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Why The Gun Industry’s “Trump Slump” Is Not A Good Thing For Many Small Businesses

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(This post originally appeared on Inc)

You would think with the election of Donald Trump and a wave of Republican, pro-firearm representatives taking over state legislatures and Congress in 2016 that the subsequent years would be great for a small business in the firearms industry.  Not so.

“Our business was off about 15 percent in 2018,” said Anthony Filippello, who owns Delaware Valley Sports Center in Northeast Philadelphia which offers shooting ranges, a pro shop and educational and certification programs. “But based on what I’ve heard from other gun store owners I know around the nation some were off by about 30 percent. I guess it depends on where you are located.”

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This CEO Has A 2,000-Year-Old Trick to Improve Your Cash Flow

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

Thousands of years ago, when Rome was at the zenith of its power, small businesses had the opportunity to sell their goods — organic beef, craft beer, hand-stitched clothing — to the affluent and growing middle class populations in faraway places.

Today not much has changed. Well, except for the fact that craft beer has definitely got to be much better. But new generations of small business owners still sell their goods — organic beef, craft beer, hand-stitched clothing — to customers far away and they face similar challenges.

Whether you were doing this stuff in Augustan Rome or Trumpian America the business still involves a good deal of capital invested and risk. Today, as then, some entrepreneurs elect to take that risk on themselves. Others choose to hire outside firms to help shoulder that risk.

Enter the middleman. That’s the firm that says “Look, I’ll take the risk. I’ll buy and collect the receivable that’s owed to you. You’ll get your money now and I’ll take a fee for my services.” Some call this factoring. I call it financing. And in many cases it’s just good business. You do what you do best, and you let the financial people do what they do best. Everyone shares and everyone wins.

Eyal Lifshitz agrees. He’s the CEO of BlueVine, a company he started about six years ago after a stint in a venture capital firm in Israel. BlueVine, according to its website, has delivered more than $1 billion in financing to over 10,000 small businesses.

The role of the factoring firm hasn’t changed much over the past few thousand years. But their value has. The reason: changing attitudes and, most importantly, technology. I asked Lifshitz about this — and other things — in the below interview, which has been edited for length.

Q: Factoring is not the world’s oldest profession. But it’s pretty old. Why the interest?

My father and grandfather were both small business owners. I grew up watching my father, who owned a small physical therapy clinic in New York, struggle with cash flow issues due to long payment cycles. In factoring I saw a significant opportunity for disruption through technological innovation such as the availability of online and new machine learning methods. That gave me the idea to launch BlueVine, and to make the switch from being a venture capital investor to entrepreneur.

Q: Can you explain BlueVine’s value prop and what it’s doing differently from all the other factoring firms today?

We actually offer two products (factoring and a credit line). For invoice factoring, which was our first offering, we provide a truly digital experience which historically was offline, paper-based and known to be slow and clunky. With our platform, you don’t need to fax invoices or send any paper documents. All you need to do is take 5 minutes to apply online and upload your invoices or connect your accounting software. You can get funds in as fast as 24 hours. Additionally, a business owner can decide which invoice to submit for funding with a click of a button, unlike with many traditional factoring companies that require you to fund all of your invoices. We also offer invoice factoring credit lines of up to $5 million, which is ideal for businesses that are growing rapidly.

Q: Factoring has literally been around for thousands of years. How has it changed? What role has technology served?

At BlueVine, we use advanced technology to improve the onboarding and funding experience for small business customers. Instead of waiting weeks to get approved for financing like with traditional factoring companies, business owners who use BlueVine can get approved for funds in a matter of days. We’re using technology to process hundreds of data points in a matter of minutes to allow customers to finance invoices in almost real time, and have invested in AI to streamline our back office processes. Additionally, we have built an intuitive online dashboard which makes it easy for small business owners to pick and choose which invoice to submit for funding. 

Q:  What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your business and how are you addressing it?

More and more small business owners are discovering online business lending. In fact, roughly a third of non-employer firms turned to online lenders for financing, according to a 2018 Federal Reserve report. Most people don’t know online lending has gotten to be so common. Despite this, many small business owners still think that the only option they have for financing is their bank. At BlueVine, we’re on a mission to educate business owners and the market about the benefits of online lending and how this relatively new industry not only addresses important business financing needs that traditional banks have not been able to address but also dramatically improves how customers get financing.

Q: One big issue that I would have using a factoring service like BlueVine is trust. How can I trust you with my customers?

We make sure to treat your customers with the utmost care and respect, and it shows in our numbers. We have also built relationships with the accounts payable departments of hundreds of our clients’ customers including Fortune 1000 companies like Walgreens, Verizon, Best Buy who are now very familiar with BlueVine’s process.

Q: Is it just firms with cash flow challenges that can benefit from BlueVine’s services? My company — a 10 person tech firm — doesn’t have these issues. We have about 50-60 open invoices at a time and collection problems do not happen very often. Is there a role that BlueVine could play?

First off, I need to clarify that factoring is not about collections. It’s about allowing you to access capital through your unpaid invoices. It’s a smart option for businesses that sell products or services to other businesses and that typically wrestle with cash flow gaps due to unpaid invoices and long payment cycles. it can also help businesses get convenient access to funds for short-term or emergency needs, from covering payroll to fixing a broken piece of equipment. Many of our clients use factoring to grow their business. Clients often use BlueVine to fund marketing expenses or hire more staff. 

Are Working Moms Less Devoted to Their Work?

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

Most employers think so, according to a new study.

When you’re sitting across from a female job applicant and she reveals that she has children – say young children – does that in any way influence your decision to hire her? Do you believe that, because she’s a mother, she’ll give less effort to her job than a father?

Not me. When I meet a mother with young children I don’t just feel like just giving her a job. I feel like giving her a bottle of Jack Daniels and some Xanax. But apparently, other employers aren’t as sympathetic. That’s the conclusion from a new survey published by child care provider Bright Horizons Family Solutions.

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A New York Bookstore Owner Actually Closed His Business to Protest Abortion

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

My dad once told me to stand by my principles…but also to make sure I didn’t have a lot of them. So I took his advice. I don’t murder and I don’t steal. Hey, it’s a start, OK?

When I read about people who have their own set of principles and then put their money where their mouth is, I really take notice. Jon Speed, the owner of a small used bookstore in Syracuse, New York, is one of those guys. Speed ardently opposes abortion.

I’m personally a pro-choice guy. But that’s not relevant. Speed feels differently and I respect that point of view. He’s been active in the pro-life movement. Over the past few years he helped make an anti-abortion documentary called Babies Are Murdered Here and he’s working on a sequel. He’s very vocal about his beliefs. I’m assuming he’s protested abortion without turning to violence, and I have no reason to believe otherwise.

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Thanks, Netflix (and Google): You’ve Just Confirmed Everyone’s Worst Fear About the Cloud

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

Netflix has just confirmed everyone’s worst fear about the cloud.

Make no mistake, Netflix is a cloud-based application. It delivers (and collects) data online for a monthly fee. At work, I get data about my customers, suppliers, employees, activities, and emails streamed to me. At home, I get the same information — except it’s about Kimmy Schmidt, Queen Elizabeth, and a bunch of teenagers in the ’80s exploring the Upside Down. Different data, same type of delivery. It’s all on the cloud.

This past week, Netflix did something that makes me — and many of my business clients who rely on their cloud-based accounting, customer relationship management, collaboration, and email systems — shudder. The company raised its prices. A lot. Thirteen to 18 percent, or about two bucks a month for the typical subscriber.

That’s a bad, bad sign.

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A Naked Restaurant In Paris Shuts After 15 Months

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

Care for some additional toe cheese with your bread ma’am? May I bring you more pubic hair, sir?

In what many would consider a positive step forward for humanity, the owners of Paris’ first (and hopefully last) nudist restaurant – aptly named O’naturel – have announced that they will be shutting down their eatery in February after just 15 months in operation. The reason isn’t just the lack of clothes. It appears to be a lack of customers, according to this report in The Independent, which also includes a few action photos of unclothed diners eating that should permanently put to rest any interest you may have had in eating there.

But what a sad, sad day it is for the 2.7 million practicing nudists in France, right?

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Your Open-Plan Office Is Probably Missing This One Important Thing

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

I just don’t understand how you open-plan people do it.

The thought of working all day just a few inches away from other people gives me the willies. I wouldn’t know how to behave. Don’t their phone conversations distract you? When is it rude to ignore someone? Doesn’t listening to your office mate’s criticism of anyone who’s not vegan get on your nerves? How do you put up with that guy who sits across from you and eats the same tuna salad sandwich every single freaking day?

If this describes your work environment I certainly sympathize.  But take heart – relief may be on the way.

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