As we exit the pandemic, many businesses are revising business plans with a renewed focus on their path forward. This may mean new opportunities for expansion, a shift in products or client base, shoring up operations for longevity or launching completely new ventures. While every business has its own unique considerations, a few common trends are emerging among business owners who are proactively pursuing opportunities while preparing for the unexpected.
TREND: Improving your balance sheet with good debt. Interest rates are rising but there is still time to restructure debt at potentially lower rates. Businesses are using good debt to increase liquidity, reduce payback timelines, buy back stock, or as an alternative to issuing stock.
TREND: Expansions and upgrades. Necessity is the mother of all inventions, and the pandemic forced many businesses to rethink the way they do business, creating opportunities to grow and improve their operations. The key is to have a good plan for using funds to ensure the expansion or improvement will generate cash flow to cover your loan repayment.
TREND: Planning for future disruptions. The pandemic was a wake-up call for businesses to prepare for the unknown and refresh their plans frequently to stay prepared. This includes financial safety nets. Strategies include establishing lines of credit or refining balance sheets to increase reserves or cushion cash flow.
TREND: SBA lending. The U.S. Small Business Administration has had a bad rap for lengthy paperwork and clunky processes, but the Paycheck Protection Program spurred a resurgence in interest in the good things the SBA offers, like low interest, long-repayment periods and a willingness to lend to small businesses based on cash flow compared to collateral. Preferred SBA lenders like Alerus have dedicated SBA teams who guide businesses through the loan process and provide strategic advice for long-term success.
Blaine Anderson (left)
Senior Business Advisor: 15 years with Alerus
Specialty area: Agriculture and agribusiness
Advice for clients: Know your cost of production and breakeven and consider the impacts on working capital before making big decisions.
Favorite fundamental belief: Do the right thing! Everything we do is centered around the client. The advice and service we provide is driven by one mission: to do the right thing for our clients.
Alerus Fundamental Beliefs
• Do the right thing
• Cherish people
• Empower with knowledge
• Serve with passion
• Respect everyone
• Embrace change
Dan Doeden (right)
Southern Valley Market President: 18 years with Alerus
Client focus: It’s rewarding to watch our clients grow, from opening their first checking account to transitioning business ownership and entering retirement. I enjoy working with clients in all stages of their financial journeys.
Favorite fundamental belief: Serve with passion. When you are passionate about the company you work for, the clients you serve and the employees you work with, you also enjoy a career with
Your Biggest Business Threat Could Be Cyber Fraud
Here’s what to do about it.
Remote working and conducting business online has increased dramatically over the past two years. And so has cyber fraud. Reduce your business’ vulnerability by doing these three things.
1. Beware of business email compromise (BEC). In BEC, a criminal impersonates a coworker or partner and requests payment to an account, or they might pose as an employee and ask HR to change their direct deposit.
One of the newest methods of attack exploits the frequent use of virtual meetings among remote workers. The FBI has confirmed several methods of attack, including hackers posing as executives and scheduling virtual meetings on their behalf. When the meeting starts, they claim their video/audio is not working properly, then proceed to instruct the employee to transfer funds in the virtual meeting platform or via email. They may also covertly insert themselves into workplace virtual meetings to collect information on the company’s day-to-day operations for future attacks. They later pose as an executive and instruct employees to initiate a transfer of funds with the false claim that they are in a virtual meeting and unable to conduct the transfer on their own computer.
You can help prevent having your email account hacked by keeping passwords secure, first and foremost. Keep an eye out for red flags in emails, including misspelled hyperlinks and discrepancies between the sender’s name and their email address. If a coworker sends a request to meet using a virtual meeting platform that isn’t normally used in your internal office, confirm the request with a phone call.
2. Cover your back with backups, tests, checks and software. Start with internet security software and data backups, then test your data backup and make sure it can’t be infected from the network. Check your bank accounts daily for unusual activity. You might even test your employees with fake phishing emails to increase awareness. Employee education can effectively stop an attack before it starts. Your financial partner should provide additional protections like multi-factor authentication and Positive Pay and have the capability to enforce dual control processing of transactions, among other measures.
3. Check your insurance policies. Does your policy cover cybercrime, fraud and ransomware attacks? Some companies also provide fraud recovery assistance. Insurance brokers and business advisors can help identify the best level of coverage for you.
If you discover you have been the victim of cyber fraud, contact your financial partner immediately for assistance. The FBI encourages all victims to file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), regardless of the amount lost, at ic3.gov.
Cole Keney (left)
Senior Business Advisor: 19 years with Alerus
Specialty area: Mid to-large businesses, construction and industrial firms, professional services
What business owners should know: Your business plan is a working document. It will change, and we expect your goals and needs to evolve. Think of your business advisor as your financial quarterback who helps call the plays and loops in the right specialists at the right time.
Bill Carlson (right)
Lead Business Advisor: 34 years with Alerus
Industries served: Manufacturing, wholesale, transportation, contractors, agribusiness. I’ve had the pleasure of helping many types of businesses, owners, and employees throughout my career.
How Alerus adds value: Financial service providers all do things a little differently. Alerus focuses on the entire life of a business or client and provides help at each new point along the way, compared to only addressing the current issue or request.
5 Things To Consider Before Selling Your Business
Contemplating a sale? Conditions may be ripe—many buyers have excess liquidity and are hungry to get ahead of upcoming economic growth. Before you plan your exit, here are a few important items to consider.
Valuation may be challenging
Determining the value of a business is always tricky, but it’s especially hard now, when businesses may have been unusually impacted positively or negatively by the pandemic. Get a valuation specialist’s input to set a realistic starting point.
A business sale can have wide-ranging effects. What future do you want for your employees and customers? Are you ok with your business being folded into another company? Would you prefer a buyer who will keep your company’s name? These questions can’t be answered with dollar signs and need to be considered before negotiations.
Identify the end goal
Visit with your advisors and build your ideal transition plan. This will put you in the driver’s seat and open options for action, rather than being reactive.
Don’t forget about you
As an owner, selling your business will have a ripple effect on your personal finances. Work with an estate planner and tax experts when considering a sale. There are many financial tools and ways to structure a sale that can profoundly impact your bottom line for years to come.
Start planning early
If you think you might sell in five years or more, there are steps you can start taking today to prepare. If you’re envisioning selling sooner, there is no time to waste. Most owners have only bought or sold a business once, if ever. Build a team of experts who can contribute their collective experience to guide your way.
Caileen Heuretz (left)
Business Advisor: 14 years with Alerus
Client focus: Small, mid-size, and large businesses and professional services
Advice for startups: There is no such thing as a stupid question. Share your vision with your financial advisor and lean on them for guidance. The better you both understand your business and finances, the more successful your business can be.
Brad Loween (right)
Senior Business Advisor: 1 year with Alerus
Industry focus: Commercial/ industrial sectors, real estate
Advice for new business owners: Build a team of advisors and use their expertise. Attorneys, tax professionals, business finance experts, and insurance specialists can all provide valuable insights.
3 Questions To Ask Your Retirement Plan Provider
As the war for talent rages on, your retirement and benefits package is more important than ever. A retirement plan is now a must-have just to remain competitive in attracting workers. If you want to stand out, your retirement plan provider can help.
Here are three questions to ask your retirement plan provider to make sure they are keeping you on top of your game.
How do you support my employees’ overall financial wellness?
Saving for retirement is just one component of financial wellness. Your retirement plan provider should also provide your employees with financial and holistic wellness tools to help them manage their overall finances. For example, Alerus provides access to its interactive My Alerus tool — a personalized financial wellness hub which allows users to set personal financial goals, create a budget, and track their progress in areas including debt management, retirement savings and emergency funds.
Alerus experts also host monthly webinars on retirement and other financial topics, providing plan participants a unique opportunity to engage with experts and have their questions answered in real-time. Employees who would like assistance in developing a financial plan can utilize Alerus financial guides for more information at any time.
Can you demystify retirement investing for my employees?
Saving for retirement is complicated. No two employees’ personal finances or goals are the same, so providing one-size-fits-all investment options may not serve employees’ best interests. Alerus offers a personalized retirement strategy, known as a Managed Account Program*, that assembles a diversified mix of investments for the participant based on their personal needs and goals. Alerus’ investment experts monitor each account’s performance and periodically rebalance portfolios as needed.
Are you able to customize my plan and integrate other services?
Just as no two employees’ retirement goals are the same, employers have unique situations and needs. Make sure you’re working with a reliable provider that has the experience to identify solutions, streamline processes, and create a customized plan. Diversified service providers like Alerus can also provide full-service plan administration and compliance as well as additional benefits such as health savings accounts, flexible spending accounts, and health reimbursement arrangements, which can help set your benefits package apart from competitors.
Alerus has been administering retirement plans for decades and is a valued partner to thousands of employers, advisors, and brokers across the country, making it one of the top retirement plan providers in the nation. Combining national resources with a local focus enables Alerus to uniquely help companies develop dynamic solutions to aid employee attraction and retention while supporting employees’ long-term financial wellness goals.
Jessica Hoppe (left)
Senior Business Advisor: 10 years with Alerus
Client focus: Small-to-large businesses, commercial real estate development
How Alerus uniquely serves businesses: We are so much more than loans and deposits. We have a full suite of solutions to support businesses — treasury management products, retirement and benefits plans, employee education and financial management tools, and wealth management solutions. We’re able to meet our business clients’ unique needs now and as they grow.
Senior Business Advisor: 20 years with Alerus
Clients served: Small businesses, professional services, construction firms, commercial real estate, agribusiness, ownership transitions
What business owners should know: Your banker is your business partner and advisor. We are there to understand your business and deliver what you need to achieve your goals
*Alerus will act as the investment advisor with full decision-making authority over the investments in the account without having to consult with the participant in advance. We will have no responsibility or authority over those assets that are subject to Plan Sponsor restrictions, those assets held in a self-directed window account if available under the plan, employer securities; real estate (except for real estate funds and publicly traded REITs); self-directed brokerage accounts; participant loans; non-publicly traded partnership interests; other non-publicly traded securities (other than collective trusts, unitized models and similar vehicles); other hardto-value securities or assets; other non-standard investment options held in the account(s); and any assets held outside of the account(s).
The information contained herein is general in nature, is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Alerus does not provide legal or tax advice. Always consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation. Deposit products offered through Alerus Financial, N.A. Member FDIC