Find trustworthy and informative community banking articles on financial and cybersecurity news and tips.
Business & Financial
Secrets to Running a Successful Woman-Owned Business
May 30, 2019
Without a doubt, women are excelling in business. According to the 2018 State of Women-Owned Business Report by American Express, there are now more than 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., generating $1.8 trillion in sales as of 2018. In light of all the progress women have made in business, you may be wondering how and why women are excelling in business. We spoke to four women business owners to find out what they believe were the secrets to their success.
Speak Up & Say, “I Want to Play”
Karie Cowden, Owner, Connect the Dots Promotions
Make no mistake, building a successful business is a lot of hard work. Karie’s business, Connect the Dots Promotions, was not an overnight success, but that was intentional. “My business’ growth was organic and intentional,” says Karie regarding her 10-year-old marketing promotions business. “It was important to me to be able keep my arms around it and not let it get away from me.” She attributes her excellent customer service and retention record to this philosophy.
Family/Work Balance a No-Go
Karie doesn’t believe in balance. She believes family is at the center and you build around that, and you can be successful. But you have to ask for help. Married with two daughters, Karie was able to run her business and have a happy home life. “My girls are awesome and I think I taught them more about life as a working mom than if I had stayed home with them. But I had to ask for help and in doing so, we became a well-oiled machine at home.”
Align Your Resources
Get help from the many resources available, says Karie. Karie belongs to two Mastermind groups:
- The Small Business Development Center that provides a counselor who Karie meets with once a month for business advice
- CEO Mastermind group that offers personal development advice and guidance
Karie is also active in the Women’s Business Enterprise Council (WBENC) which helps open the door to larger brands and corporations. It was through WBENC that Karie was accepted in a prestigious training program offered by Arizona Public Service for women business owners. “The APS training really helped me learn how to run a business and how to sell,” says Karie. “I also learned that sometimes, you just have to speak up and say, ‘I want to play’ and you’ll get your chance.”
Find Your Tribe
It takes a strong support system of mentors, family members, business colleagues, and other resources to succeed. “I can’t do this on my own,” says Karie. “I have a lot of people around to support me at home and at work.”
Not Something to Take Lightly
Camala Bailey, Founder & President, Camala C. Baily, CPA, PC
Starting a business is something not to be taken lightly, warns Camala. But, it can be very rewarding, she says. Starting her accounting firm in 1998 -- when the industry was pretty much dominated by men -- was a struggle, says Camala. She attributes her success to the support of her family, colleagues, and a ton of hard work. “I was willing to work really hard to get where I am today.”
Confidence is Key
“My biggest challenge as a woman in this male-dominated industry back then was that people didn’t take me seriously,” says Camala. “I decided I needed to gain respect, so I began applying as a presenter at conferences.”
Now, for an introverted accountant, this was not an easy thing to do. But Camala trained hard and prepared by taking public speaking courses to get over her fear of public speaking and gain confidence. “Now I speak at national conferences all the time and have gained respect from people in my industry.”
This technique also helped Camala to “step out of her shell” and build a network and substantially grow her business. “I believe demonstrating confidence is key,” says Camala. “I preach this to many of the younger people who work with me.”
Finding Your Niche
Camala’s firm found great success by specializing in serving the accounting needs of veterinarians. It also allowed her to develop a tight network of colleagues in the veterinary world who share ideas and work together to help each other succeed.
“We work together regularly,” says Camala. “We’re not competing with each other, we don’t have to. There’s enough work in the industry to share.”
Rely on Those You Trust
Malarie Woolf and Lori Price, Co-Owners, Flip Dunk Sports
One of the biggest obstacles Malarie Woolf and Lori Price faced when launching their business, Flip Dunk Sports, was being taken seriously, they say. “In some cases, people just didn’t think we knew what we were talking about, and sometimes, they’d try to take advantage of that,” says Lori.
It took a little extra effort, but they met the challenge, and continue to do so, by showing they know their stuff. They present the facts and prove they know all aspects of running their business, says Malarie.
To ensure they do know all facets of running their trampoline park and gymnastics/cheer center, Malarie and Lori rely on others in business they know they can trust to be honest, and “tell them like it is,” says Malarie.
Need to Be All In
If there’s one bit of advice Malarie and Lori would pass on to others looking to go into business is to know that it’s a lot more than you think. More time, more commitment, more surprises you can’t plan for … it’s just more of everything, they say.
Here are other tips these successful business owners offer:
- Expect the unexpected. You can’t foresee everything that may come your way, the good and the not-so-good.
- Make it simple. Don’t put too many elements into your business model. It can be overwhelming to manage. It takes a village to run a business, and sometimes, you may not be able to afford enough villagers if the business is too complex.
- Try new things. When the time is right, don’t be afraid to try new things. If they fail, that’s OK. But often, you will find success in some unexpected places.
- Hire Key People. Get your core team on board right from the start if possible. And realize you’ll need to pay them appropriately to keep them. But generally, it will be worth it.
- Feed Your Passion. Remember why you started your business in the first place, and keep that top of mind. For Malarie and Lori, that passion is working with kids and the community. Flip Dunk Sports has created a finely-tuned relationship with the local schools and continuously looks for opportunities to give back to the schools and the community with fundraisers and other ways to support them.
Hot HR Issues Facing Small Business Owners Today
May 1, 2019
The Bank’s April ShopTalk event focused on helping small businesses tackle the most pressing human resource issues today. Guest speaker, Noemi Barazza, Chief Operating Officer for Creative Business Resources, offered these valuable insights.
Issue #1 Attracting Talent
In today’s low unemployment rate, it’s more and more difficult to attract qualified talent to fill open positions and enhance your team. Noemi offers these tips to help you stand out from other employers:
- Write a Job Description – If you haven’t already done so, be sure to write a description of the job you are trying to fill. This will help you when advertising and interviewing for the position, as well as during the new hire's orientation.
- Make Your Job Post Count – Write your job post in a way that the candidate can picture themselves working in the job. The job description will help with this. Be sure to use keywords in your post.
- Tap Into Your Golden Resource – The best recruiting method you have is referrals from employees and colleagues. Use this resource whenever possible.
- Prescreen Your Candidates – Once you have a list of possible candidates, send them a short three- or four-question questionnaire to complete before scheduling an interview. Many will not reply, but that’s OK says Noemi. You only want to spend your time interviewing serious candidates, and those that don’t reply are not really interested in the position.
- Clearly Define the Benefits – During the interview process, have a one-page benefits summary that clearly outlines the benefits your company provides.
- Respond Quickly and Send an Offer Letter – Once you’ve chosen your ideal candidate, call him or her immediately and make your offer. Don’t wait too long or the candidate may choose another position. Prepare and send an offer letter to seal the deal.
Issue #2 Retaining Talent
Employee retention has a lot to do with the culture of a company, as well as salaries, schedules and much more. But Noemi offers these basic tips to help you stay competitive:
- Benefits Package – If possible, your benefits package should include a 401K match; medical, dental, vision & life benefits; paid holidays; and paid time off (vacation time). Leave of absence and bereavement policies are nice to have, but may not be as critical based on your individual circumstances. Providing sick time is now a requirement in Arizona, so you must provide your employees one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, with minimums at 40 hours for companies with 15 or more employees, and 24 hours for companies with 14 or fewer employees.
- Open Communication – 75% of employees say they would stay in an organization longer if their employer had listened to them and addressed their concerns, according to Noemi. That doesn’t mean you need to give them whatever they want, but you need to listen, negotiate and compromise.
- Flexible Schedules – Flexible schedules that can help employees obtain a better work-life balance are also very attractive to employees.
- Recognition & Wellness Programs – Create inexpensive ways to recognize employees for achieving levels of success and encouraging healthful behaviors.
- Training and Professional Development – Create a good onboarding process with a training schedule for new-hires to complete. This will eliminate uncertainty with your employee. Ongoing professional development will keep your employees working toward new opportunities in your company.
Issue #3 Avoiding Liability
Keeping pace with labor laws and regulations can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to avoid litigation:
- Create and Update Your Employee Handbook – At minimum your employee handbook should include:
- EEO Statement, Disclaimer and Employment Eligibility
- Policies and Procedures
- Company Property and Use of Technology
- Discipline Policies and Termination of Employment
- Know the Rules – As an employer, it’s imperative you know the labor laws. For resources, you may visit the Industrial Commission of Arizona https://www.azica.gov/divisions/labor-department and the U.S. Department Of Labor www.dol.gov and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission https://www.eeoc.gov/field/phoenix/index.cfm
- Consider Outsourcing – Outsourcing your HR activities can be a low-cost alternative to handling the duties in-house while helping you avoid litigation. Your HR partner will ensure you are in compliance, handle all your recruiting and onboarding tasks, and even provide better rates for medical and worker’s compensation benefits.
Republic Bank of Arizona’s next ShopTalk event will be June 26, 2019 at 7:30 a.m.and will focus on protecting your business and your customers from Cyber Security threats. For more information and to RSVP, contact Sue Thomas at email@example.com
4 Reasons Board Service Can Be Good For Business
April 4, 2019
Whether you are a young entrepreneur, owner of an established business, or a seasoned CEO, serving on a public or nonprofit board can offer significant benefits to you and your company:
1) Boosts Your Public Profile
Serving on a board of directors gets your name out in the public. You’ll likely be included on the organization’s website, in its publications, and other materials. You’ll have the opportunity to be a resource for articles, make presentations, serve on panels at conferences and be quoted in press releases. You can also put your board service on your business profile or bio.
2) Increased Networking Opportunities
In addition to your fellow board members, you’ll network with staff, customers, and shareholders of the organization who can serve as a resource for you and may introduce you to their peers and associates. “Board service provides a unique opportunity to work in a collaborative way with other highly accomplished individuals from a diverse background and with unique talents,” says RBAZ Chairman Alan Sparks.
3) Chance to Make a Difference
If you’re looking to give back, board service is one way to do that. Serving on a public board gives you a chance to support a local business and enhance its performance by offering your perspective and knowledge as a successful business owner. “The views and perspectives of individual board members reflect many different industries and combine to give the institution results greater than any single person can contribute,” says Alan.
4) Personal Growth Opportunities
While you may have much to give in terms of your own knowledge and talents, you can also receive. “Serving on the Board is the ultimate learning opportunity for me,” says RBAZ Board Member Judy Lynn. “While I will always have more and more to learn, I am pleased with how much I have learned over the years about banking operations and regulations.” Board Member Camala Bailey agrees, “I better understand the business of banking in terms of income, expenses, banking and business regulations, and much more.”
Learn more about Republic Bank of Arizona’s distinguished Board Members here.
Planning Your Exit is Part of Running a Successful Business
March 14, 2019
How and when you move on from your business may be the farthest thing from your mind right now … but it shouldn’t be. Having a well-planned exit strategy is crucial, and not having one could be downright tragic, according to the experts speaking at the Arizona Business Council's Educational Conference "Business Owner Exit Strategies & Deal Considerations.”
Some can’t wait for the day they can sell the business and retire to Hawaii. Others can’t imagine not going to work every day and see a bleak road ahead. Most business owners are probably somewhere in the middle. But wherever you land on the spectrum, do yourself a favor and start planning well in advance so however and whenever you exit, it can be done your way.
How to Start
According to Richard Lieberman, Chair of Jennings Strouss & Salmon’s Corporate, Securities and Finance Department and the conference’s keynote speaker, there are a number of factors to consider as you plan your exit including:
- How will you get consensus from key players in your company?
- How will you incent staff to continue after you leave?
- How will you make yourself expendable so the company can continue to run after you leave?
- How will you solidify customer relationships as you work through the process?
Understanding Your Options
Another step in the process is determining what type of deal structure works best for you and your company. Some options include:
- Sale of assets or stocks
- Joint venture or merger
- Sale of minority interest
Picking Your Partner
Once you’ve decided the type of deal that works best for you, you’ll need to determine who you want to make that deal with. Lieberman outlines your options as:
- Strategic buyers – Those who know your industry and may want to integrate your services with those they already offer. This could include a competitor, supplier, family member, or even your employees. Strategic buyers will typically pay more for your business.
- Financial Buyers and Private Equity – Those looking to invest in successful companies.
Lieberman suggests working with a third party to source buyers for your company when the time is right.
Be Good to Yourself
According to a USB Investor Watch Report, most business owners don’t have a full understanding of what takes place in selling a business, and how long that can take.
So be good to yourself and your employees. Plan early with different exit strategies in mind. This will give you the flexibility you need to get the most out of your business, whether you sell it, pass it on to your family, or have someone else manage it for you.
Cybersecurity Focus of Next ShopTalk Event
Are data security threats keeping you up at night? You're not alone, but help is on the way.
Join Republic Bank of Arizona's next ShopTalk with cybersecurity specialist Brian Blakley, founder of Cosant Cyber Security.
Brian is committed to keeping this discussion participant-driven, with no industry jargon that isn’t explained. You’ll leave this one-hour breakfast meeting with:
- Answers to your cybersecurity questions
- One free dark web report for your organization’s domain
- One free baseline phishing test for your organization
- 10 free cybersecurity and IT policy templates you can tailor for your business and disseminate to your team
- Potentially, a better night’s sleep
The open-discussion format of this event is a perfect venue to get your cybersecurity questions answered with expert advice on critical data security issues. If you’re interested in talking shop with RBAZ experts, here’s what you need to know:
- What: ShopTalk with Republic Bank of Arizona
- When:June 26, 2019
- Time: 7:30 – 8:30 a.m.
- Where: 645 E. Missouri Blvd., Suite 108, Phoenix, AZ 85012
- Refreshments: Continental Breakfast
- RSVP and/or to join our mailing list for future events: firstname.lastname@example.org
3 Questions Every Business Owner Should Ask Their Banker
Amy Lou Blunt • Executive Vice President, Chief Credit Officer
In the early days of establishing your banking relationship, there are important questions to ask your banker directly, or gather from independent resources:
1. Who will be my point of contact? Will they be available?
It is essential to have an advocate at your bank, someone you can meet with regularly, at your office and at the bank, who has the depth and breadth of experience to understand your industry and is willing to commit the time to you and your needs. The relationship should not stop there. Can/ will your banker connect you with the local business circle, which in turn opens leads to customers and other professional services?
2. What is the lending process?
Make sure that the initial stage of the process includes the opportunity for you to sit down with your banker to discuss why you believe you need financing and be ready to identify the stages of your operations, such as when cash flows in and when it is paid out, your growth plans, or equipment purchase plans.
Your banker should be able to propose options for your specific need, rather than a one-size-fits-all solution. Is your company’s size and/or the amount of your loan request within the typical range for the Bank, or will it be an extraordinary request? You will want to know if the approval decisions are made locally, and what is the anticipated timeline from application to approval.
And finally, although no less significant –
3. Is the bank’s financial condition strong and stable?
Of course, you will want to know if the bank is FDIC-insured. That should be a given. But, how well-capitalized is it? You can certainly ask, and should receive a direct answer. That information is also available to the public via Call Reports that are filed quarterly. The level of non-current loans as a percentage of total loans can also be a key indicator. You will want this to be a very low number. There are also industry ratings available, such as the Bauer’s 5-star rating system, which takes a number of these factors into account prior to assigning a rating. In this case, the higher number the better.
In the end, open communication is key to a successful banking relationship. You should feel comfortable and confident asking any question that is important to you, to know you have found the right fit for your banking needs!
What Makes a "Good Banker"?
Amy Lou Blunt • Executive Vice President, Chief Credit Officer
You entrust us with your information, funds and future growth. How do we build a team that is not only deserving of that trust, but can also confidently advise and support you in achieving your business goals?
Banking professionals deal with numerous responsibilities and regulatory compliance in a highly competitive industry. Their mission is your success, the Bank’s success and their own professional success and advancement. With so much on the line, a banker needs to embody a broad range of qualities.
1) The attributes that make up a "good banker" are led, first and formost, by personal integrity
2) Hot on the heels is the ability to exercise good judgment, encompassing knowledge, intelligence, and depth of experience
3) A good tactician can structure transactions and effectively negotiate
4) Highly developed communication skills are critical to communicate clearly and professionally
5) An open personality and enthusiasm for the work contribute to success exponentially
6) The best also see a world beyond their immediate sphere, and commit to outside causes that are important to them
Team building is a challenge across all industries, and banking is truly a collaborative effort. Strong team players set high expectations for their own work, and are not afraid to seek help from others. Great team players recognize the gratification that collaboration brings, committing to the collective effort.
When an organization finds a core team of people with these capabilities, there are few limits to what can be accomplished. With these attributes in mind, we are continuing to build and enhance our RBAZ team of bankers to support your success, our success and our community.
Is Equity Financing Right for You?
By Amy Blunt, Chief Credit Officer, Republic Bank of Arizona
Equity financing provided by an angel investor or venture capital fund (think "Shark Tank") carries no scheduled monthly payments, and provides extra working capital that can be used to grow and market your business. An advantage is that the investor takes the risk – if your company fails, there is no obligation to repay.
However, to offset that risk, you will be granting your potential investor an ownership interest in your company, and a voice in the decision-making process. Profits will be shared, and, should you want to disengage, buying out an investor can be expensive, typically costing a great deal more than the original investment.
Equity financing is a mixed bag of benefit and cost. If you choose the right investor, they could provide expertise in running the company, establish business connections and offer valuable advice; however, the loss of control over the operation, the duty to inform investors of significant events, and sharing business profits can prove costly in the long run.
A final thought
Remember, the equity you have in your company is not only your initial investment, but also includes retained earnings from profitable years of operations. You could potentially create additional equity and free up funds for growth internally, through expense reduction and by minimizing the level of owner distributions to simply cover the income tax obligation. That level of discipline could quickly bolster the capitalization of your company, providing the foundation for growth, either type of financing, and ultimately reward you many times over!
Important Information About Opening A Legal Entity Account
Effective May 11, 2018, new rules under the Bank Secrecy Act will aid the government in the fight against crimes to evade financial measures designed to combat terrorism and other national security threats.
EACH time an account is opened for a covered Legal Entity, we are required to ask you for identifying information (name, address, date of birth, social security number as well as identification documents) for:
- Each individual that has beneficial ownership (25% or more); and,
- One individual that has significant managerial control, of the Legal Entity.
If you are opening an account on behalf of a Legal Entity, you will be required to provide the appropriate documentation and to certify that this information is true and accurate to the best of your knowledge.
We proudly support all efforts to protect and maintain the security of our customers and our country.
Cyber Security Tips
More Tricks, No Treats for Scammers Targeting Small Businesses
It can be scary stuff when fraudsters target your business to bilk you out of money. According to the Better Business Bureau and FBI, it’s happening more and more often.
Don’t get tricked, be on the lookout for these top scamming schemes:
- Tech support alerts . Scammers pretend to be from a well-known company. They may ask the employee to pay them to fix a problem they don’t really have or enroll the business in a non-existent or useless computer maintenance program.
- Threats from a government agency. Fake government agents call threatening to suspend your business licenses, impose fines, or take legal action if your business doesn’t pay taxes, renew government licenses, or pay other fees. Some trick businesses into buying workplace compliance posters that are available for free.
- Make- believe directory listing. This scam fools businesses into paying for advertising or a listing in a non-existent directory one offering little value.
- Fake checks . You may be asked to deposit check and wire some of the money to a third-party because of an overpayment of some kind. Once it’s discovered the check is fake, the scammer already has your money.
- Need for account information. While this is an old one, it’s still used today. Someone impersonating your bank or credit card company calls or emails to “verify account information” to trick you to share your credit card or banking information.
As a business manager or owner, it’s a good idea to keep employees informed about the latest scams targeting businesses, and have a clear policy in place on how to handle a situation if something seems suspicious. For more resources, check the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
Source: Better Business Bureau
The Frightening Side of Smart Home Devices
Reprinted from OUCH! Newsletter
Traditionally only a few of your devices at home could connect to the Internet, such as your laptop, smartphone, or gaming console. However today, more and more devices are connecting to the Internet, from your lightbulbs and speakers to your TV, locks on your door or even your car. Soon, almost every device in your house could be connected to the Internet. These connected devices often go by the name of Internet of Things (IoT) or Smart Home devices. While these connected devices bring a great deal of convenience, they also bring unique dangers.
What’s the Problem?
The more devices that are connected to your home’s network, the more can go wrong. Hackers can program your devices to attack others, vendors can collect extensive information on your activities, or your devices could become infected and lock you out. Many of the companies making these devices have no experience with cyber security and see security as a cost. As a result, many of the devices you purchase have little or no security built into them. For example, some devices have default passwords that are well known or you cannot update or configure them.
How Can I Protect Myself
So what can you do? We definitely want you to leverage connected devices, safely and securely. These devices can provide wonderful features that make your life simpler. In addition, as the technology grows you may have no choice but to use smart devices. Here are key steps you can take to protect yourself.
- Connect Only What You Need: The simplest way to secure a device is to not connect it to the Internet. If you don’t need your device to be online, don’t connect it to your Wi-Fi network. Do you really need your toaster sending you notifications to your phone?
- Know What You Have Connected: What devices you do have connected to your home network? Not sure or can’t remember? Turn off your wireless network and see what is no longer working. It may not catch everything but you’ll be surprised at how many devices you forgot.
- Keep Updated: Just like your computer and mobile devices, it’s critical to keep any and all of your devices up to date. If your device has the option to automatically update, enable that.
- Passwords: Change the passwords on your devices to a unique, strong passphrase only you know. You will most likely only have to enter them once. Can’t remember all your passphrases? Don’t worry, neither can we. Consider using a password manager to securely store all of them.
- Privacy Options: If your device allows you to configure privacy options, limit the amount of information it collects or shares. One option is to simply disable any information sharing capabilities.
- Vendor: Buy your devices from a company that you know and trust. Look for products that support security, such as allowing you to enable automatic updating, change the default password and modify privacy settings.
- Always Listening: If a device can take your voice commands it is constantly listening. For example, your Alexa and Google Home devices can record sensitive conversations. Consider that when you determine where to place the devices in your home and review the privacy options.
- Guest Network: Consider putting your Smart Home devices on a separate “Guest” WiFi network rather than the primary WiFi network you use for your computers and mobile devices. This way if any Smart Device is infected, your computers or mobile devices on your main network remain safe.
There is no reason to be afraid of new technologies but do understand the risk they pose. By taking these few simple steps you can help create a far more secure Smart Home.