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Monday, August 22, 2016

Walmart identifies eight chemicals to be removed from products

By Mark Sadaka

Walmart and environmental friendliness
Walmart has taken action to help protect the environment
Recently, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. announced that they will push their suppliers to remove, or at the very least restrict, the usage of eight extremely hazardous materials found within a variety of their household cleaning, personal care, and beauty items sold within the shopping center.

The retailer named all of the chemicals that they want removed, which include formaldehyde, a chemical found within wood products and building material. Pressure from consumers revealed they are increasingly more conscious of what types of chemicals enter their products and food.

Last year, Target Corp. took the same measure by removing over 1,000 chemicals from various household cleaning and personal care products that they sell in every store across the country. They even took a stance to promote only the products that adhere to these regulations and remove all chemicals listed.

Proctor & Gamble


Proctor & Gamble, a major product supplier for Wal-Mart Stores, has been using parabens in their products, but only within the safe limits set down by regulatory agencies from around the country. The major company also ensures every customer purchasing their product can discover exactly what is inside said product by featuring the parabens on the label for easy reading. They have also worked tirelessly to remove triclosan from over 99 percent of their sold products.

Transparency


Back in 2013, Wal-Mart vowed to the public to increase their transparency regarding ingredients found in products they regularly sell on store shelves. While working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Safer Choice organization, Wal-Mart has begun using safer chemicals and materials within all of their store-brand products.

To achieve the Safer Choice certification for their branded products, Wal-Mart put a new policy into effect in January of 2014. This policy basically said that all products sold by the corporation and Sam's Club within the United States would adhere to safe products and chemicals within every item sold. In April of this year, the company announced they had already successfully removed around 95 percent of their high-priority chemicals from products sold in home and personal care sections of the store.

Starting in 2018, Wal-Mart declared that all products being sold within their stores must disclose all chemicals and production information on the packaging of every product. The retailer claims they will work with their suppliers to encourage this to happen in the markets where they have stores open, not just within the United States.

Now, the chemicals Wal-Mart intends to remove for customers just like you will include butylparaben, which is often used as a type of preservative within cosmetics, and triclosan, which is often used in clothing, furniture, and children's toys. The toys are a main concern for many families who shop at Wal-Mart, as they do not want their kids being infected or falling ill due to any harmful chemicals in their products.

Triclosan is also used within toothpaste, but Wal-Mart stated they have no intention of pushing for its removal due to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration deeming it safe for use within toothpaste alone. That may worry some people, though they have no doubt been brushing their teeth for years now and without any adverse effects on the human body.

Some chemicals are entirely safe for human consumption. Wal-Mart is simply seeking the opportunity to remove any unsafe chemicals from the products they stock and sell to ensure all customers can enter a safe space for shopping. Their stores have been known to cater to the customer above everything else, so this move makes a lot of sense for the corporation that continues to grow each year.

About the author: Mark Sadaka from Sadaka Associates, the leading Hazardous Chemical Attorney, has a national practice and works with clients from New York to Alaska.

Image: Jared C. Benedict via Wikipedia, "Wal-Mart Exterior"; GFDL, CC BY-SA 3.0 

Monday, August 15, 2016

The financial side of launching a startup

By Nate Vickery

Only a small percentage of several thousand companies that are being incorporated every year can be called startups. Paul Graham, famous computer scientist, investor and essayist says that startups are companies that are designed to grow fast. 

Startup business financing
Proper appropriation of capital is essential for startup success
For this reason a startup business model requires a highly specific launch protocol. Since finances are usually the most critical segment of company’s incorporation, in this article we explained some basic financial principles, which should be applied in first phases of startup development.

Understand and categorize your costs


Determining your budgetary needs is critical for launching a successful startup. There is no universal method for determining your expenses, since every business niche comes with its own specific expenses.

Manufacturing businesses require a much larger initial investment because you need to acquire production equipment and rent a production hall. Service businesses usually require you to rent property on a top location. You will also need a niche-specific license surety bond that will guarantee the level of services you are offering to the public. Surety bonds are also required for contractors who are working on government-funded projects. Also don’t forget to add workforce costs to this mix, which include the costs of recruiting and training new employees.

In order to understand your expenses, you should separate them into several categories:

Onetime vs ongoing expenses

Costs of incorporation and production equipment are onetime costs. Months with significant onetime costs, can bring very small (or no) profits. That’s why you need to use the following months to fix this cash flow disruption and make up you lost returns. Ongoing costs, by contrast, are paid on the regular basis. They usually include: utilities, property rent, salaries and raw materials purchase.

Essential vs optional expenses

Essential costs are necessary for your business to run smooth. You must pay them, even if this leaves you without profits for one or several months. Optional costs benefit your business process, but they should be paid only when your budget is full. Most entrepreneurs postpone optional purchases, until they receive a more significant ROI.
Fixed vs variable expenses

Variable expenses depend on your company’s performance, while fixed ones are consistent from month to month. Corporate tax is a good example of variable cost, while rent, utilities and salaries (without bonuses) are usually considered as fixed costs.

How to fund your business launch?


If you wish to build a successful business, you shouldn’t only rely on your own funds. The higher initial investment makes your company more competitive and if you have a worthy business idea, you will definitely find investors who will be ready to pour their funds into your project. For finding the right investors you will need a well-written business plan and a lot of patience. You can use several ways to fund your newly-launched business, including:
  1. Using your own funds, and funds you acquired from friends and family

Most people start their business with their own funds. Friends and family are the easiest investors to find, but they are not accredited investors, which increases the complicity of your relations with them, especially if your business fails (they might consider their investment as a loan). Taking money from unaccredited investors can also cause troubles with SEC and delay your initial public offering (IPO).
  1. From consulting to production and service business

Consulting businesses are great because they don’t require high initial investment and they offer outstanding ROI. Many entrepreneurs decide to start offering their consulting services, and use the profits they’ve gained for adding production or service segment to their company.
  1. Angel investors

Angel investors are rich individuals. Taking money from angel investors is considered as a proper venture funding. It means that they expect a promised return. If your business doesn’t bring enough return, they can urge you to sell the company or offer its stocks on IPO. Receiving an angel investment requires you to create an elaborate exit strategy that will enable you to return your own investments.
  1. Seed funding

Seed funding firms invest relatively small amounts of money in newly-incorporated companies or entrepreneurs with valuable business ideas. These investment companies are also called the Incubators and investing represents their prime business. Unlike angel investors they often take a much bigger role in company’s development. They give out advice and help entrepreneurs to solve various technical and organizational problems.

Return on investment


Return on investment is the most popular profitability ratio, but it isn’t necessarily the same as company’s profits. While profits measures your company’s performance, ROI only focuses on the money you invested in the project and on the return you’ve realized. If you invested $400,000 in your startup’s launch and your net profit is $100,000 (in the first fiscal year), it means that your ROI is 25 or 25%. This also means that you will need to wait 4 years before you return your whole investment, and all the money you gain after this date, can be viewed as a pure profit. ROI is a very important figure, which can be used for measuring the performance of your pricing policies, inventory and capital investments and overall profitability of your business.

After the successful first phase of company’s development, startups usually become the object of interest of rich venture funds. These investment funds can pour in huge investments and turn startups into highly successful international companies. That’s why overcoming financial problems in first stages of startup’s development is one most important tasks for every entrepreneur.


About the author: Nate Vickery is a business consultant, and editor-in-chief at Bizzmarkblog.com.

Image: US-PD

Friday, August 12, 2016

4 reasons to work with a Realtor

By Aimee Lyons

Regardless of how many times you have purchased a home, the process can be stressful and intimidating. The jargon, the complexity of the documents, and the monetary risk are enough to make anyone nervous. Working with a knowledgeable and friendly Realtor can reduce much of your home-purchase anxiety. Here are a few reasons working with a realtor is worth your while:

Expertise

Realtors provide valuable expertise
Realtors have market know how most people do not
Realtors, particularly those who have been in the business a long time, are a wealth of information. Rather than turning to articles on the internet, you can pick up the phone and contact a reliable source when you have a question. They act as a kind of editor, watching out for any mistakes you might make in the process, saving you time, stress, and even money.

Furthermore, if you haven’t purchased a home in some time, Realtors will have more up-to-date information on how the market works. Laws may have changed, processes may have been altered, or any number of minor inconveniences may arise that an experienced realtor can help you navigate with ease.

Marketing

Realtors have greater access to the housing market, making the house hunting process easier. They can do the work of identifying which homes have the attributes your family needs while keeping your budget in mind. A Realtor will also have information on the area more readily available; information like crime rate, schools, utilities, and other considerations that should go into a home purchase. They may also have network connections that can aid in getting you a better deal or improve your odds of obtaining the home you want.

Contact

Keeping in touch with a good realtor can also mean you will have someone there when the time comes to sell your home. Selling a home without a realtor can be extremely time-consuming and tricky especially when navigating the legalities involved with the process. With a realtor’s help, your home will spend less time on the market, and you are more likely to come away with a better margin.

Negotiation  

Negotiating the selling price of a home is another difficult process to handle without the help of a seasoned Realtor. Not only have they been trained in this process, but they are far more likely to get the best deal in the least amount of time. Though you will have to pay a percentage to the realtor, it is likely you will either save money or break even.

Professionalism

Most buyers and sellers are represented by agents and will be wary of people who have opted out of representation. The overall appearance of professionalism can be key to making a sale or purchase. Buyers or sellers who see a trained Realtor handling the transaction are likely to be more comfortable trusting you to hold up your end of the process efficiently.

With a purchase like a house, it can be tempting to forgo the extra cost of hiring a Realtor. You may already feel like you’re spending enough money and believe you can learn what you need to know about the real estate market from research. While that may be true, you are more likely to have a shorter and more successful experience when you align yourself with a real estate agent. With their experience and training, you may find yourself paying less for a better experience. Find an agent you trust and let them do the work for you.


About the author: Aimee Lyons, a native to colorful Austin, Texas, is a creative Jack of All Trades. It makes sense that a young creator from a city like Austin would want to form a supportive community for other innovative minds. That is why Aimee started DIYDarlin.com, a place for artists, crafters, and the like to share ideas and inspiration. A painter and vintage stylist, her work is her life, and Aimee continues spread that same passion.

Image via Pixabay by Unsplash, US-PD

Friday, August 5, 2016

BPM for Energy

By Amira Chugunova

Business Process Management is being used by energy companies to help increase efficiency, improve customer interaction, manage resources, and reduce risks. More energy companies are starting to adopt BPM solutions as they realize these benefits.

BPM solutions integrate with energy companies’ current legacy systems to help them process orders more efficiently and provide better communication with customers. While these processes are likely already digital for most energy companies, completing them through a BPM tool allows a more thorough integration throughout the different departments within the energy companies. For instance, a request can be submitted by a customer through a portal, which will trigger an action in the customer request workflow. This request can be set up to trigger actions from different departments such as customer service. By utilizing an efficient workflow model, the BPM system can then direct the request to automatically deploy the energy solution for the customer.

This can also help with asset management for energy companies. They can better manage and track resources in a centralized location that can also be linked to different departments and directly to customers. Reports can be run to help optimize resource utilization as everything is in once place. This kind of efficiency can translate to huge savings to the bottom line if done correctly.

Using BPM solutions and tools such as an event driven business process chain also helps with customer satisfaction as communication can be more streamlined and transparent. When a customer submits a request, they want immediate and thorough feedback and to know their concern is being dealt with. Ideally, they want confirmation that action is being taken. Through workflows in a BPM system, their request can trigger actions such as payments or energy account setups that have been automated. Increased customer satisfaction of course leads to happier customers and hopefully a strong impact on the bottom line as well for a company.

                                         EVENT DRIVEN BUSINESS PROCESS CHAIN

Business Process Management event chain
Process chains are used with integration of legacy systems and new BPMS
Another way that BPM solutions can benefit energy companies is through more thorough documentation of processes that can help avoid risks and identify potential issues. By having processes set up in workflows through BPM, companies can easily notice trends and make adjustments to processes. This is particularly helpful if there are regulation changes or other disruptions to the industry. In this way, BPM adoption makes energy companies much more flexible and able to adapt to changing conditions. Risks can further be avoided by setting up triggers in workflows that can alert supervisors or the necessary personnel of issues that may arise. Future issues can be avoided as well through modeling and following evident trends.

With the number of processes and regulations energy companies have to manage, Business Process Management solutions are an easy and obvious choice. In the near future, we will hopefully continue to see more organizations in the energy field embracing BPM tools. In turn, this will help them to increase their efficiency particularly, as well as improve customer communication and responsiveness. Further, it will help reduce risks within the industry and the increased efficiency will lead to cost savings.


About the author: Amira Chugunova is a business and technology blogger, with an interest in process excellence and universal work platforms. She writes at www.lowcodebpm.com.

Images: 1. Aleksander Blomskold,  CC BY SA-3.0, 2. US-PD