“Going green” can help your small business

By Stephanie Rico
April 21st, 2011

Richard WeeksBusinesses do not become environmentally friendly overnight. Incremental changes and positive results add momentum that can lead to bigger—and greener—changes overtime. About a year ago, Michele introduced you to guest blogger Richard Weeks, Senior Vice President for Wells Fargo’s Internet Services Group, who shared with you why it makes sense for businesses to be greener.

Well, we’re thrilled to have him back to encourage our business customers to consider the benefits of making pro-environmental changes! This time, Richard has four reasons how “going green” can help your small business.

If you’re a customer who’s already made some of these changes, we’re interested in hearing from you. How has “going green” benefited your business? What advice or experience can you share with us that will help other businesses prosper or avoid some of the pitfalls you may have encountered? Please let us know! (—Stephanie)

It may be a coincidence that Earth Day follows closely on the heels of Tax Day each year. However, the timing does give you an opportunity to assess how “going green” might have real benefits for your business’ bottom line.

There are a number of resources here at Wells Fargo, such as the Business Insights Resource Center*, that can provide information about those benefits. Reviewing the Wells Fargo Environmental Forum — is educational for me, and is an easy way to stay informed about new opportunities to maintain your commitment to the environment.

And with a little time, effort, creativity, and commitment, doing so may help:

  • Protect your business
  • Improve your cash flow
  • Save you money
  • Attract new customers into your place of business

Let’s take a closer look at each one of these potential benefits…

  1. Protect your business

    While much of the media’s attention is focused on hacking, phishing, and cybercrime, most fraud in a small business is still perpetrated by friends, family, and employees. With boxes and file cabinets filled with old statements, canceled checks, copies of deposits and the like, it can be relatively easy for a determined or desperate person to steal some of your valuable personal or business information. Here are a few ways you can reduce the likelihood of fraud:

    • Adopt online statements, which then provides you with 7 years of copies online
    • Accept bills electronically, which often allows you to pay online as well
    • Send payments online, using a Bill Pay service or other electronic means
    • Send invoices electronically, which may allow you to get paid online as well.

    A little research on your financial institutions web site—or a discussion with your banker— will help you determine which of these services are right for your business.

  2. Improve your cash flow

    Take a moment to assess how "going green" might have real benefits for your business' bottom line.When we talk to our customers about their concerns, managing cash flow always rises to the top of the list. They desire fast access to their receivables, but the traditional depositing process leaves many of them looking for a better way to get their money into their accounts.

    Getting paid electronically is the fastest and most secure way to manage your outstanding receivables. Not only do you avoid a trip to the bank (which may take a few days after you receive a check), many online invoicing systems will also automatically close an open receivable upon payment.Another benefit of an electronic invoicing system is the ability to send reminders if they payment isn’t received by a date you’ve determined.

    When you’re paying your vendors or suppliers, there’s always that difficult balance between paying an invoice on time and keeping those funds in your account as long as possible. The dance between getting paid and paying bills can be challenging, which is why adding as much predictability as possible into the process can help. Again, online tools such as the Wells Fargo Business Spending Report can help track expenses, and scheduling payments online can offer a predictable schedule for regular cash management routines. There are also a number of online tools that may help you with the entire cash flow conundrum.

  3. Save you money

    Paying bills costs money. Most obvious is the cost of a stamp. If you factor in the cost of the check and possibly an envelope, the cents start adding up to dollars—especially if you’re paying more than a few bills every month.

    More difficult to assess is the value of time: What is your time worth hourly? How much time do you spend organizing your paper bills, writing the checks, reconciling your information, and then mailing the check? Are we talking about real money now? After investing some time upfront establishing your payees (i.e. vendors, suppliers, national billers, and even employees), your monthly allocation to bill payment should be significantly reduced if you sign up for an online bill payment service.

    Turning off paper can also save you money. Many accounts offer monthly discounts if you switch to online statements. Regularly monitoring your accounts online also helps you catch any fraudulent activity, or identify any errors on your accounts.

    Lastly, “going green” can provide you with any number of tax benefits to benefit your bottom line. Search online for potential tax credits as you’re replacing equipment and other infrastructure items.

  4. Attract New Customers

    More than ever, people like doing business with companies that are committed to the environment.More than ever, people like doing business with companies that are committed to the environment. Adding a message to your place of business or website about your conservation efforts can create a positive impression and help attract new or repeat business.

    There are also a number of creative ideas to help bring in more customers. Personally, I am always looking for an easier way to recycle batteries, light bulbs, or electronics. Establishing a drop-off for these items can drive foot traffic into your place of business, and again, adds another component to your message. Think of it as a way to generate some positive, local PR.

    I’m sure there are many other ideas out there which can help you with your “going green” message. Friends, family, the internet, and even your own customers might be a source for those ideas.

* Information and views provided through the Business Insights Resource Center are general in nature for your consideration and are not legal, tax, or investment advice. Wells Fargo makes no warranties as to accuracy or completeness of information, does not endorse any non-Wells Fargo companies, products, or services described here, and takes no liability for your use of this information. Information and suggestions regarding business risk management and safeguards do not necessarily represent Wells Fargo’s business practices or experience. Please contact your own legal, tax, or financial advisors regarding your specific business needs before taking any action based upon this information.

Wells Fargo & Company cannot provide tax advice. Please see your tax advisor to determine how this information may apply to your own situation.

Stephanie Rico

Stephanie Rico

Stephanie focuses on helping Wells Fargo achieve its goal of accelerating a transition to a “greener” economy via finance and support of our customers who are looking to take advantage of the benefits of renewable energy and clean technology. Stephanie has a BA in Social Science, Interdisciplinary Studies from San Francisco State University and an MBA from DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business.

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Comments

Dave Aon May 19, 2011 at 5:21 pm:

This brings to mind a couple of questions:
1. Do we, either in the small business or wholesale space offer any type of consulting services to our clients around how to run their business in a more environmentally friendly fashion?

2. WF is a large lender to such high GHG and toxic pollution producing industries as agriculture and coal mining. Do we have any policies in place that require our clients to clean up their practices as a condition of their loans/lines, etc?

MODERATOR’S NOTE: Just so you know, Dave A is a Wells Fargo team member. The views he’s expressing here are his alone and don’t constitute an official position taken by Wells Fargo or Wachovia. Please see our Community Guidelines for more information!

Stephanie Ricoon May 20, 2011 at 7:21 am:

@Dave A – Thank you for your question! The answer is yes and in many ways. For example, we have internal experts that can help business bankers evaluate renewable energy and agriculture opportunities. We follow the Carbon Principles and have our own environmental lending practices, which can be found here. However, one of the main thrusts of our position has to do with our core belief in relationship banking—that is, “people first.” So, for example, we maintain relationships with customers in energy intensive and environmentally sensitive industries. Many of those industries keep our economy running and lights on. Our customers, some of which we’ve maintained relationships with for 30+ years, tend to represent the best-of-the-best in their respective industries. As industry leaders, they transform and adopt to continually changing regulatory, legal, social, reputational, environmental and other types of requirements. As such, they are taking actions to transition to a cleaner economy. We are proud to work with them and support them through financing and other financial services. Since it sounds like you’re a Team Member, please contact us to find out more about how you can get more involved in environmental initiatives at work—specifically, how you can help your customers! Very best, Stephanie

Dave Aon May 20, 2011 at 9:39 am:

Do we have any history of turning away business either in the form of new relationships or financing of projects with existing clients due to failure to meet our environmental lending practices?

Stephanie Ricoon May 20, 2011 at 10:34 am:

@Dave A – Yes, we have turned down business based on environmental risks. However, you will not see a news release about this. We do not like turning down business, we like doing business. We like working with and helping customers. When there are opportunities to work with our customers to address environmental issues, we prefer that approach! Stephanie

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