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Worried about government indecision hurting your business?

Government indecision has caused widespread uncertainty, particularly among small business owners – but there is a solution… stop paying attention.

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stop listening

stop listening

Small business uncertainty

Across the country, small business owners are becoming more and more familiar with a feeling of paralysis. Paralyzed by fear, uncertainty, misinformation, and a general sense of swimming upstream, many are finding it difficult to make the important decisions that will shape their business and personal futures.

What does new tax legislation and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act mean for my business? What will happen if those in Washington don’t see fit to set aside their personal agendas for the goodwill of the country? What would a government default or extended furlough mean for my business and our economy?

When consulting with small business owners on financial decisions, these questions arise constantly, and it is apparent that people are afraid. If they aren’t at least slightly afraid, they’re probably not paying attention. If you own a small business, you may relate to their fear.

What I’m about to propose may surprise you, then. I recommend that you stop. Stop paying attention. Stop listening to the talking heads and doomsday predictions. Stop listening to the various predictions of outcome and speculation as to the dire effects of each possible result.

Why should you stop paying attention?

It sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? After all, those who are informed typically fare better than those who aren’t. Therefore, you should remain informed and do your best to stay current with the facts.

But is it possible to be informed and to stop paying attention, and if so, why would you? People I know who have given it a shot can tell you that it is. These successful people would also tell you that they are no less worried, afraid, or interested than anyone else.

What sets them apart is their realization that paying attention is an action, a (sometimes) conscious effort. The more aware you are of it, the more you can choose what you pay attention to. And what you choose to pay attention to shapes your reality, your attitude, and your outlook for the future. These people continue to be successful because they realize that no matter what the government does, they’ll find a way to deal with it until they can’t, and no matter how challenging things get down the road, they’ll be better off if they stayed focused on doing the best they could with the hand they were dealt at any given time. They know that they can only accomplish this by focusing on the things they can control, so they set their attention on the activities they know will produce a positive outcome.

Setting your business apart

Small business owners have limited control over market forces. Supply and demand will always win, and consumer sentiment matters now more than ever. The majority of us cannot control tax legislation or industry regulations. What business owners can control is how they face challenges, how they treat their employees and how their customers view their company.

How customers view the people who run a company, and how they view their relationship with a company, its people and products are some of the factors that set businesses apart. Setting your business apart from the herd is increasingly important in constricted, commoditized economies like the one we are experiencing today and could see for some time.

Adapting to changes

Many of us are in business because we want to improve the world in a certain way, the only way we know how. When it comes to federal governmental policy, however, the truth is that the vast majority of business owners don’t have the time, resources, or power to directly affect outcomes. Changes will come down the pipeline, and we’ll have to learn how to adapt. It may be painful, and it will most likely be inconvenient.

Most business owners will probably have to pay people or other companies to help us navigate whatever changes come down the line, whether that fits into our plan or not (and it should). Some businesses may be pushed out, and some will be replaced by new organizations who realize that with every challenge comes an opportunity.

The fact of the matter is that we don’t know the future, and we can’t control it. So why waste your time and resources fretting the unknown? Your concerns are valid and you are right to stay informed. You are right to be a little afraid. But learn from those who are forging ahead and making their businesses stronger than ever, knowing that strength and focus are key to their survival. Follow their lead, and no matter what happens over the coming months and years, I assure you that you’ll be better off than those who chose to remain paralyzed by fear of the unknown.

Daniel Larsen is an Independent Financial Adviser based in Austin, Texas. After beginning investing as a hobby, he has specialized in investments and personal finance for seven years, helping successful professionals achieve financial independence. A graduate of the University of Texas, he has been featured in local and national publications and you can get more financial advice from his blog. Securities offered through WFG Investments, Inc. member FINRA & SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through WFG Advisors, LP.

Business Finance

How to survive a recession in the modern economy

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Advice about surviving a recession is common these days, but its intended audience can leave a large gap in application.

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recession squeeze

There’s no question of whether or not we’re in a recession right now, and while some may debate the severity of this recession in comparison to the last major one, there are undoubtedly some parallels–something Next Avenue’s Elizabeth White highlights in her advice on planning for the next few months (or years).

Among White’s musings are actionable strategies that involve forecasting for future layoffs, anticipating age discrimination, and swallowing one’s ego in regards to labor worth and government benefits like unemployment.

White isn’t wrong. It’s exceptionally important to plan for the future as much as possible–even when that plan undergoes major paradigm shifts a few times a week, at best–and if you can reduce your spending at all, that’s a pretty major part of your planning that doesn’t necessarily have to be subjected to those weekly changes.

However, White also approaches the issue of a recession from an angle that assumes a few things about the audience–that they’re middle-aged, relatively established in their occupation, and about to be unemployed for years at a time. These are, of course, completely reasonable assumptions to make…but they don’t apply to a pretty large subset of the current workforce.

We’d like to look at a different angle, one from which everything is a gig, unemployment benefits aren’t guaranteed, and long-term savings are a laughable concept at best.

White’s advice vis-a-vis spending is spot-on–cancelling literally everything you can to avoid recurring charges, pausing all non-essential memberships (yes, that includes Netflix), and downgrading your phone plan–it’s something that transcends generational boundaries.

In fact, it’s even more important for this generation than White’s because of how frail our savings accounts really are. This means that some of White’s advice–i.e., plan for being unemployed for years–isn’t really feasible for a lot of us.

It means that taking literally any job, benefit, handout, or circumstantial support that we can find is mandatory, regardless of setbacks. It means that White’s point of “getting off the throne” isn’t extreme enough–the throne needs to be abolished entirely, and survival mode needs to be implemented immediately.

We’re not a generation that’s flying all over the place for work, investing in real estate because it’s there, and taking an appropriate amount of paid time off because we can; we’re a generation of scrappy, gig economy-based, paycheck-to-paycheck-living, student debt-encumbered individuals who were, are, and will continue to be woefully unprepared for the parameters of a post-COVID world.

If you’re preparing to be unemployed, you’re recently unemployed, or you even think you might undergo unemployment at some point in your life, start scrapping your expenses and adopt as many healthy habits as possible. Anything goes.

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Business Finance

Clyde helps smaller brands to offer product protection programs

(BUSINESS FINANCE) For small brands that sell not-so-little items, Clyde is a big deal! Now you can offer product protection normally reserved for the big brands.

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product protection

For small businesses seeking to adapt to their new or growing online presence, Clyde, a platform allowing small business consumers to receive extended warranties and protection on purchases may be the answer.

Due to the current pandemic, online retailers have reported on average, a 200% increase in digital sales. Online commerce is only expected to continue its growth with 52% of consumers suggesting they will not return to in-store shopping, post COVID-19. With online shopping in demand, stolen packages, damaged products, and lost goods are also surging.

If you’re ordering from a superstore like Amazon, Target, or Walmart, chances are your items are protected and will be quickly replaced upon a discovery of any of the above issues. However, for smaller companies, protection on consumer goods is usually not offered, not because smaller companies don’t want to give their customers this option, but because finding insurance for small businesses is hard.

Clyde, a company working to provide product protection programs to small retailers through the navigation and connection to insurance companies, intends to change that. Clyde gives small businesses or as their CEO, Brandon Gell, would say, “everybody that’s not Amazon and Walmart,” the opportunity to provide their customers with individual product protection or an extended warranty contract that can be purchased at checkout.

Clyde also provides the retailer with a portion of the insurance profit, serving as an incentive for smaller companies who usually get left out of this profitable market. Product protection is responsible for a whopping $50 billion market, so getting in on the game is key. The company also provides sellers with critical data analytics, product performance statistics, that otherwise would not be obtainable to smaller companies.

Not only is Clyde protecting consumer purchases, but its mantra acts in the best interest of smaller companies normally left out of big commerce perks. The company’s dedication to provide smaller businesses with access to revenue and its consumers with product protection at a time where the demand is higher than ever may allow this company to flourish.

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Business Finance

Will cash still be king after COVID-19?

(EDITORIAL) Physical cash has been a preferred mode of payment for many, but will COVID-19 push us to a cashless future at an even faster rate?

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No more Cash

Say goodbye to the almighty dollar, at least the paper version. Cashless is where it’s at, and COVID-19 is at least partially to thank–or blame, depending on your perspective.

Let’s face it, we were already headed that direction. Apps like Venmo, PayPal, and Apple Pay have made cashless transactions painless enough that even stubborn luddites were beginning to migrate to these convenient payment methods. Then COVID-19 hit the world and suddenly, handling cash is a potential danger.

In 2020, the era of COVID-19, the thought of all the possible contaminants traveling around on an old dollar bill makes most of us cringe. Keep your nasty sock money, boob money, and even your pocket money to yourself, sir or madam, because I’ll have none of it! Nobody knows or wants to know where your money has been. We like the idea of taking your money, sure, but not the idea of actually touching it…ewww, David. Just ewww.

There is no hard evidence that cash can transmit COVID-19 from one person to the other, but perception is a powerful agent for changing our behavior. It seems plausible, considering the alarming rate this awful disease is moving through the world. Nobody has proven it can’t move with money.

There was a time when cash was king. Everyone took cash; everyone preferred it. Of course, credit cards have been around forever, but they’ve always been just as problematic as they are convenient. Like GrubHub and similar third party food delivery apps, banks end up charging both the business and the consumer with credit cards. It’s a trap. Cash cut out the (greedy) middle man.

Plus, paying with a credit card could be a pain. Try paying a taxi driver with a credit card prior to, oh, about 2014 when Uber hit the scene big time. Most drivers refused to take cash, because credit cards take a percentage off the top. Enter rideshare companies like Uber. Then in walks Square. Next PayPal, Venmo, and Apple Pay enter the scene. Suddenly, cabbies would like you to know they now take alternate forms of payment, and with a smile.

It’s good in a way, but it may end up hurting small businesses even more in the long run. The harsh reality of this current moment is that you shouldn’t be handling cash. No less an authority than the CDC recommends contactless forms of payment whenever possible. However, those cabbies weren’t wrong.

The banking industry has been pushing for a reduced reliance on cash since the 1950s, when they came up with the idea of credit cards. It was a stroke of evil genius to come up with more ways to expedite our lifelong journey into crushing debt.

The financial titans are very, very good at what they do, at the expense of all the rest of us. The New York Times reported on the trend, noting:

“In Britain alone, retailers paid 1.3 billion pounds (about $1.7 billion) in third-party fees in 2018, up £70 million from the year before, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Payment and processing companies such as PayPal (whose stock is up about 55 percent this year) and Adyen, based in the Netherlands (up 72 percent), also stand to gain.”

All kinds of banking-related industries stand to benefit as well. Maybe we’ll go back to spending physical cash one day, but I don’t think there’s any hurry. Fewer old grandpas are hiding their cash in their proverbial mattresses, and the younger, most tech-savvy generation seems perfectly content to use their smart phones for everything.

We get it. Convenience plus cleanliness is a sweet combo. If only cashless payments weren’t such a racket.

If this trend towards a cashless future continues, future travelers may not experience what it’s like to fumble with foreign currency, to smile and shrug and hand over a handful of bills because they have no idea how many baht, pesos, or rand those snacks are. They may not experience the realization that other countries’ bills come in different shapes and sizes, and may not come home with the most affordable souvenirs (coins and bills).

We shall see what the future holds. Odds are, it may not be cash money, at least in the U.S. I hope the cashless movement makes room for everyone to participate without being penalized. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, people. We need to find more ways to ease the path for people, not callously profit off of them.

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