Half of Small Businesses Struggle With Financing

It is getting harder and harder these days to obtain adequate capital as a small business owner. Only half of SMEs were even eligible for financing last year.

In most cases, the lack of cash flow and low annual sales volume lead to automatic disqualification for the small business loan applicant.

If your business generates less than $300,000 in revenue and you have less than a $100,000 cash balance, you may need to seek alternative financing options as your likelihood of obtaining business credit is low.

Get a free estimate for funds to grow your business.

Click here for the original story from the Singapore Business Review.

Is the Google Small Business Tool Worth Using?

Google has launched Google for Small Business with the goal of enabling small business owners to leverage more digital tools to grow their business. Apparently over half of small business owners are unaware that these tools even exist.

The website prompts you to fill out basic information about your business, such as your company name and website, and ask you questions about your goals: growing your online presence, getting more customers, among others.

After submitting the responses, you get a personalised step-by-step plan. For example, Google may encourage you to use Adwords to boost your presence and start a YouTube video channel to attract an organic audience. You also get tips on how to improve your search results.

Useful or not? Your mileage may vary depending on how familiar you are already with Google’s suite of products. Although it’s Google centric, it’s a great place to start for newcomers and you may end up learning something new. It’s encouraging to see Google continuing to invest in initiatives for small businesses.

Get started today.

3 Ways to Advertise Without Spending Any Money

Marketing is the lifeblood for growth for many small businesses. Yet, many owners throw everything at the wall – flyers, social media, commercials – often overspending by a significant margin without the commensurate return on marketing.

The key is finding the right channels that can deliver consistent and positive return on investment (eg. the amount you amount you generate for every dollar of marketing you spend).

But what about advertising your business for free? Getting additional customers without any incremental cost will actually make your overall business more cost effective as your blended marketing cost comes down. And lowering the overall cost of your marketing will allow you to do even more.

Here are some ways to market your business without breaking the bank:

1. Publicity

This is often associated with expensive PR campaigns to generate attention. But did you know you can actually generate free publicity with the right media outlets?

Publications such as The Straits Times are constantly sourcing relevant topics and content for their readers. The best way to get some initial exposure is to follow the writers that cover your industry and to reach out to them when you have something interesting to share.

Try sponsoring a content for your existing customers enticing them to fill out a customer survey, one that you think will provide insightful feedback. You can share the results with your favorite media outlets. Publications love these kind of surveys and will help you share it with their readers in a meaningful way.

2. Community service

People love businesses that are active participants in the community and have a genuine interest in making a positive impact on those around them. Word of mouth comes naturally to organisations that are actively involved.

Why not get involved today with something you are personally passionate about? There’s a wide range of volunteering opportunities available in Singapore. Consider a team event with your staff to do some volunteering together. This is a great opportunity for them to get together and share a common mission in helping the community.

Depending on your budget, you can also consider donating a portion of your sales to a charitable organisation.

3. Guest speaking

This is one of the most underlooked opportunities to advertise your business. Events organisers are constantly on the lookout for interesting people from diverse backgrounds to feature as their guest speaker.

Look for events that have attendees from your target audience. Participating regularly will allow you to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry and provide additional social validation of your business. In fact, what often happens is once you become a guest speaker, you often get more invitations from other event organisers as they know you are willing to participate.

You are now ready to start looking for opportunities to generate free exposure for your business. As a small business owner, you carry the vision of your brand with you. Stay passionate and make sure you go the extra mile when engaging with those who want to learn more about your brand at these venues. You never know, they may become your best advocates tomorrow.

The 5 Biggest Money Mistakes Small Business Owners Make

Small business owners are known to be scrappy and have the tenacity to weather any kind of storms. While some failures are fairly minor and can be quickly course corrected, making a huge making a huge financial mistake can create an unexpected drag to cash flow, hurting your ability to pay off vendors on time or even make payroll. In some cases, even the most promising business can be brought down with accumulated debt making it even harder to around things around.

Here are 5 major financial pitfalls to avoid when running your small business:

1. Combining your personal and business expenses

Failing to separate your personal expenditures from your business expenditures creates significant complications not convenience. Accounting and tax reporting also becomes more complicated down the road.

This would also mean that you do not have a limited liability entity to protect your personal assets from business creditors.

It is highly recommended that you open a separate business bank account to managing your small business finances. Consider a reputable professional organisation such as Corporate Services to assist you with your company incorporation in Singapore.

2. Not planning for future tax liability

All companies in Singapore are liable to pay corporate tax under the Corporate Tax Act.

Also, if your small business generates over S$1 million in turnover, you will need to be GST-registered as well. Be sure to check the IRAS website for the latest business tax information.

3. Incurring credit card expenses

This is particularly dangerous if you plan to incur credit card expenses without clear visibility on future revenue, exposing you to huge credit card bills. The convenience of credit cards make them all the more tempting to use but the financial damage from compounding expenses and interest charges is significant.

Consider using a debit card if you need a card payment option as this allows you to avoid leveraging your financial position unnecessarily.

4. Not having a clear budget

Doing the heavy lifting on building up some form of financial forecast for your own business is prudent. When times are tough, a detailed budget gives you visibility to where you can trim costs. You will become more financially disciplined and accountable to your shareholders (even if it’s just yourself).

As a bonus, keeping your financial plan up to date will also give you flexibility to raise capital as this is a key deliverable and requirement to any successful capital raise.


Get a free estimate for funds to grow your business.

5. Not funding your business properly

Some entrepreneurs are die-hard bootstrappers (self-funding your business without external capital). This is prudent in some cases but also a drag in situations where the business needs larger amounts of capital to take advantage of the right opportunities.

In some instances, going into debt is a prudent way to accelerate growth, especially if the funds are poured into positive return opportunities. Raising debt also gives you ample cash to navigate downturns as opposed having too low of a cash balance which may affect proper business decision making.

With these financial insights on money mistakes, you will be more equipped to navigate around avoidable financial mistakes that others have made.

How to Be Self-Employed

Over 223 thousand residents in Singapore consider themselves self-employed with more increasing every day. Structural changes in today’s economy is making the move possible. Whether you are making the leap to self-employment from your current employer or looking to start something on your own straight out of university graduation, here are some key things to do before you make the plunge.

Interview yourself

While being your own boss means you can throw your CV in the rubbish bin, you would be inadequately prepared for the real challenges of running your own business if you do not ask yourself these 3 key introspective questions.

Are you able to work alone?

Especially in the early days when things are tough, you will be constantly second-guessing whether you are doing the right thing or not.

Do you offer something where there is a demand?

Supply and demand are in balance even in the self-employment market. You need to assess whether you have something to offer with your self-employed occupation. It never hurts to sharpen your own skill set by spending a few years at someone else’s small business so you gain the confidence and experience that’s needed.

Can you handle rejection?
Having thick skin is crucial as you will face rejection, whether you are raising funds from investors or selling to customers. 

Turn every rejection into an opportunity to gather feedback and learn more about how you can improve.

Get a free estimate for funds to grow your business.

Prepare for a rainy day

Becoming self-employed means you abandon the comfort of a steady paycheck from an employer. While everyone hopes that things go according to plan, real business work is often volatile with ups and downs in cash flow coming into your pocket. Be sure to calculate a realistic budget for yourself, that covers both your personal expenditures as well as business ones. Do not cut your budget too drastically, otherwise, your personal satisfaction and quality of life may deteriorate if you go from eating out to making ramen for yourself every meal.

Look to set aside a minimum of 6 months of cash before you even consider moving to self-employment.

Do your homework

You need to understand everything when you are on your own, from business licenses to tax filings.

At a bare minimum, understand how business taxes work. IRAS offers a start-up kit for new sole-proprietorship and partnerships.

If you are a foreigner, be extra careful not to flout the rules on manpower regulations. Freelance work is only applicable to Singaporeans and Singapore permanent residents. If you wish to set up something on your own, you will need to apply for an Entrepass or set up a local company (requires at least one director who is an ordinary resident of Singapore).

Being your own boss is extremely rewarding.Taking the first step is always the hardest part but rest assured you’re in good company. This is the reason why the number of people seeking self-employment keeps increasing.

So start now by interviewing yourself, preparing for a rainy day, and doing your homework.

How to Become a Tech Enabled Business Owner

It’s no secret that using technology effectively can significantly benefit your small business by a wide margin. Yet, in a recent survey run by Deloitte, 40% believe that digital tools are not relevant for their business.

Do you know the level of digital engagement of your business?

Source: Deloitte Access Economics (2017)

If you are “Basic” or “Intermediate”, it’s time to put some serious thought into technology investments for your small business. On average, digitally advanced small businesses earns twice as much revenue per employee and experience revenue growth that is four times higher.

Here are some ways to use technology for your business in 2019.

Improve your team management

Use a tool such as Monday.com to simplify the way you work with your team. The tool lets you manage workload, track projects, and communicate with people more efficiently, unblocking back-and-forth processes.

For a free alternative, you can get Process Street, which is available absolutely free for a limited time only (compliments of AppSumo).

Get a free estimate for funds to grow your business.

Fix your inbox

If you have more than zero emails in your inbox, you are not practicing proper email management (that’s right anything more than zero). Inbox Zero is an email management technique that allows you to declutter and keep you organised so you avoid wasting time unnecessarily (think of the number of times you keep opening the same read email). Consider using the Gmail app on your phone. They have a nifty feature that allows you to “swipe” your emails to quickly archive them. You can also set certain emails to automatically come back at the appropriate time (eg. to follow up with someone).

Manage your finances on the cloud

If you’re still juggling manual journal entries or financial spreadsheets, you are dealing with unnecessary complexity. Xero is a cloud based accounting service that provides full suite accounting. As a small business owner, you can get started with their entry plan, which is the Xero Early Plan, which comes with invoices and quotes, monthly bills, and bank reconciliations. Larger small businesses can consider the Xero Growing Plan.

Slacking off

Use Slack to avoid slacking off. By far, one of the most important tools for any small business, Slack allows you to collaborate faster and more seamlessly within your team and with external vendors. Their numerous integrations allow you to pull in any other services you use (eg. Dropbox, Xero, etc.) seamlessly.

It’s time to start embracing technology and becoming a digitally-savvy business owner. Consider the above areas as a launching pad to improve your overall productivity and gain back control of your time.

Do You Know What Your Customers Really Want?

How well do you really know your customer? Although you face them everyday, sometimes you just don’t know what they want. Fear not, you’re not alone as even the customers themselves sometimes do not know what they want. As Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse!”’


Experience first and foremost

Customers are demanding and expect a delightful experience irregardless of the end product. Whether you are selling a luxury good or bargain product, having a good experience is crucial for customers. In some cases, it is the key brand differentiator among similar product offerings. Align your staff around a winning culture of “Experience first”. Afterall, creating goodwill does not cost money.

Stop listening to your customers

You need to know your customers better than they know themselves. Regular feedback, customer surveys, are all important parts of the discovery work on getting a pulse of your business. However, it’s crucial to take a step back as well and avoid over-analysing every single customer feedback as it can lead to “analysis paralysis”. Keep in mind that feedback comes from your existing customers, so innovation comes from opening your horizon to a broader addressable base of users.

Get a free estimate for funds to grow your business.

Hi [name]

Imagine if you can tailor your offering to each individual based on their tastes and preferences. This is the holy grail that marketers often dream about. As a small business owner, you will not have the resources to run machine learning AI algorithm to match user preferences. But you can start somewhere with the basic touchpoints. Go through the customer journey and look for opportunities to add an element of personalisation. This can be as simple as using their first name instead of a generic salutation. Also, when responding to customers, using your name (eg. John from ABC Company) is better than a generic person such as “Customer support rep”. Simple things can go a long way. Try reaching out to a customer with a personal note on their birthday. Think about the last time (if ever) you received an email like that from a company. Show that you genuinely care.

With these pointers, you are ready to set out to innovate and build a car instead of a “faster horse” and give customers something they really want.

110 Resources to Spark Your Small Business

Are you struggling to keep track of all the recommendations for different services and resources for your small business? Fret not, there’s now a curated list of must-use of over 100 resources to power your business.

The guide covers resources for:

  • Creating and managing your own website (no coding required)
  • Time tracking and invoicing (great for freelancers)
  • Tools for project management and to be better organised
  • Tools for collaboration and communication
  • Social media tools
  • Digital asset libraries (recommended stock libraries for photos and videos)
  • Freelance job boards (not all are applicable for Singapore. You may also want to check out Freeboh for a local option)
  • Books to add to your reading list
  • Freelance and lifestyle blogs to follow
  • Online education resources to expand your skill set

Check out these highly recommended suggestions for your small business today. Be sure to bookmark this down so you have a handy reference guide at your disposal.

Do I Need a Legal Entity for My Business?

In most cases, the lack of cash flow and low annual sales volume lead to automatic disqualification for the small business loan applicant.

If your business generates less than $300,000 in revenue and you have less than a $100,000 cash balance, you may need to seek alternative financing options as your likelihood of obtaining business credit is low.

Click here for the original story from the Singapore Business Review.

Get a free estimate for funds to grow your business.

How to Choose a Domain Name for Your Business

Choosing the right domain name for your business is extremely important as this is the online identity that customers will associate your business with, which may differ from your company’s brand name. With over 100,000 new domain names registered daily, knowing the right strategy requires careful planning. Below are some things to consider.


The age-old adage of KISS (“Keep it simple stupid”) is ever more important when it comes to domain names. Pick a domain name that is easy to spell, one that even someone who is not familiar with your brand can remember easily. Your website domain should be easy enough that a 10 year old would be able to spell it out for you.

Pro tip: Start by searching for domain names with the least number of characters. While most domain names with 4 or less letters are taken, there are still a small handful of 5 or 6 letter domains. Avoid domain names with hyphens as they are more complicated.

Use .com unless there’s an absolutely good reason not to

Despite the growing number of new domain extensions, the gold standard for domain name extension remains .com for good reason (think of the last time you went to a website of a major brand that did not use this extension). Always go for this unless there is a strong legitimate reason not to. Remember that if the .com is taken, using a different extension will make it harder for your visitors to find you as they may accidentally type in your domain but with the .com extension, ending up on that site instead!

Pro tip: If your business will only be based in Singapore and focusing on Singapore based customers, you can also consider using .com.sg extension as it may improve your search engine ranking and visibility in Singapore in certain cases. Note that you will need to be a Singapore based company registered in ACRA in order to be able to do this. You can always get both .com and .com.sg if they are available to ensure you have secured the most important extensions for yourself.

Get a free estimate for funds to grow your business.

Social handles

A common oversight is not researching whether the domain name you choose has the same handle available in the relevant social media channels that you will be using. The reason this is important is that this allows you to maintain a singular name in order to communicate with your visitors and customers, regardless of channel. Don’t overlook this as the last thing you want to do is spend money registering the domain names only to find out that you cannot get any of the social media handles.

Move fast

Lastly, it is important to move quickly when you find a domain name available as it is first come first serve. If someone else has taken a domain name you like, you may want to enlist the help of a broker or domain registrar to help facilitate a deal. However, it may be much more expensive.

With these tips, you are ready to choose a domain name for your business.