5 ways to make your small business greener

In today’s world, it’s rare to see a day where a major news outlet isn’t covering climate change. This is in line with the mood of the nation. A recent Lowy Institute poll shows that the majority of Australian adults (64%) see climate change as “a critical threat”.

Sustainability has officially hit the mainstream, and as a small business, you can’t afford to be left behind. But what can you do? Here are five quick ideas to get you on the right track.

1.Get help from the (free) experts

You’re not alone on this sustainability mission. There are a lot of organisations out there that want to help you along the way. A good place to start is your state government and local council who might have a program in place. Here at our Finder HQ in Sydney, we’ve benefited hugely from the City of Sydney CitySwitch program, and it hasn’t cost us a dollar. There are also heaps of free content on the Internet for you to learn more. This Auspost guide is a comprehensive report on small business sustainability while our very own Finder Green page is loaded with free tips on how to find sustainability products.

2. Find a green electricity provider

Most of us probably think we’re paying too much for our energy, and when you run a business, you need to find as many ways to cut costs as possible. Your high energy bill might be an annoying expense, but it’s also a perfect opportunity to go green. There are a number of energy providers in the Australian market who offer carbon neutral or GreenPower options that don’t have to cost the Earth. There’s a common misconception that going green with your energy will cost you, but if you do your research, you might find a provider that will help you go carbon neutral, while also reducing your bills – win-win!

3. Reduce your single use plastics

Plastic is a sustainability issue that really resonates with consumers in Australia. We’re a beach loving nation and seeing plastic in our oceans makes the problem very real. The good news is there are a lot of great solutions out there for you. Can you ditch plastic straws for paper alternatives? Can you provide reusable coffee cups for your staff? Or can you follow the example set by Qantas and go completely plastic-free in some or all of your business operations? Start small and keep going. This is a visible change that customers will love.

4. Find innovative ways to reuse your waste

You might not believe it, but there are lots of organisations out there that want your waste. Here at Finder, we provide free lunch for our staff but often have leftovers that would otherwise go to waste. Our partnership with OzHarvest means they “rescue” our unwanted food and deliver it to people in need. We also have a similar deal with the coffee beans we use for our office coffee machine. The Bugisu Project not only delivers fresh single-origin beans on a weekly basis, but they also collect our used coffee grounds and convert them into valuable products like soap. What waste do you create? And is there an organisation that might want to give it a new home?

5. Recycle as much as possible

Recycling has never been easier, but it can still be confusing for small businesses. Your first job is to work out where your rubbish goes once it leaves your bin. If you’re a cafe or a shop, this should be easy enough (just speak to your local council), but if you’re in an office in a complex strata building, the answers aren’t always forthcoming (pro-trick: follow your cleaners when they take the bins). Once you’ve got answers on what can and can’t be recycled, you may need to restructure your bins accordingly. In your office, you’ll need to split your waste out into a bunch of different streams to match the recycling for your building. Getting the right bins is just the start, but getting people to use them correctly is even harder – but it’s a battle worth fighting!

Ben King is the corporate social responsibility manager at Finder.

How to know if you’re eligible for a business loan

Bessie Hassan

Let’s face it, launching your own business isn’t exactly a walk in the park. But once all the hard work pays off, it’s an exciting and deeply rewarding time for any business owner. Having the ability to be your own boss and build upon something you’re truly passionate about is the driving force behind many successful businesses, but even the biggest ventures have to start small. And this doesn’t always come cheap.

For those just starting out, a business loan can provide the financial leg up required to set the wheels in motion. You can put the loan towards new property for a shopfront, towards marketing or advertising costs, or towards new machinery or equipment. If you’re thinking about applying for financing, make sure to follow the eligibility checklist below:

Check your credit score

Your credit score is one of the first things banks and lenders will assess when considering your loan application. It’s a number linked to your name that lenders use to determine your level of risk when borrowing. The score is calculated based on your credit and payment history and ranges from 0-1,000 or 0-1,200, depending on the bureau you go through. Your credit score will also reflect any past defaults or outstanding debts.

A “good” credit score ranges between 622 and 725, while an “excellent” score is between 833 and 1,200. Bad financial behaviour will reduce your score, and anything sitting below 600 is considered “poor”, which can limit your ability to get a business loan.

Although your previous spending habits may be personal rather than business related, they’re interpreted as a direct reflection of your financial capability, especially when it comes to meeting your repayments. Therefore, it’s important to check your credit score before applying since any rejected applications can also lower your score.

Consider your minimum revenue

Lenders will almost always take your earnings into account when you are applying for a business loan. Banks and lenders require a minimum revenue amount in order to secure financing, but just how much will depend on the amount you’re requesting to borrow. A larger line-of-credit loan may require a minimum revenue of $150,000 – $200,000 in order to qualify, whereas a smaller equipment loan may not take your earnings into account at all.

Make sure to familiarise yourself with your lender’s minimum requirements before lodging your loan application. This will prevent you from being automatically rejected for not being within the minimum threshold.

Have a business plan prepared

Put simply, a business plan outlines how you’ll generate enough cash flow to cover ongoing expenses while keeping on top of future loan repayments. It should also show the lender exactly what you need the money for and how you plan on spending it.

You should include a description of the company and its product or service, an outline of the managerial structure, a SWOT analysis, an industry analysis and a marketing or sales strategy.

Having a solid business plan is essential for any loan application. It demonstrates to the lender that your business has a clear roadmap towards future growth, which is supported by research, product strategy and financial data. If a bank or lender feels confident in your business, they’ll be much more likely to approve your request for finance. Although it may be time consuming to put together, a business plan is invaluable.  

Offer collateral if possible

Collateral is an asset or assets you pledge as security for the repayment of a loan, such as a property or vehicle. Secured loans are borrowed against collateral and can be offered at lower interest rates, saving you money over time.

However, in the event of a default, you will forfeit your assets to the bank or lender to cover your outstanding debt. Lenders tend to look more favourably on borrowers who are able to offer up some form of collateral. Collateral preferences may vary across lenders depending on their own business interests, so be sure to take this into account before offering up your assets.

You also have the option to take out an unsecured loan. This type of loan enables you to borrow without collateral; however, it will usually have stricter lending criteria and a higher interest rate.

When it comes to getting a business up and running, everyone is different. Some businesses may require a little more effort to get off the ground due to the scale of operations or the nature of the products and services being sold.  When you’re just starting out, financing can be a good way of getting ahead and focusing on what matters most: making your business dreams a reality. But a business loan is also a big responsibility. Always make sure to borrow within your means, and do your research before applying.

Bessie Hassan is money expert at Finder

Business Insurance: What you need to know

Getting your own business up and running can be an exciting and deeply rewarding prospect. Being your own boss and pursuing something you’re truly passionate about is the driving force behind many business owners’ decision to take the plunge and branch out on their own.

Yet running a business can also carry elements of risk. Though we like to assume everything will run smoothly, life can sometimes throw us a curveball and it pays to be prepared should things turn pear-shaped. Regardless of your industry, mistakes can be made, accidents can happen and complaints can be filed by angry or spiteful customers.

Therefore, taking out an appropriate form of business insurance is essential. Whether you’re expanding your side hustle into a small business or already managing your own restaurant with a roster of 25 staff, ensuring you have the right sort of cover should sit high on the list of priorities.

There’s a huge range of business insurance options available in Australia, and it can be a bit overwhelming trying to determine which cover is most suitable for your needs. A good place to start is by assessing your key business risks. How vulnerable are you to theft? What would happen if one of your employees was injured on the job? Do you offer any products or services that customers might be unhappy with?

Once you’ve determined any issues your business may be likely to face, you can then begin to compare policies. A basic business insurance policy will ensure that in the event of a serious setback – such as fire, theft or injury – you have sufficient cover to pay for any additional costs that arise as a result.

Some business owners will opt for more extensive policies that will also cover their employees. For example, they will get cover for the sudden loss of staff or for workers taking a significant amount of time off due to injury or illness.

Depending on your level of risk, you may only need one type of basic cover or a combination of policies. Some examples include the following:

  • Public liability insurance is for businesses that offer the use of a public venue, such as a function centre or performance space. This will cover negligence, such as a customer falling over and injuring themselves in the venue.
  • Professional indemnity insurance provides protection for businesses that offer their expertise as a service to clients, such as an accountancy firm or law firm.
  • General liability insurance provides general cover for any accidents or illnesses that take place on the business premises.
  • Cyber liability insurance is for businesses with large amounts of online data that rely on certain types of software.

Once you’ve selected a policy, it’s important to make sure you’re familiar with what’s actually covered. You don’t want to be caught out by the fine print in your moment of need. Often there are certain situations insurers won’t accept a claim for, such as damage caused by a natural disaster, out-of-date equipment that is no longer in use or buildings that are vacant or unoccupied.

Keep in mind that there are downsides to business insurance as well. Taking out cover can often be quite costly. There’s also no way of predicting whether you’ll ever actually be required to use it. Yet unexpected setbacks can arise out of nowhere, and there’s no certainty that you’ll be able to cover the costs on your own. Business insurance is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

Bessie Hassan is Money Expert at finder.com.au