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Couch Sessions: Where should entrepreneurs invest their money?

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Couch Sessions is a weekly advice column for entrepreneurs, small business owners and budding solopreneurs. Think “Dear Abby” with a focus on everyday specific and non-specific business concerns. The information provided is meant to provide ideas and thoughts that should be fleshed out against individual needs and capacities. It is also a place where additional comments and questions from readers are welcomed and encouraged. If were faced with a similar situation or question, let us know how you handled it. Share your experience or submit your question here.

Q: My e-commerce store is on a Joomla platform. To increase our SEO we want to move to a more e-commerce supportive platform. Is WordPress with plug-ins a good option or Magento or any others? We are happy where we are hosted and use Authorize.net and PayPal for customer convenience and have less than 50 SKU’s. Haralee Weintraub, www.haralee.com

Opening up an online shop has never been easier. Technology has allowed for e-retailers to satisfy all of their e-commerce needs from one source; where just a few years ago, you would have had to “cut and paste” your way to an efficient website that could accommodate all of your needs.

Until you have the capacity, resources and clientele to accommodate the expense of customizing a vast and in-depth e-commerce site, do a simple comparison of the following sites to meet your needs in a “one-stop shop” and most of these platforms provide easy “drag and drop” set-up: Shopify, Volusion, Big Commerce, Core Commerce and Magneto. Remember, free isn’t always a good thing. It’s great test the waters, but be prepared to pay for quality and a platform that meets all (or most) of your needs.

As a novice, make sure you consider the following elements: cost, user-friendly, security, technical assistance, history, reviews, complaints, etc. Most of these sites allow you transfer your domain name and have very stylish templates to compliment your brand you can quickly and easily upload your products. Start with the best you can afford. As you grow and need more function and flexibility, reinvest in your business and the technology (website) you use.

Q: I’m having issues finding good investment advice. How do small business 
owners who are making just enough to get by, put what little they save into 
smart investments that actually make money.


 Yuri Caltaldo, www.indigoh2o.com

Business Finance and investment is not an area of expertise for me, Yuri. So, I’ve asked Ed Puzio, Business Banking Market Manager with PNC Bank, to provide some insight.

Cash flow situations can vary greatly for every small business owner. One business' savings picture can be quite different from another business. Day-to-day operations generally have a large impact on a business' cash flow. A smart investment for one business with a certain amount of savings, may not be a smart investment for another business with the same amount of savings.

There is no "one size fits all" answer. However, the best first step a business owner should take when thinking about the smartest ways to utilize their cash on-hand is to develop a strong relationship with their business banker and allow a close understanding of the business' financial picture. Then, the business banker can provide customized solutions for the business outlining when and where to place excess cash that will meet the business' goals. PNC Bank, for example, now offers online technology via Cash Flow Insight that streamlines the cash flow process, allowing business owners to see what's coming in and what's going out, as well as showing daily and long-term projections to help strategic planning, all in one place.

When a business owner has a better understanding of their cash flow, it allows for optimal decision making about diverting even small amounts of working capital into other investments.

With that said, a few places where business owners may want to consider investing excess cash are a Money Market Account, a Sweep Account or Certificates of Deposit. A Money Market Account puts excess funds to work for a business until needed and can be easily accessed at a branch, an ATM, transferred online or by simply writing a check. A Sweep Account takes excess cash above a target balance and automatically transfers the funds into an interest earning account at the close of each business day. Certificates of Deposit offer both short and long-term maturities and generally earn higher rates of interest than other savings products.

Now let’s talk about YOU! Are you a struggling, frustrated or just inquisitive small business owner? Need help NOW? Click here or call (916) 287-1432

Couch Sessions is a weekly small business advice column designed to answer questions from struggling and/or simply inquisitive entrepreneurs. Micro Business Therapist™, A.Michelle Blakeley is a savvy, progressive and skilled small business professional with over two decades of experience in sustainable, holistic and progressive business practices who has successfully guided new and seasoned small business owners through the daily challenges of operating a small business with timely and transformative advice. She is featured in Forbes.com and the Financial Post as one of 30 Women Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter, contributor for the San Francisco Examiner and Women On Business; curator of the online magazine, Micro Business Therapy™ and was the host of Simple Truths for Women Entrepreneurs on BlogTalkRadio.com.

CORRECTION: Ed Puzio's comment was previously mis-attributed to Jenny Altman, Manager of External Communications 
with PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.