Category Archives: Business

Hackers Still Targeting Payment Card Data

Cybersecurity attackers are rapidly evolving their techniques to affect more computers and devices than ever before.

So far this year, many high-profile data security breaches have occurred that have potentially affected millions of individuals’ payment card information such as credit cards and debit card information; personal identifying information such as first and last name, Social Security numbers, address, birthday; and medical records.

Because of breaches focused on personal information, card-not-present fraud professionals have brought their attention to new kinds of fraud based on personal information such as account takeover, account creation and synthetic fraud.

Based on a new report from Trustwave, an information security company that provides threat, vulnerability and compliance management services and technologies, credit card data is still being stolen at a high rate and used against merchants. The company’s 2017 Global Security Report shows 63% of all investigated incidents targeted payment card data. 33% targeted card track data, mainly from POS environments, and 30% were focused on card-not-present data with e-commerce retailers being the main target.

It’s critical for merchants to find a reliable and secure merchant services provider like eMerchantbroker to turn to for payment processing. EMB is a reputable and award-winning payment processor and alternative online lender that specializes in the high risk industry. eMerchantBroker is voted the #1 high risk payment processor in the US and has an A+ rating with the BBB. Moreover, EMB is rated A by Card Payment Options and is named one of Inc. 500’s Fastest Growing Companies of 2016. In partnership with Verifi and Ethoca, eMerchantBroker provides unmatched chargeback preventions and protection services to merchants of any type and size.

The good news for online merchants is that only 26% of all network breaches affected the e-commerce space as compared to 38% in 2015. This is conditioned by their brick-and-mortar stores. The POS was the source of 31% of security compromises in 2016. This number was 22% percent in 2015. On the whole, retail accounted for the most cases making up 22% in 2016. Next come food and beverage representing 16%. What is more, the median number of days from an intrusion to detection was 80.5 days in 2015 and became 49 days in 2016.

C-Corp Versus S-Corp and Their Funding Issues

When you’re just starting a business, you have a lot of momentum behind you.

You’ve got the perfect business idea, you’ve written all of it down into a stellar business plan, and you even have a catchy, one-of-a-kind business name.

That’s it, right? You’re ready to roll.

Not just yet. Many aspiring small business owners come screeching to a halt when they realize that before they open their doors for business, they need to choose a business entity—and choose carefully and deliberately.

But as a small business owner, not a lawyer, you can easily get lost in all the business entities there are to choose from. S corp vs. C corp… but regardless of their differences, both will eventually need funding.

S Corp vs. C Corp: The 3 Main Differences

What are the differences between s corp and c corp, you need to know?

The differences between S corps vs. C corps come down to three major categories: ownership, shareholder rights, and taxation—with the biggest difference being taxation.

Funding Options for Both

Funding options are plenty… but not all work for every business. Sure, there are government, state, and local grants, but let’s face it: There is a teeny tiny chance that you will actually get one of these grants. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply; just be realistic. Bank loans are also a popular options – but possible the worst for 99% of Americans. You MUST pay back your loan monthly, even if you business tanks. If you do not repay, your collateral is at risk (I.e., your home, your in-law’s home, etc.). A much better funding source is a merchant cash advance, from a merchant account provider such as First American Merchant.

A merchant cash advance allows you to gain the funding you need without crazy interest rates and without a nagging payment schedule. You pay when your business makes money. It’s that simple. Really.

 

 

Starting out in Farming

In the latest edition of AIB Agri Matters two young progressive farmers offer advice to aspiring young farmers in setting up a new farm enterprise or starting out in farming:

 

1.      Know exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing – if you don’t it’s hard for anybody else to know. Explore the options and pick the one that suits you best. Seek advice from others to see what worked for them.

 

2.      Establish a good track record when you’re young – in work, in college and with the Bank – it gives others more comfort you have the credentials to deliver on your plans.

 

3.      Put your best foot forward when meeting the bank – prepare well in advance. Don’t sell yourself short – Have your costing’s and have your research done. Show you understand your business and its profitability and most importantly ensure your lender understands it.

 

4.      Treat the farm as a business – if you don’t look after the business, financial management is useless. The opposite is also true. Costs and cash flow must be controlled and monitored to ensure the business remains profitable and bills can be paid, when they fall.

 

5.      Have a simple system – more easily expanded, and helps ensure consistency and accuracy – especially important where additional labour is employed.

Know The Affect SMEs

In last year’s Budget, the Minister introduced an Earned Income Tax Credit of €550 for small business owners who cannot benefit from the PAYE tax credit of €1,650 available to employees. The Minister announced an increase in this credit to €950 for 2017.

The three lower USC rates have been reduced by 0.5%. Accordingly, all income earners will have a lower tax burden to varying degrees. The ceiling at which the 2.5% USC rate applies is increased to €18,772 – this ensures that a full-time worker on the minimum wage will remain outside the top rates of USC.

 

2. Minimum Wage

The higher cost to employers arising from the increase in the hourly minimum wage from €9.15 to €9.25 will take effect from 1st January 2017.

 

3. Entrepreneur relief

The standard rate of capital gains tax remains at 33%. However, the Minister announced a reduction to 10% in the capital gains tax rate that applies to disposals by Entrepreneurs of qualifying assets. Entrepreneur relief offers the reduced rate of capital gains tax on the disposal by an individual of business assets up to a lifetime limit of chargeable gains of €1 million. The Minister is to review this lifetime limit in future budgets.

To qualify for the relief, the business assets which include shares in a company must have been owned by the individual for a continuous period of at least three years in the five years immediately prior to the date of disposal.

 

4. Share-based remuneration

Following a public consultation and review of share-based remuneration earlier this year, the Minister announced the intention to develop a new, SME, focussed share-based incentive scheme which is to be introduced in next year’s Budget.

 

 

5. Retailers and Tourism

The reduced 9% VAT rate for tourism and related activities will continue to apply.  The Minister noted that the reduced rate will act as a buffer for the sector against the weakness in sterling which increases the cost of holidaying in Ireland for British tourists.

 

6. SMEs in the Construction and Property Sector

The Minister introduced a new ‘Help to Buy Scheme’ for first time buyers of new houses that take out a mortgage of at least 80% of the purchase price. This scheme will provide a rebate of income tax paid over the previous four years. The rebate is subject to a maximum of 5% of the purchase price of a new home up to a value of €400,000. New houses with a cost between €400,000 and €600,000 will also qualify for the scheme but the rebate is calculated at the €400,000 limit. No rebate will be paid on new house purchases in excess of €600,000. The rebate does not apply to the purchase of second hand houses.

The Home Renovation Incentive will be extended for a further two years to 31 December 2018. This measure provides income tax relief to home owners who undertake qualifying renovation works which cost a minimum of €4,405 (excluding VAT). The relief is payable over the two years following the year in which the work is carried out and equals 13.5% of the qualifying expenditure.

Landlords are entitled to deduct 75% of interest incurred on qualifying loans when computing the rental income subject to income tax. The Budget provides for an increase in the deduction to 80% of the interest incurred on qualifying loans. The deduction will be increased by 5% each year over the coming years until a 100% deduction for interest is restored.

Overcome the obstacles

What makes it so hard for founders to confront what they don’t know? For starters, they grow so accustomed to improvising that they assume they’ll learn whatever they need to know by doing. They assume part of running a growing business is rendering judgments without having all the answers.

Have you fallen into this trap? See if the following statements sound familiar:

  • I’ll never have all the information I’d ideally like to have, so I need to do my best with what I know
  • I don’t have anyone critiquing my performance every day. There’s no one around telling me, “You don’t know enough about this. Learn more before you plunge in”
  • Launching a business is a leap of faith. I’m busy drumming up excitement in our future. Obsessing over what I don’t know isn’t going to help us grow

What’s more, business owners cherish their independence. They may reject unsolicited input from others, especially if outsiders try to tell them what to do or how to do it. Unless entrepreneurs schedule periodic meetings with a mentor or advisory board, they may operate in a vacuum and lose perspective on their own strengths and weaknesses.

Self-confidence is a prerequisite for building a business. But too much confidence can convince you that you know what you’re doing when you really don’t, causing you to stray far from your field of expertise. Another obstacle is the temptation to assume you can muddle through on your own. Telling yourself, “I can get by for now” or “I can figure this out myself,” prompts you to accept your limitations without attempting to patch up knowledge holes. Even if you accept your knowledge gaps, you might not want to dwell on them because it makes you uneasy. Feelings ranging from misguided pride to flaring anxiety can lead you to forge onward rather than taking the time to confront unknowns.

 

Quiz your employees

To help identify your knowledge gaps, tap into your employees’ expertise to become more familiar with the inner workings of your business. Begin by asking workers, “What do you need to know to do your job?” Sit with them at their desks and ask them about:

  • The processes they’ve adopted
  • The systems they use
  • The knowledge they draw upon

Then compare what they know to your understanding of what they need to know. You may find that employees’ jobs have evolved in new and surprising ways. Expect to come away from this exercise thinking, “I need to find out more about.”

Also ask employees, “When it comes to working at this company, what do you wish you knew more about?” This question encourages them to share their knowledge gaps, which you can help fill. By exchanging insights and information about company operations, you’ll gain a stronger sense of how you can educate yourself and your staff to appreciate both the nuts and bolts of your business and the big-picture issues it faces.

Finally, ask both your peers and employees point blank: “Tell me what I don’t know.” Kick off every staff meeting by going around the room and asking participants to volunteer something they’ve recently learned about the business.

Business Style for Women

Sitting on a stool in one of the changing rooms – our makeshift interview room for the day – Mairead takes a rare pause, looks around and reflects: “You know, when we viewed the property, we sat in this very changing room. And I said to myself, ‘I could really give this a go.’” Since that decision, she hasn’t looked back.

Finding Her Business Style

For Mairead, owning her own boutique was a natural progression from her successful personal styling business. “I’m a personal stylist and shopper, and I decided that maybe I could actually provide the clothes for the people I go personal shopping with instead of having to go elsewhere,” she explains. “That’s how Smock Boutique started.”

Her years working as a personal stylist and shopper have provided Mairead with an invaluable insight into her target customer’s needs. This heavily influences the clothes she chooses for Smock. “I’m in the wardrobe of my target market at least once a week. I feel that I have a certain advantage when I’m going to buy my collections because I feel 100% confident that I know what is needed,” she notes. “We’re not filling the wardrobe with pieces that don’t suit your lifestyle, we’re providing a working wardrobe within budget for that person. That’s absolutely at the forefront of my mind. That’s my USP.”

 

Building the Boutique

Setting up a business on your own comes with many challenges and there’ll always be a few learning curves. Although Mairead was absolutely certain in her vision for the boutique, she was conscious that the admin side of things also had to be perfect. She heard about MyBusinessToolkit from her local AIB branch and thought it would be useful to help get the business off the ground. The Toolkit offers access to a suite of leading business tools, from Sage Accounting and Payroll to the bOnline website builder. MyBusinessToolkit is free for 3 months when you open a Start-up Business Current Account before the 31st of Dec 2016. She explains how MyBusinessToolkit has helped her get her business off the ground: “You have so much paperwork, and because it’s a seasonal business it all comes at the one time,” she says. “If you don’t keep up to speed with what and when you need to pay, you’ll quickly fall behind and your front of house suffers. I don’t want that to happen.”

 She credits MyBusinessToolkit, and in particular Sage, with helping her keep tabs on the admin side of things. “Sage really helps me define what my cash flow looks like, who my suppliers are and it’s great for categorising everything and keeping me organised. I almost leave them running in the background. I trust them fully and I trust they’ll work. And my accountant can log on to Sage as well and check everything is ok. It was like having an uncle in the background that you knew you could rely on. That’s a strange analogy I know!” she laughs.

The bOnline website builder provided in the toolkit was also a huge help in getting her online presence up and running. She explains: “MyBusinessToolkit has helped me get my business off the ground by allowing me to have an almost free website. That cost would have been a huge undertaking for me at the beginning. It just made it so easy.”

Expanding the Business

Over the years, Noel has expanded the farm to include a washing and packing facility. He explains, “Often farming practices are not that profitable, so I met with some other people and we decided to set up a packing company. And it grew from there.” It certainly did as the facility now washes and packs an average of 40 tonnes of carrots a day. It was a case of spotting an opportunity to add value and running with it. Noel thinks that a good relationship with the bank is key. “It’s very important to have a good relationship with your bank. It’s the mainstay of any business. We have a good relationship with our local bank, although we don’t have any borrowings at the moment.”

 

The Farming Landscape

Noel acknowledges that it’s a tough time for the farming community, “Farming in general is in a depressed state at the moment. Grain, livestock and milk are under wicked pressure,” he says. The uncertainty of Brexit is also a concern. He said: “Nobody seems to be able to give a straight answer as to what kind of an effect Brexit will have. Everyone has different thoughts.”

But despite the pressures, Noel is still passionate about his profession. “Farming was something I always wanted to do from a young age. It’s a nice way of life really. You’re out in the fresh air, you’re dealing with land and you’re dealing with nature.”

 

Looking to the Future

As for the future of his farm, Noel is planning on sticking to his current formula and hopes to expand his reach. “Hopefully we’ll gain a bit more in the marketplace with regards to selling vegetables. We’ll just keep it to the carrot and potatoes.”

Noel carves a couple of pumpkins each year to decorate the pillars on his gate – a tradition he’ll continue this year. We couldn’t let him go without getting his top carving tips. For him it’s simple. “You get stickers in the shops and place that over and trace it out.” he laughs.

How to Improve Your Customer Support

Customer support or service interactions have the potential for a wide variety of outcomes – both good and bad. Customers contact your support team when they have an issue. Understanding this and making the interaction as efficient and effective as possible should be your goal. If you deal with the issue well you’ll have a happy customer, and potentially positive recommendations. Worst case scenario, you could be losing business.

How you use your phone system can be a key determinant of how your customers perceive your support service and their experience with your organisation. The option for the customer to speak to someone in the business over the phone is a communication method commonly offered in customer service. However if your employees are picking up the phone to someone who has already been transferred two or three times, you’ve already given your customer a bad experience.

Identifying ways to improve the experience your customers have with your support function, or company as a whole, can be tricky. One place to start at is when your customer makes the call. Here are four ways which your phone system can improve your customer support experience, before and during each call:

 

1. Use interactive voice response with time of day settings

Interactive voice response (IVR), otherwise known as virtual receptionists are used to direct those calling your business to the appropriate person by providing a menu of options which the customer can select. The longer your customer spends on hold or being transferred from department to department the more you are failing in providing them with an efficient and effective interaction.

Everyone has had poor experiences being left on hold waiting to be transferred. Use an IVR and avoid subjecting your customers to this. When constructing your menu, ideally have an option for each of your main customer facing departments. You should also finish with something similar to ‘for all other queries press 0’. This means even if your customers are unsure, they still have an option to press.

Time of day settings allow you to provide different instructions or menus depending on when a customer calls. For example, if a customer calls outside of office hours you can play a message which tells them your office is closed, what time it will be open at and provide an alternative contact method such as your customer service email address or a specific out of hours number. Accurately setting the expectations of your customer in terms of response or resolution time is critical for good customer service experience.

 

 

2. Use ring groups

A ring group is a feature which allows a number of phones to ring when one number is dialled. For example, when a customer selects the menu option for support on your IVR, it is possible to have every team member’s phone ring. If each team member’s phone is calling the chances of the call will only be missed or not answerable immediately if the whole team is already busy.

Using a cloud phone system it is also possible to add extra steps if the ring group goes unanswered by the whole team. After a certain amount of time, you could redirect the call to the department manager before eventually to a voicemail box. A common mistake that businesses make is not having a voicemail box as the end point for every possible path a call can take. After waiting on hold to speak to someone and being transferred around the sound of a disconnected line is disheartening to say the least.

Adding a voicemail box will allow you to set a voicemail greeting which can explain that all employees are busy for the moment and once again offer an alternative means of contact.

 

 

3. Everyone in your organisation needs an internal transfer number accessible via a centralised document

From time to time a customer with an issue is going to call the number for a different department or pick the wrong menu item. In this case, the first step is to get them talking to someone who can help with their problem. This means call transfer.

With a cloud phone system, setting up internal transfer numbers such as 102 or 2007 for each employee can be accomplished with ease. Make sure that each member of your organisation, with a priority on those which are customer facing, have an internal transfer number set up.

An updated and detailed list should be kept centrally via a resource such as Google Drive or Office 365 with each person’s transfer number. Using this, whoever takes a call should be able to easily transfer the customer to the right place. It certainly beats asking your customer to call the organisation’s main number again and dial 3 for support.

The Inspirational Story of Ocean Bloom

By chance, she got chatting to an elderly lady in the community, who mentioned in her day they would take the children down to the sea and bathe them. This was just the spark of inspiration that Cheryl needed. “I started thinking about it and I collected some seaweed and made a baby seaweed bath for him and his skin started healing,” she says.

She began experimenting by blending the seaweed with oils and created products for family and friends. They were a hit, and someone suggested she should make a business from it.  She subsequently enrolled in a business course with her Local Enterprise Office and began an in-depth study into growing seaweed and its health-giving properties.  It’s been a whirlwind adventure ever since.

 

Launching the Business

Cheryl confides that getting the business up off the ground was one of the bravest things she’s ever done.  She’s bootstrapped it from the beginning, handling everything from product development to filling the containers.  She notes: “To start a business, usually people save up or they have all these processes in place, I didn’t have anything in place. I would lie in bed and feel a bit panicky and think, ‘I’m too old for this’.”  But hearing how her products work made it incredibly rewarding. “I think people coming up to me and telling me that the products have made a difference to their skin is the biggest highlight,” she says. “If I can carry on making a difference to even a few people, that’s the best reward.”

 

The Importance of Good Advice

For anyone interested in starting their own business, Cheryl offers the following advice: “I think it’s important to have a bank who knows you and has a good insight into your business.  You can have a magnificent business plan but if you haven’t got a bank who believes in it, then it won’t work.  I believe going to your local branch, to people who know you, is so important.”

It was the staff at her local branch who first told Cheryl about MyBusinessToolkit, a package offering access to a suite of five leading business tools, from Sage Accounting and Payroll to the bOnline website builder. MyBusinessToolkit is free for 3 months when you open a Start-up Business Current Account before the 31st of Dec 2016.

Most of The National Digital Week

As part of our ongoing commitment to the digital sector in Ireland, AIB are the lead sponsor of Skibbereen’s Ludgate Hub, Ireland’s first rural Digital Hub. The Hub offers local businesses world-class fibre-optic broadband in a state of the art 10,000 sq ft facility that rivals anything in Silicon Valley. AIB has also sponsored National Digital Week since its inception last year, and we’ve got big plans this year with a fantastic line-up of speakers on the AIB Brave Stage all week. Read on for our insider’s guide to the best talks, workshops, and entertainment at this year’s National Digital Week.

 Who to Catch

Kick off the festival on an inspiring note at the AIB Brave Stage, with some uplifting stories from our Digital Champions – including Trendster’s Harry McCann, Lord David Puttnam, and Dr. Seamus Davis from Cornell University. Or dig deep into the future of farming, with talks and demonstrations on tech, innovation and food science, from luminaries like Drone Expo Ireland’s Ian Kiely, THRIVE AgTech’s John Hartnett, and our own head of Agri Business, Tadhg Buckley – all on the Google Stage. We’ll be shining the spotlight on female leadership on Friday, with FM104’s Margaret Nelson, Geraldine Karlsson from DoneDeal, and Ericsson Ireland MD Zelia Madigan taking the temperature of women in digital. On Saturday, we’ll be talking all things Internet of Things, with Leonard Donnelly from ARTOFUS, Donal Sullivan of Johnson Controls Ireland, and Debbie Power from Vodafone. And if you’re a business owner, make sure to stop by the Google Digital Garage all day Friday and Saturday, where Google’s experts will be offering free one to one sessions for all festival attendees to give you a crash course in all the skills to take your company to the next level online.

 

Where to Go

The bulk of the action during National Digital Week will take place at the West Cork Hotel in the centre of Skibbereen. You won’t be able to miss the AIB Brave stage. We’re right beside the registration area as you enter the hotel – and adjacent to the Food Hall if you’re feeling peckish. Still feeling lost? You can check out the event map here. The National Digital Week website also has you covered for accommodation, with info on some of Skibbereen’s best hotels and B&Bs.

 

What to do After Hours

You won’t be short of things to do once the talks end and the real networking begins in the pubs and restaurants of Skibbereen. On Thursday night, NDW attendees can take a tour of some of the town’s best bars with entertainment including a trad session from local legends, Brendan McCarthy and Derry Moynihan, an old-school storytelling session in Annie May’s pub, and a special performance from folk duo Alchemy in The Corner Bar to round off the night. If you want to sample some local cuisine in spectacular surroundings, The Church restaurant is housed in a 19th century Methodist church which retains its original stained glass windows and has a crowd-pleasing menu to provide some serious festival fuel. On Saturday, rabble-rousing festival favourites the Booka Brass Band will finish the week off in a style with a gig at the Google Stage, before DJ Ian Richards takes the party into the early hours with a party-starting mix of funk, soul, and rock & roll.

National Digital Week takes place from 10th – 12th November in Skibbereen, West Cork. Get all the info you need at the official site and stay tuned to AIB’s social channels for exclusive video content from the festival.