Credit cards are convenient and can be valuable for a business which needs a temporary infusion of cash. The Federal Reserve observes that in 2009, 83% of small businesses used credit cards, with 41% using personal cards. Despite this massive use of credit cards, small business credit cards only account for a small portion of small business debt, as most business owners have the sense to pay back their credit card every month.
However, there is more to using a credit card for your business beyond “pay the credit card back at the end of the month.” Here are 5 tips which any business should know about credit cards before you just decide to use your MasterCard to buy office supplies.
1. Know the difference between personal and business credit cards
There is nothing wrong with using a personal credit card to handle business expenses, but you may want to get a business credit card instead.
Business credit cards have some key advantages if you are a small but expanding business. You can have copies of the same business credit card, which will let you and your subordinates make purchases on their own. Paying off business credit cards also improves your business credit, which will make it easier to get loans on better terms. On the other hand, business credit cards lack the consumer protections of personal credit cards.
If you want a more detailed list of the differences between a business and personal credit card, NerdWallet has an excellent article on the subject and which one may be right for you. At minimum, do your research on which one your business should go with.
2. Look for the best rewards plan
Don’t just go with the first credit card plan that looks alright. Many business and personal credit cards offer unique rewards which will be well-suited for your particular business. For example, if you or your workers have to travel a lot, then a card which offers airline or hotel perks would be ideal. If you drive a lot, then gas rewards would be great.
Also compare monthly fees, interest rates, and what the payment plans are. If you are worried about credit card fraud, you should also see what protection plans are offered.
3. Never mix up personal and business expenses
Even if you decide to stick with a personal credit card, you should never use the same credit card to buy office supplies and groceries.
The big reason is for bookkeeping purposes. When it is time to pay back your credit card at the end of the month, it can be tricky to figure out what goes under business expenses and what does not (if you mix them up on the same card). By keeping separate cards, you can know exactly how much your business spent without needing to go over every single item.
Furthermore, if you go with a business credit card, using the business credit card for personal finance shows a lack of seriousness about your business. Keep business to business, and your personal expenses personal.
4. Be careful with who has your business credit card
As noted above, one of the advantages of a business credit card is that you can make multiple copies and hand them to your employees. If you have an employee who makes large purchases, giving him a company credit card means that he can pay for business expenses without having to front his own money and wait for a reimbursement.
Obviously, you should not just hand those credit cards out. Business credit cards should only go to employees who regularly make big or important purchases for the company, or for those who are away from the office.
It’s important to trust and verify. If an employee uses his business credit card for personal expenses, your business will be held liable. While you can obviously fire him, abusing a company credit card is not a criminal offense.
5. Use your credit card as little as possible
Credit cards can be useful as an emergency cash resource, and can help track your expenses. However, there are risks to becoming dependent on them.
A small business will always have funding options. Talk to investors, ask your friends and family for funds, and tap into personal accounts. Even a bank loan’s interest rates will normally be lower compared to a business credit card.
Credit cards have value for some of the reasons noted above. Plus, spending a certain amount and paying it back every month can improve your business credit rating. Remember, if you use it too heavily, or if your business suddenly hits a downturn, then you can find yourself facing mounting high-interest debt, which will destroy your business. Try to avoid using it for big purchases unless you have no other option.
Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.
You have to work hard to develop the right skills
If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.
1. Make your presentation short and sweet
With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.
JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.
2. Open up with a good ice breaker
At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:
Tugging on their heart strings
Dropping a bombastic statement
Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons
You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.
3. Keep things simple and to the point
Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.
4. Use a healthy dose of humor
Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.
It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.
5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting
Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.
6. Practice your delivery
Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.
7. Move around and use your hands
Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.
8. Engage the audience by making them relate
Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.
9. Use funny images in your slides
Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.
10. End on a more serious note
When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”
As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.