If and when we do have a question, we get a response in a timely fashion and have received nothing but great service.”
“Using Harvest has shaved 24 hours off our monthly processing of timesheets and allowed us to routinely get invoices out as much as five days faster. The metrics here of course sound fantastic, but it is the level of detail that Harvest permits that puts the product heads and shoulders above other more recognizable solutions.”
“What really sold us on Harvest was our experience after we made the decision to transition. We reached out and explained our recurring project tracking struggles and how best to set this up within their tool. Their support team told us that they were working on something like this and that they would inform their product team. Two weeks later a new feature was being highlighted on their blog—Recurring Projects. I’m sure it was a little bit of timing, but the sheer fact that a need was met in such a timely fashion really sold me. Since then there have been routine updates to the Mac application, Slack, and cloud interface. Ultimately, I know we are working with a tool that is growing and improving along with us, not just a tool that we need to replace at some point.”
Customers have great things to say about Harvest, but every small business’s needs are different and Harvest might not be the best solution for you. If that’s the case, there are some alternatives to Harvest to consider:
One of the most popular and well-reviewed accounting software brands on the market, QuickBooks Online is a great Harvest alternative to consider. If you sign up for the Simple Start plan ($20/month) you’ll be able to track income and expenses, send invoices, download bank and credit card transactions, print checks, and more. The Essentials plan costs $40 per month and comes with time tracking features like bill scheduling and recurring invoices. Overall, QuickBooks Online is a more expensive option than Harvest, but comes with many of the same features, plus accounting tools.
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If you’re looking for a slightly different feature set at a low cost, consider Wave Payroll. While this software is primarily used for running payroll, it comes with a handful of other useful features, including an accounting interface, the ability to send invoices, a receipt scanner for tracking expenses, and a payment processor for accepting digital payments. For all of these tools, Wave charges a $35 monthly base fee, plus $4 per employee you run payroll for.
Is Harvest Right for Your Business?
We’d recommend Harvest to freelancers and very small businesses looking to track hours worked and stay on top of their invoices and overall finances. Harvest offers these types of business owners great value thanks to their low price and in-depth features. For larger enterprises, it probably makes sense to use a more multifaceted software like QuickBooks or another popular accounting tool. If you’re not sure whether Harvest can work for you, we recommend signing up for their 30-day free trial to explore all of their features and capabilities for yourself.
Step 1: Choose a business name, and the type of business entity you want to start.
Step 2: Create a business plan.
Step 3: Register your small business with the state of Pennsylvania.
Step 4: Register for tax and employer accounts with the state.
Step 5: Complete any local taxes, zoning requirements, licenses, or permits.
Step 6: Open a business bank account.
Step 7: Acquire business insurance.
Step 8: Get funding and get to work.
Even if you know you want to start a business and have a great idea or product to do it, the actual steps you need to take to make things official may be a mystery. What type of business and how to go about starting it are two of the most daunting things to figure out, after actually deciding to start a business, that is.
When it comes to starting a business in Pennsylvania, specifically, there are a number of criteria you want to think about as a future small business owner. The good news? With about 1 million small businesses, Pennsylvania is clearly a state that small businesses love to call home. And if you’re wondering how to start a business in Pennsylvania yourself, we’re here to help.
Starting a Business in PA in 8 Steps
In this eight-step guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to do when starting a business in Pennsylvania, from choosing a business entity to registering your small business with the state to opening a business bank account and securing the funding you need to make your business idea a reality.
Step 1: Choose a name and business entity.
First things first, you need to decide on the name of your company when you’re starting a business in Pennsylvania, or anywhere else, for that matter. Any forms you file to make your business official will need to include a name (the exact same name). So whether you’ve had a name picked out from day one or have been going back and forth, now is the time to make a final decision. Maybe you already have a name in mind, maybe not, but it’s one of the first things you should decide about your business.
Of course, once you settle on the perfect name for your business, you’ll have to make sure the business name you want is actually available and not already in use in the state of Pennsylvania. You can do this by searching the Pennsylvania database of registered businesses. Simply type the business name you want into the search bar, and if a business with the same name already exists in the state of Pennsylvania, it’ll appear in the results. In that case, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board.
Source: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of State
Once your name is established, it’s time to choose a business entity structure. The two might go hand in hand if you decide you want to start a business as a sole proprietor using your name as the business’s name as well. This can also have some benefits because you might not have to do all of the same registrations other businesses might have to.
There are more than 10 business entity types for you to choose from—from sole proprietor, to limited liability company, to C-corporation, and beyond—and the one that makes the most sense for your business will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of business you’re running and whether you have partners or are running it solo. It will also have significant tax and legal implications, so it’s best to consult a business attorney and/or tax professional before deciding which business entity is right for your small business.
Step 2: Create a business plan.
Once the name of your business and the type of business you want to start are nailed down, the next step to starting a business in Pennsylvania is to create a business plan. These three things will all be necessary to register your business (more on that later). A business plan details everything from what your business is and what product or service it will provide to a marketing and sales plan and at least three years of financial projections.
If you’re looking for capital to help start your business in Pennsylvania, you’ll also want a business plan to help you secure funding. Whether you’re trying to attract investors or get a loan, a business plan is an important part of the application process. Before writing a check investors and banks alike want to know that you have a vision for your business and a concrete plan for how to reach your goals.
You can use a business plan template to help you create one if you’re not sure where to start, and these business plan software options also make it easy to create and customize a business plan. Having a formal business plan will also help you stay organized and keep you from getting bogged down along the way when starting a business (especially in the beginning) might feel overwhelming.
Step 3: Register your business.
There are a few different registrations you need to complete when starting a business in Pennsylvania, and, depending on your type of business, there may be special registrations, as well. Again, working with a lawyer who is familiar with Pennsylvania business law will help ensure you don’t miss any steps.
You should first apply for a federal employer identification number (EIN), also known as a business tax ID number, which is how you’ll identify your business with the state. Keep in mind, you apply for an EIN through the IRS, not through the Pennsylvania state government’s website.
When starting a business in Pennsylvania, you’ll also need to register your business structure (which you set up in Step 1) with the Pennsylvania Department of State. However, if your business is a sole proprietorship operating under your legal name (first and last name), you are not required to register. To register your business, you can file online with the Pennsylvania Department of State.
If your business is going to have a fictitious name, meaning the name your business is operating under is different from the legal name you registered with the department of state—also known as “doing business as” (DBA) or “trading as” (T/A)—you’ll need to register that name with the department of state as well. This can also be filed online with the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Source: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of State
Step 4: Register for tax and employer accounts.
To officially start a business in Pennsylvania and operate legally, you’ll next need to register for state tax and employer accounts. This will be how you get your business set up to pay taxes in Pennsylvania. Depending on what business you’re in, there might be different taxes you’re responsible for paying, like sales tax, hotel occupancy tax, or unemployment compensation tax.
Registering for your tax and employer accounts can be done online through the PA-100 Enterprise Registration Form. Of course, once you’ve registered your state tax and employer accounts, you will then face paying taxes. Pennsylvania business taxes are filed with the state’s department of revenue and the department of labor and industry.
When you pay your taxes depends on what type of business you are. Sole proprietors, for example, pay their taxes on the same schedule as their individual taxes. Partnerships, on the other hand, can establish their own fiscal year to determine when they pay taxes. This guide to small business taxes can help you better understand your tax responsibilities as a small business, but consulting a tax professional is always a good idea.
Step 5: Registration for local taxes, zoning requirements, licenses, or permits.
Additional registrations, licenses, and permits may be required, depending on your type of business. As you reach the final stages of starting your business in Pennsylvania, consult the state’s website to find out exactly what you need to file. Their comprehensive website allows you to input the address of your business and see who to contact in the government about any local registrations, permits, and zoning requirements necessary for a business in that area.
You can also search to see who to contact about whether your business requires special registrations. This is also a great resource to help answer your questions about registering your business and business name, registering for business taxes, general questions, and more.
If you’re starting a business that will provide a professional service, you will also need a professional license. This would apply to professionals like doctors, dentists, lawyers, and more. These professional licenses are required before you can begin business operations, as they’re designed to protect the public from anyone operating with false expertise or credentials.
Step 6: Open a business bank account.
Now that you’ve officially registered your business, organizing your business’s financials is the next step when starting a business in Pennsylvania. Having a bank account specific to your business and not muddled with your personal finances is essential to properly running your business, no matter what type of business you have. Having a separate business bank account can help boost your business credit score and keep your personal finances from influencing your business credit health. You can get your free business credit report online, but keep in mind with a brand-new business, it will take time to build up a good credit score.
When choosing a business bank account, you’ll want to factor in your business’s needs to decide which features and benefits will be the most important to your day-to-day operations. Other criteria like maintenance fees, transaction allowances, and account minimums should also play a role in your decision.
You may also decide to get a business credit card. This card is specifically for buying items that relate to your business. It’s important to keep these purchases separate from your personal charges, just like you keep your bank accounts separate. Having, using, and paying off your business credit card in a timely manner can help you build credit and keeps your finances separate—something you will be especially thankful for when it’s time to file taxes..
Step 7: Acquire business insurance.
Like business bank accounts and credit cards, the type of business insurance your small business needs will depend on what your business actually does. But when you’re starting a business in Pennsylvania, or anywhere, you want to make sure you’re covered and that your business is protected, along with any employees you have.
Some types of insurance are required for all small businesses, such as workers compensation insurance and unemployment compensation insurance. In the state of Pennsylvania, disability insurance is not required, though you might decide to opt into it.
Now that much of the required paperwork is filed and done with, you can start getting to the fun part of your business, actually starting and running it. But if you find that you could use some capital to help your business get off the ground, or to keep up with demand once it takes off, small business funding can help.
Now that you have all the steps you need to start a business in Pennsylvania, you’re ready to take your great business idea and turn it into a real, functioning operation. Starting a business can feel overwhelming, but following this guide and getting all of your information organized can make the process as painless as possible. Then you can focus on the important things, like marketing and growing your business.
Say you operate a restaurant and you’re making a schedule for the week. Your job is to allocate your workforce in such a way to maximize productivity while ensuring labor costs don’t exceed sales. You also have to comply with regulations regarding minimum wage, overtime, and local worker “Bill of Rights” measures that have been enacted in some cities. And don’t forget about vacation and sick days!
If you operate a business with more than one location, you multiply the amount of times you have to do these calculations. If you manage a distributed workforce that needs to be able to operate remotely—such as caterers or movers—you also need to factor in travel time.
This is to say nothing of the fact that your schedule needs to be fair and reasonable for your employees. Scheduling optimization reinforces work-life balance. Offering your employees the ability to set their own schedule or pick up, drop, and swap shifts can give you a competitive advantage when it comes to hiring and retention.
For these reasons and many more, businesses across all industries—from healthcare and retail to food service and construction—are investing in employee scheduling software. Scheduling software is an online tool that allows you to build schedules and automate time tracking while keeping you in compliance with the law and offering your workforce more scheduling flexibility and access.
Many different vendors offer scheduling software under the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. We’ll take a closer look at some of the most popular options to see which is best for your specific business needs. But first, let’s gain a better understanding of how scheduling software works.
How Employee Scheduling Software Works
Employee scheduling software is able to perform many different functions related to the allocation and management of your workforce. Most small and mid-sized businesses contract with an employee scheduling software vendor to provide this service, as building your own scheduling software is an expensive and time-consuming process.
Here is how to go about acquiring, setting up, and using your software:
Employee scheduling software is actually very cheap. Vendors typically charge a monthly fee based on the number of people in your company using the software and the number of locations you need scheduling for. Average prices amount to a couple of dollars per employee per month. Note that certain additional features may cost extra. In addition, some vendors require a minimum monthly payment.
When you sign up with an employee scheduling software provider, you get access to your company’s own portal, which you can enter online. From there, you can go about uploading your employees’ data, including names, contact information, job title or type, training and qualifications, and their availability (making note of shift preferences and time-off requests).
Some vendors allow you to upload data from a third-party source, such as an Excel spreadsheet or point of sale system. Workers should also be able to input information about themselves when they access the system. Note that you can self-host your scheduling software, but most providers will offer cloud-hosting services.
Setting the Schedule
The user-interface (UI) of almost any employee scheduling software is a module that can be configured to look like a daily, weekly, or monthly calendar. Empty cells in the calendar represent time slots which you can populate with members of your workforce. There are multiple approaches to filling out this calendar: You can create a shift and then add employees to staff the shift, set recurring shifts, copy over an old shift, or upload a schedule from a third-party source (like an Excel spreadsheet).
Some scheduling software allow you to build out the framework of a schedule, and then auto-populate the best solutions based on your recommendation. For example, you could tell your scheduling software you need three salespeople at your store on Wednesdays and it could allocate your workforce in the most efficient way to fill that need.
Another nifty feature is the ability to assign a shift to a specific location. This could come in handy if you operate multiple locations or manage a distributed workforce. Some employee scheduling software platforms integrate with mapping software so your employees can see where they are working that day and get directions.
All employees should have access to the scheduling software so they can view their schedule, clock in and out, and request time off and sick days. You can adjust their permissions so they can perform additional functions, such as adding time preferences, bidding on open shifts, or requesting shift swaps. You could even allow your employees to set their own schedules. Employees can also opt to receive scheduling updates from the platform via email or text.
One of the biggest benefits of employee scheduling software is that it can draw insights from the way you are scheduling your workforce. For example, your scheduling software could see how many salespeople worked last Friday and what profits were, and use that information to determine which salespeople should work this Friday. Note that this type of functionality may cost extra and requires application programming interface (API) integration with your POS software, payroll platform, or HR software.
As with any third-party service you use with your business, make sure your employee scheduling software provider offers robust support. Not being able to set the work schedule could literally be a work-stoppage issue. Ideally, you’ll want to have access to your software vendor on a 24/7 basis and through multiple channels of communication (phone, text, email, live chat). It’s an added bonus if your software provider offers how-to videos and online training sessions.
Your scheduling software should have a mobile app or an interface that translates to mobile so that employees can access their schedule and time tracking tools on the go.
Why You Should Get Employee Scheduling Software
All of the aforementioned capabilities of employee scheduling software translate to increased productivity and efficiency for your business. The main benefits include:
Spend Less Time Scheduling
Scheduling is one of those many tasks that take you away from your core responsibilities as a small business owner. Employee scheduling software can automate much of the scheduling process, giving you more time to focus on other tasks to help grow your business.
Avoid Human Error
Scheduling software mitigates your chances of making a scheduling error—like scheduling someone who is on PTO—because your staff also has access to the platform and can request scheduling changes and edits. This collaborative approach to scheduling keeps everyone informed and ensures that mistakes are kept to a minimum.
Most employee scheduling software platforms understand labor laws and can inform the user if your scheduling practices are in violation of these regulations. This could help you avoid hefty fines while also protecting your employees from being taken advantage of.
Invest in Your Employees
An investment in employee scheduling software is an investment in your workforce. Employees want their schedules managed efficiently and transparently, and with as little confusion as possible. When workers have access to and influence over their work schedules, they tend to be more satisfied, and less likely to leave.
6 Best Employee Scheduling Software for 2019
PRICE (per employee)
When I Work
Free (up to 75 employees)
Starting at $3/month
Starting at $2/month
Hourly & Shift-Based Workforces
Starting at $3/month
Medium & Large-Sized Businesses
Starting at $3/month
Restaurant, Retail, & Hospitality Businesses
Starting at $2/month
If you’re looking for all of the aforementioned benefits, here are our recommendations for the best scheduling software platforms. Note that all options listed offer a free trial.
When I Work
When I Work is free for up to 75 employees, and as far as free scheduling platforms go, it offers quite a varied feature set. Users can build a schedule on When I Work’s simple and responsive UI, manage time off, allow shift exchanges, send group messages to staff, and use When I Work’s mobile app. When I Work also allows for off-site scheduling by assigning shifts at specific locations or addresses.
The free version of the app does not offer time or attendance tracking, and you cannot set schedules more than 10 days into the future. There is also limited integration with POS vendors. If you need these features, or if you operate a business with more than 75 employees, you should look into When I Work’s Scheduling Basic plan, which costs $1.50 per employee per month.
Note that When I Work does not offer 24/7 support.
Humanity is an employee scheduling software platform with all the bells and whistles. Among its features are an intuitive scheduling interface, time clock, leave management system, and messaging platform. Users can also manage time-off requests, integrate with POS and payroll software to create reports and forecast schedules, and receive access to Humanity’s training programs to learn more about how to use the software.
Humanity offers three pricing plans. The Classic plan is suitable for most businesses. It costs $3 per employee per month and provides access to time tracking tools, the Humanity training platform, and allows for integrations with third-party software. There is also an Enterprise plan that features API access, custom branding, and a dedicated account manager. If you’re interested in the Enterprise plan, you can contact Humanity for a quote. All plans come with 24/7 support.
Ximble offers most of the functionality you would want in a scheduling platform at a very good price. With the $2 per employee per month Core plan, you and your employees will have access to time tracking, time-off management, shift trading, a messaging platform, and timesheet reviews. Ximble can also integrate with payroll software to monitor labor costs and produce reports.
Another benefit of Ximble is the ability to send your employees notifications about upcoming shifts via the Ximble mobile app. If you opt for the $4 per employee per month Advanced plan, you will get additional scheduling automation and integration features, API access, and clock-in facial recognition software.
Ximble support is available 24/5 Monday through Friday.
Deputy brands itself as the ultimate employee management solution for hourly and shift-based workers, and its platform backs that up. We recommend the Premium plan, which starts at $3 per employee per month. Schedules are created via a drag-and-drop menu and can be organized by age, experience, or wage cost. Once Deputy learns your scheduling preferences, it can automate future schedules. Deputy also offers time tracking, messaging, clock-in via facial recognition, and functions for managing performance and assigning tasks.
Other features include shift swapping and integration with payroll software, API access, and a news feed that can be used to share company updates. Deputy has an enterprise solution that offers further customization, such as location and department level procedures and signal-based scheduling features that can update schedules based on real-time factors like weather and traffic.
Deputy offers 24/7 support.
Shiftboard has scheduling and management capabilities designed for medium and large-sized businesses. On the Shiftboard platform you can create rules-based schedules, message your employees to discuss scheduling issues, track clock-in and clock-out times, and create reports using shift data, workforce statistics, team information, financial records, timekeeper information, and more.
Shiftboard also has features that allow for job applicant and onboarding tracking, and can integrate with payroll, HR, and POS software. The Basic plan, which offers scheduling services for up to 20, costs $3 per employee per month. The Advanced plan costs $6 per employee per month and boasts additional features like advanced reporting, API access, and website branding. The Enterprise plan features additional compliance and applicant tracking features. Contact Shiftboard for a free quote.
HotSchedules specializes in scheduling solutions for the restaurant, hospitality and retail industries. There are three different plans depending on the size of your business. The Independent plan starts at $2 per employee per month and can accommodate up to 30 employees in a single location. Among the features included are a drag-and-drop scheduling interface, shift swapping, time-off management, and overtime alerts.
The $4 per employee per month Advanced plan can accommodate businesses with over 30 employees or businesses with multiple locations. Included in this plan are a time clock that can be accessed from the HotSchedules mobile app, payroll integration, advanced reporting, compliance alerts, and messaging functionality. Similar to other scheduling software providers, you can reach out to HotSchedules for a free quote on their enterprise solution (perks include POS integration and increased scheduling automation).
Picking an Employee Scheduling Software
Looking at all of the options we have provided, you may notice that there is considerable overlap in the type of features offered with different employee scheduling software providers. The fact is most scheduling software can perform similar functions, albeit at different prices and with different levels of specificity. In the end, the key differentiator for you, small business owner, is personal preference.
We recommend signing up for a couple of different free trials to see which scheduling interfaces you find easiest to use. You may also prioritize one or two specific features, such as an intuitive time-off system, and opt for the software that performs this function best. Invest the time now to pick an employee scheduling software platform that meets your business’s needs and you’ll be surprised at how much your own schedule opens up later on.
A corporate resolution formally documents the decisions of a corporation’s board of directors. The board votes on resolutions during a board meeting or in writing. All states require corporations to use corporate resolutions to record important business decisions. Without proper corporate resolutions, owners could lose their limited liability protections.
When starting a company, you might reach out to an attorney or online legal service to make sure you’re complying with legal requirements. Among the different types of business entities, corporations have the most onerous legal responsibilities. For example, corporations must draft and approve a corporate resolution whenever the board of directors makes an important decision.
It can be tempting to skip this step and make decisions informally for your business, especially when speed is of the essence. However, you might end up hurting your company in the long run if you fail to issue corporate resolutions. In this guide, we’ll explain why corporate resolutions are important, when they’re needed, and how to write a corporate resolution. We’ll even include a sample corporate resolution form for you to use as a template.
Why Corporate Resolutions Are Important
One of the biggest advantages of starting a corporation is limited liability protection for owners. Both C-corporations and S-corporations are considered legal entities separate from their owners. This means that the owners aren’t personally liable for the debts of the C-corporation or S-corporation.
In order to maintain limited liability protection for owners, the corporation must act independently from the owners. Otherwise, a court can pierce the corporate veil, holding owners personally liable for the acts of the corporation. If that were to happen, creditors and legal claimants could come after the personal assets of the owners (e.g. their house, car, or personal bank accounts) to settle business liabilities. This is obviously something that you want to avoid if you have a corporation.
Issuing corporate resolutions is one way for corporations to demonstrate independence and avoid piercing the veil. In fact, all states requireC-corporations and S-corporations to issue corporate resolutions to document important board of director decisions. Resolutions are required even if you’re the sole shareholder of your corporation and the only member of the board.
Apart from helping to preserve limited liability for owners, corporate resolutions are also a way for the board of directors and shareholders to influence the company. Business owners are responsible for answering to shareholders and to the board. These parties can exert influence and cause change within the company by approving corporate resolutions.
When Corporate Resolutions Are Necessary
Corporate resolutions are required whenever the board of directors makes a major decision. The resolution acts as a written record of the decision and is stored with other business documents. These board resolutions are binding on the company.
The following types of decisions require corporate resolutions:
Approve a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
Register a new trademark, copyright, or patent
You typically don’t need to write corporate resolutions to document actions taken by officers of the corporation. Officers include the chief executive officer (CEO), chief technology officer (CTO), chief marketing officer (CMO), and others holding similar titles. These officers are elected by the board and have the authority to take day-to-day actions on behalf of the company. For instance, these officers can hire employees (not C-level executives), launch new products and services, and acquire new customers—all without a corporate resolution.
If you’re an officer of a corporation and are unclear if something requires board approval, corporate lawyer Shawn McBride says that it’s best to consult with a lawyer. “If you’re unsure whether you need board approval,” McBride says, “this is a good time to bring in a lawyer. Your lawyer should be able to educate you on what types of decisions go into resolutions and which don’t. Speaking very generally, major decisions go into resolutions, and day to day items don’t.”
When You’ll Need to Show Proof of a Corporate Resolution
In most cases, you don’t have to submit corporate resolutions to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the state government, or any other government agency. Once the board votes on a resolution, it should be simply stored with the company’s meeting minutes, incorporation papers, and other business documents.
That said, there are a few situations in which you might be asked to show proof of a corporate resolution. Banks might ask for proof of a corporate resolution if an individual representing the corporation wants to open, change, or close a financial account. Similarly, if an officer wants to enter into a contract with another firm, that company might request proof of a corporate resolution to show that the officer is acting with the backing of the board. You might also need to furnish corporate resolutions during the course of a legal proceeding or if a director or important shareholder wants to review the company’s decisions.
How to Write a Corporate Resolution Form
A corporate resolution can be evaluated in one of two ways. The resolution can be included on the board’s agenda prior to a scheduled board meeting and circulated to all the directors. The directors will then vote on the resolution during the meeting. Alternatively, the resolution can be approved by signed, written consent of the directors without holding a board meeting. Depending on what’s in the company’s bylaws, approval of the resolution might require a plurality vote, majority vote, or unanimous consent.
In either case, you’ll need to include the following information in a corporate resolution form:
Date and place of the vote on the resolution
Effective date of the resolution if the resolution is approved
Name of the company and the state in which the company is incorporated
A title that’s descriptive of the resolution (e.g. “Resolution to start a joint venture with XYZ Company”)
“Whereas” statement showing the intention of the board (e.g. “Whereas it is the intention of this board to approve a joint venture with XYZ Company in order to increase profits…”)
Phrase stating that the board consented unanimously. If consent was not unanimous, indicate each board’s member “yes” or “no” vote.
“Therefore” or “resolved” statement that specifies what action was approved (e.g. “Resolved: By written unanimous consent, the joint venture with XYZ Company is approved.”)
Signature of the board members if the resolution is approved by written consent instead of during a board meeting
Here’s a sample corporate resolution form from Rocket Lawyer. Rocket Lawyer will walk you through a series of questions to help you customize a corporate resolution form for your business’s needs.
Write Your Corporate Resolution at Rocket Lawyer
Source: Rocket Lawyer
What to Do After Drafting a Corporate Resolution
After the board votes on a corporate resolution, the corporation’s secretary is responsible for verifying the resolution and logging the outcome of the vote in the company’s meeting minutes. This process is called certifying the resolution. “The secretary takes the resolutions of the company as adopted, and adds a certification with their signature stating that the resolution was approved at the meeting,” says McBride. If the resolution doesn’t pass, the secretary will note that in the meeting minutes, as well.
The secretary should store the meeting minutes and a copy of the corporate resolution form in the company’s corporate records book. The meeting minutes and records book can be in either physical or electronic format.
If the resolution passes, the company should take the action necessary to implement the resolution. This action might occur through the board members or through the officers of the company. In the joint venture example, the CEO might begin negotiating terms with the partner company after the resolution passes.
Shareholder Resolutions vs. Board Resolutions
Most of the time, corporate resolutions record decisions taken by a company’s board of directors. These resolutions are called board resolutions. However, shareholders can also issue corporate resolutions, called shareholder resolutions or shareholder proposals. According to Joshua S. Bauchner, a shareholder in New Jersey law firm Ansell Grimm & Aaron, PC, “Any time a board takes formal action, it must be memorialized in a resolution, often in the form of a legal document, which will be or has been put to a vote at a company’s board meeting. Shareholders usually pass shareholder resolutions when they believe the board is not acting in the best interests of the corporation.”
Shareholder resolutions ask the board of directors to take a particular action. Unlike board resolutions, shareholder resolutions are non-binding on the company. The board might choose to, but need not, implement what the shareholders are asking for.
Process for Passing Shareholder Resolutions
Shareholders can present resolutions at the corporation’s annual meeting. If the corporation has publicly held stock, then shareholders wishing to make a shareholder resolution have to follow the guidelines set by the SEC. In general, the SEC guidelines permit resolutions only from shareholders who have continuously held at least $2,000 of the company’s stock for a year or longer.
If a shareholder meets these requirements, then the board can choose to bring up the resolution for a vote at the next shareholder meeting. If the board has objections, they have to put the objections in writing and allow the SEC an opportunity for review. If the resolution comes up for a vote and a majority of shareholders approve, the board might take up the proposal (but they don’t have to) at the next board meeting. Shareholders are limited to making one shareholder resolution per company each year.
In many cases, activist groups use shareholder resolutions to influence a company’s board of directors. In 2011, for example, an environmental group called As You Sow successfully pushed McDonald’s board of directors to replace foam cups with paper cups. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) regularly buys stock in pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies and issues shareholder resolutions to lobby against animal testing. It’s important to be aware of the influence and power of shareholder regulations if you own a corporation.
Corporate Resolutions: The Bottom Line
Corporate resolutions are legally required in all states to preserve limited liability for corporate owners. However, corporate resolutions also play a practical purpose, which is to let corporate owners know what the board of directors and shareholders think. In order to be a good small business owner, you need to know what your company’s stakeholders see as priorities, and corporate resolutions are designed for this purpose. If you need to write a corporate resolution form, Rocket Lawyer can help you get started.
The accounts receivable turnover ratio is used to measure how effective a company is at extending credits and collecting debts. You can calculate your business’s accounts receivable turnover ratio by dividing your net credit sales by your average accounts receivable. This accounts receivable turnover formula, in other words, looks like:
Net Credit Sales / Average Accounts Receivable
Generally, the higher the accounts receivable turnover ratio, the more efficient your business is at collecting credit from your customers.
When it comes to business accounting, there are many formulas and calculations that, although seemingly complex, can nevertheless provide valuable insight into your business operations and financials. One such calculation, the accounts receivable turnover ratio, can help you determine how effective you are at extending credit and collecting debts from your customers.
Even though this may sound difficult, once you break down the accounts receivable turnover formula, you’ll find that the ratio is, in fact, rather simple to calculate. Moreover, the accounts receivable turnover ratio can be extremely useful—as understanding it can be crucial to your cash flow, to getting a loan, and to your overall business financial planning.
In this guide, therefore, we’ll break down the accounts receivable turnover ratio, discussing what it is, how to calculate it, and what it can mean for your business.
Accounts Receivable Turnover: The Basics
Before we explain how to calculate the accounts receivable turnover ratio and what it can indicate for your business, let’s start with the basics of this accounting term: What is the accounts receivable turnover ratio?
The accounts receivable turnover ratio is an accounting calculation used to measure how effectively your business (or any business) uses customer credit and collects payments on the resulting debt.
This ratio, typically measured on an annual basis, is calculated using an accounts receivable turnover formula, which requires two quantities: net credit sales and average accounts receivable.
How to Calculate Accounts Receivable Turnover Ratio
In order to calculate your accounts receivable turnover ratio, you’ll use the following accounting receivable turnover formula:
Net credit sales / Average Accounts Receivable
Step 1: Determine your net credit sales.
The first part of the accounts receivable turnover formula calls for your net credit sales, or in other words, all of your sales for the year that were made on credit (as opposed to cash). This figure should include your total credit sales, minus any returns or allowances. You should be able to find your net credit sales number on your annual income statement or on your balance sheet.
Step 2: Determine your average accounts receivable.
Once you have your net credit sales, the second part of the accounts receivable turnover formula requires your average accounts receivable. Accounts receivable refers to the money that’s owed to you by customers. In order to find your average accounts receivable, then, you’ll take the number of your accounts receivable at the beginning of the year, add it with the value of your accounts receivable at the end of the year, and divide by two to find the average. You should be able to find the necessary accounts receivable numbers on your balance sheet.
Step 3: Divide.
Once you have these two values, you’ll be able to use the accounts receivable turnover formula. You’ll divide your net credit sales by your average accounts receivable to calculate your accounts receivable turnover ratio, or rate.
As a reminder, this ratio helps you look at the effectiveness of your credit, as your net credit sales value does not include cash since cash doesn’t create receivables. Therefore, if you have a lower number of payment collections from your customers, you’ll have a lower accounts receivable turnover ratio, and vice versa—if you have a higher number of payment collections from customers, you’ll have a higher ratio.
Let’s say your company had $100,000 in net credit sales for the year, with average accounts receivable of $25,000. To determine your accounts receivable turnover ratio, you would divide the net credit sales, $100,000 by the average accounts receivable, $25,000 and get four.
An accounts receivable turnover ratio of four indicates that your business is collecting your average receivables four times per year, or cycling through your accounts receivable once per quarter.
What Your Accounts Receivable Turnover Ratio Means
So, now that we’ve explained how to calculate the accounts receivable turnover ratio, let’s explore what this ratio can mean for your business. As we mentioned, the accounts receivable turnover ratio is used to measure the effectiveness of how you extend credit and collect debts—therefore, the higher your ratio, the more times you’re turning over your accounts receivable, which means that there’s a higher likelihood that your customer’s debts are being paid quickly.
In turn, a higher accounts receivable turnover improves your cash flow and allows you to pay your business’s debts, like payroll, as an example, more quickly. Additionally, a higher ratio means it’s more likely your business will eventually receive payments for debts instead of having to write off bad debt—a sign of a financially healthier business in general.
Moreover, in addition to calculating the likelihood and speed of the payments you’ll receive, the ratio can also indicate how well your business handles credit policy and practices as well as manages customer debt. Let’s discuss further:
High Accounts Receivable Turnover Ratio
As we mentioned, the general rule of thumb is that the higher the accounts receivable turnover rate the better. A higher ratio, therefore, can mean:
You receive payment for debts, which increases your cash flow.
Your collections methods are effective.
You’re extending credit to the right kinds of customers, meaning you don’t take on as much bad debt.
Your customers are paying off debt quickly, freeing up credit lines for future purchases.
However, it’s worth noting that a high ratio could also mean that you operate largely on a cash basis as well.
Moreover, although typically a higher accounts receivable turnover ratio is preferable, there are also scenarios in which your ratio could be too high. A too high ratio can mean that your credit policies are too aggressive, which can lead to upset customers or a missed sales opportunity from a customer with slightly lower credit. In that case, you might reconsider your credit policies to possibly increase sales as well as improve customer satisfaction.
Low Accounts Receivable Turnover Ratio
On the other hand, if you have a low accounts receivable turnover ratio, you’re probably not effectively collecting debt payments with regards to your sales. In turn, then, this could indicate a few possibilities for your business:
Your collections policies may not be effective.
You’re giving credit too leniently.
Bad or uncollectible debt is hurting your cash flow.
Furthermore, a low accounts receivable turnover rate could indicate additional problems in your business—ones that are not due to credit or collections processes. When companies fail to satisfy customers through shipping errors or products that malfunction and need to be replaced, your company’s turnover may slow. Therefore, if your ratio is low, you’ll want to consider a variety of factors that may be contributing and once you’ve identified the problem or problems, evaluate how you can change and better your practices to improve your accounts receivable turnover ratio.
The Importance of Your Accounts Receivable Turnover Ratio
As we’ve mentioned, your accounts receivable turnover ratio can be an important figure for your business management and planning.
By learning how quickly your average debts are paid, you can try to determine what your cash flow will look like in the coming months in order to better plan your expenses. Plus, addressing collections issues to improve cash flow can also help you reinvest in your business for additional growth.
Moreover, improving your ratio can also help you get a business loan, as many loans use accounts receivable as collateral. By improving your accounts receivable turnover ratio, you can improve the level of collateral you can offer and potentially your loan terms.
Once again, there are a variety of ways you can improve this ratio—from adjusting collections policies to collect on more payments to offering incentives to customers who pay quickly—depending, of course, upon what you determine is most greatly affecting your existing ratio.
By changing your policies to improve your ratio, though, you’ll be helping your cash flow, loan possibilities, and overall financial planning, all of which can be integral to the success of your small business.
Tracking Your Accounts Receivable Turnover
Since your accounts receivable turnover can be an accounting principle that is crucial to your business, you’ll want to be sure that part of your business accounting processes includes tracking it and determining where you have opportunities to improve policies, and therefore, your bottom line. By tracking your accounts receivable turnover rate over time, you can get a clear view of how your business extends and collects credit and see whether the trends are moving in the right direction year after year.
Moreover, with regard to your future business financing, some lenders might look at your accounts receivable turnover to help them decide if they should work with your business. When comparing two very similar businesses, the one with a higher receivables turnover ratio may be a smarter investment for a lender—making it even more important for you to track yours and improve it, if necessary.
Limitations of the Accounts Receivables Turnover Ratio
Though we’ve discussed how this metric can be helpful in assessing how long it takes your business to collect on credit, you’ll also want to remember that just like any metric, it has its limitations.
First, although accounts receivables turnover ratio can help you spot trends, it can’t really help you identify bad customer accounts that may need extra review, such as those that are far past due.
Additionally, since the ratio is based on an average it can be skewed by customers who pay exceptionally quickly and similarly by accounts that pay extremely slowly, making it a less accurate measure of your credit effectiveness. Furthermore, accounts receivables can vary throughout the year, which means your ratio can be skewed simply based on the start and endpoint of your average. Therefore, you should also look at account aging to ensure your ratio is an accurate picture of your customers’ payment.
Lastly, when it comes to comparing different companies accounts receivables turnover rates, only those companies who are in the same industry and have similar business models should be compared. Comparing the accounts receivables turnover of companies of varying sizes or capital structures is not particularly useful and you should use caution in doing so.
Account Receivables Turnover: The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, even if calculating and understanding your accounts receivable turnover ratio may seem difficult at first, in reality, it’s a rather simple (and certainly important) accounting measurement. Once you’ve used the accounts receivable turnover formula to find your ratio, you can identify issues in your business’s credit practices and help improve cash flow.
Although this metric is not perfect, it’s a useful way to assess the strength of your credit policy and your efficiency when it comes to accounts receivables. Plus, if you discover that your ratio is particularly high or low, you can work on adjusting your policies and processes to improve the overall health and growth of your business.
This being said, in order to best monitor your business finances, accounting, and bookkeeping, we’d recommend investing in robust accounting software, like QuickBooks, for example. With an intuitive accounting platform, you’ll be able to more easily track your expenses, invoices, and customer payments—making calculating and tracking your accounts receivable turnover even simpler as well.
Moreover, if you believe your business would benefit from experienced, hands-on assistance in accounting and finance, it’s always good to consult a business accountant or financial advisor. These professionals can help you manage your planning, policies, and answer any questions you have, about accounts receivable turnover, or otherwise.
Business travel is essential for business owners, executives, and employees in a number of industries. Whether you’re attending a conference, meeting a client, or staking out a new business location, work sometimes requires you to be away from your company’s home base.
According to research by Expedia, more than 60% of travelers extend business trips for leisure purposes. This means that the destination matters more than ever. These so-called “bleisure” (business + leisure) travelers take an average of six business trips per year.
Traditionally, big cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York have been the cities of choice for business travel. However, as companies try to minimize rising travel and operational costs, smaller cities have become more popular.
We set out to find America’s best business travel destinations. Several factors were included in our analysis, including hotel availability and cost, traffic congestion, dining and entertainment options, and transportation.
Key findings include:
Large cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, dominated the top 10 business travel destinations. This is due to easy hotel access and a plethora of dining and entertainment options.
However, some smaller cities made a strong showing, with Miami and Atlanta in the top 10. Smaller cities received high scores for affordability, light traffic, and convenient access to downtown.
There are some regional overlaps in the best destinations for business travel. For example, Los Angeles and Long Beach both earned high points as business travel destinations, as did the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington region of Texas.
Six of this year’s top 10 business travel destinations are coastal regions. In particular, California has three coastal regions in the top 10.
Read on to learn more about each of the best business travel destinations for 2019. This data is helpful for business owners, event planners, and executives.
10 Best Business Travel Destinations 2019
As a business traveler, you need to be able to comfortably reach your destination with minimal delays. We examined airport amenities and flight delays as part of another report on the Best and Worst Airports for Business Travel. Once you arrive at your destination, you should be able to access comfortable and affordable accommodation, easily get around the city, and have enjoyable things to do in your off hours.
Taking these factors into account, here are the areas that are currently best equipped to handle the needs of business travelers:
1. Los Angeles-Long Beach* metropolitan area
The Los Angeles-Long Beach metropolitan area tops our list of America’s best places for business travel. This region shined in availability of hotels and dining and entertainment options. Based on Census data, there are 1,596 hotels available in this region and over 100,000 dining and entertainment establishments.
Convenience and cost are downsides. Even though Los Angeles International airport is just 16 miles from downtown L.A., the drive can take more than an hour and a half during rush hour. Fortunately, the region does offer some alternative transportation options, including public transit, electric scooters, and even helicopter-sharing.
The average nightly cost of a hotel room in Los Angeles and Long Beach is $259, which is the eighth-highest in the nation. Since accommodation is typically the second-biggest travel expense after flight costs, hotel expenses make Los Angeles-Long Beach a less likely option for budget-conscious small business owners, particularly for longer stays.
*Note: The Census also includes Anaheim in this metropolitan area, but we didn’t include Anaheim in our analysis since it’s not one of the 50 largest cities by population.
2. New York City
The Big Apple is the second-best city for business travelers this year. New York has 1,593 hotels, approximately the same number as Los Angeles/Long Beach, even though NYC is 60% smaller geographically. All those hotels—and NYC’s 150,000 dining and entertainment establishments—are crowded into a relatively small, but densely packed, area.
New York hotels are the costliest in the country, at $393 per night on average. Commute times from Kennedy airport to lower Manhattan can average around 110 minutes during rush hour. However, savvy business travelers should consider taking the subway like the locals do. New York completes an average of 184 public transit trips per person per year, making it the best place in the country for public transportation. With a fare of $2.75 per subway ride, this is also a very economical way for small business owners to travel.
3. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area
The sprawling region of Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas is an economical and centrally located option for business travelers around the country. This region offers the best of all worlds in many ways. Finding a hotel or a place to dine your client shouldn’t be a problem, with 1,053 hotels and almost 40,000 dining and entertainment establishments. Plus, the Dallas convention center has 1 million square feet of exhibit space, making it a great option for virtually any event.
The average nightly cost of a hotel stay is just $187.93, which is lower than even some less-populated cities like Miami and San Francisco. The Dallas Fort Worth Airport is 20 miles from downtown Dallas, but it takes just 40 minutes to reach downtown from the airport during rush hour. The primary downside with traveling to Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington is the lack of good public transportation. The region is very sprawling, which makes it much more amenable to driving.
Texas performed really well in this year’s rankings, with Houston ranking right behind its sister cities. Houston has 33,656 dining and entertainment establishments and 992 hotels. However, the city is a whopping 600 square miles across, so those hotels are spaced far apart from each other. We recommend business travelers choose accommodation close to downtown or wherever you’ll be spending the most time.
Houston does pretty well on affordability and convenience factors. Hotels cost an average of $189 per night, just slightly ahead of the Dallas area. Despite the fact that Houston is so sprawling, getting from the airport to downtown only takes about 45 minutes in rush hour. Just don’t rely on using public transit to get to your meeting, as Houston ranked in the bottom half of cities for public transportation access.
Interestingly, Houston was the only city in the top 10 without access to electric scooters. Electric scooters, rentable through an app, are rapidly becoming a popular way for tourists and business travelers to cover small distances.
Chicago rounds out the top five business travel destinations of 2019. The city has 919 hotels and just under 60,000 dining and entertainment establishments. Hotels cost an average of $279 per night, the fifth-highest rate in the U.S., so cost is an issue. Also, airport-to-downtown commute times can top 110 minutes during rush hour. Fortunately, Chicago ranked third for public transportation access, so a frustrated business traveler can opt to hop on a bus or train.
The biggest convention center in the country is located in Chicago, making this a standout city for business executives who want to host a conference or travel to attend one. McCormick Place has a whopping 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space. Over the next several months, the center will be hosting events by Salesforce, RetailX, the American Psychological Association, and the National Restaurant Association. No matter what industry your company is in, you can probably find an event or meeting venue in Chicago that meets your needs.
You might associate Miami more with beaches and parties than you would with a business meeting, but several factors make this city one of 2019’s top business travel destinations. The city has 859 hotels, which go for an average of $209 per night. The number of dining and entertainment establishments—36,751—are disproportionately high for a 55-square-mile city, so there’s no shortage of things to do with your team or with clients.
The Miami International Airport is fewer than 8 miles from downtown and a relatively short, half hour drive. As you might expect, car culture dominates in Miami. You won’t have any problem finding a taxi or rideshare vehicle, but you can’t always rely on public transit. Miami has a 500,000-square-foot convention center minutes away from beaches, you won’t have trouble attracting a crowd for your next event. With more and more travelers mixing business and pleasure, access to a beautiful climate and beaches only enhances Miami’s appeal.
Atlanta is a good option for business travelers along the East Coast and in the South. Many trip planners set their sights on this city because Atlanta offers a combination of amenities and affordability. Visitors can choose from 842 hotels and over 32,000 dining and entertainment establishments. The nightly hotel rate averages $197, more affordable than seven of our other top 10 cities.
The Atlanta convention center is the third-largest among the cities we ranked, with 1.4 million square feet of dedicated exhibit space. Compared to New York and San Francisco, business travelers in Atlanta will also find it easier to get around the city. The airport is under 10 miles from downtown, a drive of about 45 minutes during rush hour. Public transit isn’t a strong point for the city, but electric scooters are available to zip around Atlanta.
8. San Francisco-Oakland* metropolitan area
It won’t come as a surprise to business owners in the technology space that San Francisco and Oakland are among the top 10 best business travel destinations. However, it takes many people to fill the seats in a tech company. Workers in marketing, sales, and facilities often do more traveling than engineers.
San Francisco is not a big city in terms of size (it’s about 47 square miles) or population, but it’s densely packed and expensive. There are 708 hotels in the San Francisco-Oakland region. On the San Francisco side of the bay, hotels cost an average of $387 per night. For a less expensive stay, try Oakland, where the average hotel room costs just $242 per night.
This region has 37,000 dining and entertainment establishments. The drive time from the San Francisco Airport to downtown San Francisco clocks in at a reasonable 45 minutes even during rush hour. You can also use trains, buses, and scooters—and helicopter sharing if you have the budget, to get San Francisco and Oakland.
Interestingly, one Bay Area city that didn’t make the cut is San Jose. San Jose is often labeled the unofficial capital of Silicon Valley because it’s located near the biggest tech companies—Google, Facebook, and Apple. Recently, however, San Francisco and neighboring Oakland have been more aggressive in recruiting tech companies and attracting business talent.
*The Census also includes Hayward in this metropolitan area, but we didn’t include Hayward in our analysis since it’s not one of the 50 largest cities by population.
9. Washington, D.C.
Most people view Washington, D.C. as a haven for government workers. The nation’s capital is particularly important for government workers and federal contractors. However, D.C. also has a thriving hospitality, professional services, and retail scene.
Business travelers in D.C. will be able to choose from over 36,000 dining and entertainment establishments and 659 hotels. The average nightly rate for a hotel is a pricey $325. You have a choice of three airports, but getting to downtown D.C. from the largest airport—Dulles International—should take under an hour even in heavy traffic. If you’d rather get to your meeting or event by train, you’re in luck. Washington, D.C. ranked as the fourth-best city for public transportation access.
10. San Diego
The city of San Diego is a big draw for business travelers, especially those in the healthcare, biomedical, and cleantech industries. This is one of the most efficiently run large cities in the U.S., which means residents and visitors alike can expect high-quality services and infrastructure. San Diego has 483 hotels and over 20,000 dining and entertainment establishments, with hotel rates averaging $201 per night.
San Diego International Airport is conventionally situated near downtown, just 3 miles and a short 15-minute drive away. The airport-to-downtown drive time is the fifth-best among all the cities we evaluated. San Diego doesn’t have great public transportation, with just 27 trips per capita each year. However, you can always zip around to meetings in an electric scooter. Many scooter companies are operating in the city after the San Diego City Council approved a permitting process for scooter companies.
Complete Ranking of 2019 Business Travel Destinations
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