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Monday, June 30, 2014

3 rare traits that will make you more valuable in the workplace

By Oscar King

The last few years have been hard for people without jobs. As of November 2009, over 14 million Americans were jobless. In fact, the last time the US had such huge unemployment rate was in 1982. Between the years 2008-2010, millions of Americans went from owning two cars and living comfortably to losing their houses and living on the street.

Ideal employee characteristics
Employers appreciate employees who can think on their feet
Yet, in those turbulent times, there were people who were fortunate enough to switch jobs and even turn down offers. That is still happening today. Do you want to know why these people are so sought after? It’s simple, really.

These employees made themselves indispensable to their organizations. It wasn’t about getting certifications or some extra degrees. It was about their work ethic, what they brought to the table and how they went about their business. These people had a rare skill set that made them almost impervious to the economic downturn. Do you want to know what those skill sets and traits are?

A knack for problem solving

Let me ask you a quick question: if you were an employer of labor, who would you employ? The overqualified, Ivy League graduate, or someone with a reputation for fixing problems, getting solutions, and getting the job done? Would you choose a well-educated Wharton MBA graduate over an extremely resourceful University of Minnesota graduate with a track record of providing stellar results?

For most employers it’ll be the latter in both cases. Why is that? Because you know that the guy can and will always deliver unique out-of-the-box solutions to whatever problems you have. The truth is there are very few employees like this, and because of this, they are easily noticed.

If you want to be more valuable and indispensable to your organization, you need to become that guy. Learn how to solve your company’s unique problems. If your assembly line is slow, find ways to hasten it without compromising the quality of the products or putting the machine workers in danger. If your company suffers from logistical problems, find a way to fix that or look for someone with the experience to do so. Bottom line, be the guy who solves problems.

Self-starter skills

Most people need somebody to tell them what to do, how to do it and when to do it. If you were an employer, would you consider those people assets to your firm? Self-starters are rare, but are in very high demand in most organizations. Companies want people they can give a few ideas to and they’ll run with it and make something useful and inspiring out of the ideas.

So, you need to teach yourself to not wait for your boss to tell or show you everything. This is called taking initiative. Pre-empt your boss’s needs and complement his weaknesses. Instead of talking about him behind his back like most workers do, find ways to enhance his performance and make him look good. Do this and before long, you’ll rise to the top of the career ladder.

Ability to innovate

Can you take an already jaded or popular idea and make it better so the market place accepts and craves it? This exactly what an innovator does. He takes an already working solution and finds ways to enhance and improve it to produce even better results in possibly less time.

An innovator is always looking for room for improvement. When people hear others say, “If it’s not broke don’t fix it,” they are talking to average individuals. Be better than average. Be something more. Become an innovator. Think up ways to solve people’s problems, drive your company’s growth… whatever is necessary to give your firm an edge, do it.

Whilst this list is by no means complete, it’ll at least give you an idea of what you need to do and where to start.

About the author: Oscar King is a career counselor at UCF helping graduate and undergraduate students find and keep jobs. Another tip he often provides his students is to find an online fax service to better communicate with prospective employers, and always refers them to http://www.findafax.com in their search.

Image: Bpsusf,  CC BY 2.0

Sunday, June 29, 2014

5 ways to improve your online sales

By Wendy Lin

Having a website is pretty much a business essential these days, but if you have plenty of visitors but few actual sales, then the chances are there are some fundamental flaws with the design of your site. Read on for five basic ways to improve your website, and convert viewers into actual buyers.

Use clear navigation

If your visitors are arriving at a site which is poorly laid out with confusing information then they’re not going to hang around for long. You only have a few seconds to grab their interest, and faced with a confusing and cluttered layout they won’t stick around. Interestingly, new research is showing that removing the menu from the landing page results in greater lead generation, but as the psychology surrounding  user interaction and website design could fill an entire book, just remember that  you should be emphasising those areas which compel visitors to engage with your site.

Improve page speed and create a responsive site

More than half of website visitors expect a page to load in two seconds, and every second of reduced loading time results in increased conversion rates. Moreover, as mobile users have a conversion percentage rate that’s three times higher than on a traditional desktop or laptop, responsive design is an essential consideration for visitors accessing your site. So make sure your site is optimised for mobile visitors, and that page speeds are fast.

Have a clear call to action

To increase conversion rates, strong call to action messages should be built into your site design and content. A call to action is designed to get people to act, for example by buying or signing up for a newsletter. In design, this can be achieved with clickable buttons, but good content also includes strong call to action messages. If you’re not confident of your ability to write content which includes call to action messages, then employ the services of a copywriter.

Brand your Site

Users trust brands, so make sure that the design of your site accurately reflects your business image. Your brand should be clear, compelling and consistent, designed to elicit an emotional response from the user, and your web site should be able to effectively express it. According to Robert Wakefield from http://www.wysi.co.uk/, only 5% of people notice the actual content on a site. The rest of what makes a website appealing is the design. Implicit in this is the visual consistency of your brand – so ensure your web site is visually expressing your values effectively.

Understand your metrics

 Key to achieving more conversions is to understand your user behaviour. You should know your bounce rate, exit rate, the average time users spend on your site and your average page views at the very least. Use tools such as Google Analytics to analyse visitor behaviour, and adjust your website design accordingly.  It is also worth carrying out A/B tests, which is a simple way to experiment with how changes in two different pages on your site will affect user behaviour. This can be done using online A/B testing tools through a site such as Optimizely.

About the author: Wendy Lin is a freelance writer and entrepreneur. She has been selling her watercolour art since she was 10 years old.

Image: Pictofigo; CC BY-SA 3.0
"Pictofigo online sales icon"

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Barcelona paving the way in Spanish property revival

Barcelona property revival
By Bradley Shore

International investors are looking to take advantage of Spain’s ‘Golden Visa’ property for residency scheme, and are amongst those showing increasing interest in the Barcelona property market, according to Spanish property experts.

There is more and more evidence emerging of growing sales in parts of the Spanish market, with Barcelona leading the way, according to OPP-Connect.

Annual house sales in Catalonia have risen 43.4 per cent year on year in March , with Barcelona accounting for nearly two thirds (65.7 per cent) of them according to recently released figures from Spain’s National  Institute of Statistics.

The data has come after it had been reported in the media that prices of prime property in Mallorca, Spain had risen faster than in central London, with an average of 15.8 per cent over the last year.

OPP-connect reports that Samantha Gore, Sales Director at agency uv10.com, based in Barcelona, has said that with Spanish prices at an all time low, overseas investment in and around the Catalan city is growing, including increased interest in the ‘Golden Visa’ property for residency scheme, which requires a minimum investment of €500,000.

“After seven or eight years in the doldrums, life is being breathed back into the Spanish property market with affluent, attractive, accessible places such as Barcelona leading the way. Prices here are as low as they are ever going to be, throwing up some great investment opportunities in one of, if not the best, cities in the Mediterranean.

“From luxury million euro loft living in El Born, to rental apartments in Eixample, Barcelona has an investment and lifestyle opportunity to suit every strategy and wallet.

Who buys

The agency’s clients are usually cash buyers, and include families with young children and retirees. They are particularly selective about location, are willing to rent, and will not be persuaded to buy something just because it is cheap.

“They are seeking a way of life, able to wait for longer-term returns and happy to rent out in the meantime. We are also seeing a growing interest from non-EU buyers looking to take advantage of the €500,000 plus ‘Golden Visa’ market.”

The Costa del Sol city of Marbella is also experiencing a surge in property sales and enquiries, many from non-EU ‘Golden Visa’ buyers.

Expert opinion

Ron Wilkinson of Alta Vista Property says that the renewed interest in property in certain parts of Spain has heralded an increase in enquiries about property across the whole of Spain.

“Buyers confidence has increased due to the interest of investors in certain parts of Spain,” he explains. “When people see that major companies and major investors are beginning to invest in Spain again, it gives them confidence to go out and do the same themselves.”

“With prices having hit rock bottom, and beginning to rise in some areas, it is the perfect time to invest in the Spanish market and investors are beginning to take heed of this.

“Hopefully, by the end of the year we will have seen a significant increase in the number of sales, and that will hopefully provide the push that is needed for the Spanish market to begin to thrive once more.”

About the author: Bradley Shore is an experienced travel and property investment author, he writes for a number of clients in the digital industry. He currently does freelance writing but eveantually he wants his own blog which he can post to regulary.

Image: NRasmussen; CC BY-SA 2.0
Barcelona by night 2

Friday, June 27, 2014

The basics and necessity of business process outsourcing as a service for a business

Human resource management
Employee productivity is influenced by managerial decisions
By Phil Steel 

If you look at any group of people, you will find a mix of personalities, strengths and weaknesses.  With the right leadership, the strengths and weakness of a group can be mixed correctly to create a winning team. The trick is to know where to access outside help, and where to use your own resources.

The key to this success will come from within your group—but by correctly mixing outside resources. This cannot be expressed more and seen more in business organizations. No matter what the size of a company is, the chances of success will stem back to the management of the company, and the manager’s use of internal and external resources.

Focus on your strengths

This is where outsourcing comes in.  A company is created to generate an income. Normal thinking would be to cut costs wherever possible to reduce expenses. However, this is where most businesses ultimately fail. Company personnel are hired due to the knowledge that they have in a particular field. This is where they excel, and their strengths are the key to excelling in a company. The biggest mistake people make in both their professional and personal lives is to focus on weaknesses and to overlook the strengths. You have staff that work well in production, shipping, and customer relations—do not take these talents and try to train them into accounting. Know your company’s strengths, and outsource the areas that are missing. This allows you to have employees that are happy with their job position; they are doing what they enjoy, and you are relieving the pressure of having to take on a new task that is lacking in your company.  

You need to spend in order to save

Outsourcing is viewed as another expense, but is it really? As a business owner, you cannot be expected to manage all aspects of your company. As it grows, you will find yourself being spread thinner and thinner until daily operations become neglected or missed. Small details such as the rising cost of shipping a product, can add up to a great financial loss at the end of your fiscal year. You may have saved money by taking on all operations on your own, but you lost far more by missing details in your payroll, expenses, and tax deductions. The saying that it costs money to make money is very true. The key is to spend money in the right places so your return can be much higher.  

Outsourcing puts the control back in your hand

Outsourcing parts of your company operations does not mean that management loses control of its company. Rather the opposite. If you outsource parts of your operation to a dedicated company that specialized in that area, you will find that you will gain more control over your own company than you had realized was initially lost. A company that specializes in human resources, for example, can give you detailed reports on your employees and areas to improve, can streamline your hiring process with time savers such as per-screening, and can increase your safety ratings by lowering your hazardous incidents.  

You can meet with your outsourcing company as often or as little as you deem necessary and, while they do the work for you, you receive the final information that you need in the format you need it in, and as often as you need it. This information can now be used in your decision-making process—minus the time it would have taken you to gather it on your own.

Outsourcing is not a new idea; it has been used successfully in organizations for decades. The larger the company, the stronger the need for outsourcing, but that does not mean that small companies cannot benefit from the same services. In 2014, the main reasons that companies outsourced a portion of their business was to reduce expenses. While outsourcing was an expense, it was also a means to save money.  

Management is one of the number one reasons that a company will either succeed or fail. Proper personnel within management are trained to recognize where they excel and where they need to improve. Look strongly at your own organization. Are there areas that need strengthening? Would strengthening those areas streamline processes and reduce workload and time?  These are the areas to consider using 3rd party employment for. You will find that the money you spend to hire professionals who are trained in these areas will be money that is well spent.

About the author: This article was written by Phil Steel, an outsourcing consultant, who offer services that can make your business run more smoothly and make it easier for you to delegate the tasks you don’t have time for.

Image: Msgsun; CC BY-SA 3.0
"GHR Forum Emblem"

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Top 10 government recruitment sites in the world

Government jobs
Federal websites publicly list job openings
Are you interested in landing a job with the federal government? Many people have that same desire. Luckily there are numerous government recruitment sites found for people throughout the world that can help you learn of the newest government job opportunities and openings in your country, anywhere in the world.

If you are an individual ready to take on a job with the government, take a look at some of the best sites that will help you find the jobs that you really want. Below are 10 of the best government job recruitment sites around. Use them and you will be on the fast track to finding an incredible job that you love.

This is one of the top government recruit sites in the USA. The site is easy to use and to navigate through, listing jobs throughout the US. Whether you want a job in a small town or in the big city, the listings that you want and need are found here. You an easily search for a job in your city or state with the easy search tool, and there are even searches for foreign positions with the government as well. It is easy to create an account and to make a resume save jobs and much more. And, there is also a list of resources that can be used to help you in your job endeavors.

For individuals liking in Asia, this is a tremendous website that makes it easy to learn of all of the latest government job openings. Free registration is offered, and creating an account takes just minutes of your time. There are always great jobs available, and applying for those that interest you is simple as well.

This is a website for Canadian residents how are in search of government positions . It is easy to use and offers several different positions listings so everyone has the chance to find the job they are really looking for with the government. The site is updated on a regular basis and jobs are available in numerous government titles.

This India based recruitment site lists opportunities throughout the country, with regular posting and updates available. You can find job listings for many different sectors of the government, including postal positions and more. The website makes it easy to register an account to receive full benefits, including updates on jobs and a number of other benefits. For residents of India, there Is no better recruitment site to turn to when in search of a great job.

Serving the Cayman Islands, this website is trustworthy and dependable for finding government jobs. You can search for various government positions on the site as ell a learn more about the Cayman Islands and the government in the area.

New Zealand residents can access this site to learn of the latest government and federal job opportunities near them, to complete a resume or to complete an application for employment. In addition this website offers a comprehensive list of information sources, articles and blogs to help job seekers get ahead in their career.

For people in Iraq looking for government career opportunities, this is the site that can help land those positions. Not only can those interested in a job use this site, those who have a position available can use it as well. Registering is free, and there is a lot of stuff for you to find here, in addition to jobs. This includes training, information and guides and more.

This is the government recruitment website for Australia, with positions available throughout the country, whether you’re in Melbourne or Sydney! You can easily search for openings near you thanks to the search bar on the home page. Additionally job seekers can learn more about government jobs in the country and an abundance of other important information.

Creating a free account here is simple and easy but it is not required to search for jobs. It is easy to search for jobs in your area using this site. There is also more information about the job seeker allowance, moving o the UK and finding a government job and much more.

For people in London, this recruitment website is available for local job listings. The professional recruitment company can help both those in search of a government job as well as those who want to list them as available. It is a quick and easy registration process with no frills behind it. 

Many of the people prefer government jobs because there are number of reasons and one of them is job security. So just browse these sites depending on your country and I am sure you will find your dream government job.

Image: Geralt/Pixabay, PD

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

5 alternative ways to fund a business startup

Business startup financing
Alternative financing helps boost capital prospects
By Harry Price

Starting a business inevitably requires major funding. The traditional route to financing a small business involved a trip to see the bank manager, followed by an agonising wait whilst you learnt whether you’d successfully secured the cash.

These days, it’s getting tougher and tougher to fund a startup the traditional way, as many banks have become less willing to deal out large sums of money in the tough economic climate. All isn’t lost though: as one door closes, many more open up, and there’s now a multitude of options to fund a small business startup if you’re willing to try alternative forms of borrowing.

These methods of raising cash will invariably come with slightly higher interest rates than a typical bank loan, but with that price hike comes a greater willingness to lend, and a greater willingness to take a risk on your fledgling company. So if you’re looking for a method of funding your startup, and the bank can’t help you, here’s some ideas for alternative methods of funding:

1. Always try the traditional options

Before you despair at the lack of options, make sure you’ve exhausted all the traditional bank loans available. The key is to have an extremely thorough business plan and a comprehensive list of assets and projected income.

2. Borrow against an expected income stream

Purchase order financing works well as a short term solution. Many bootstrapped companies will have been formed quickly around one or more contracts. If you’re in a similar situation, and you have the paperwork to prove you have a large contract waiting to begin, you can often borrow capital on the future invoice you haven’t yet issued.

3. Get financing on as yet unpaid accounts

This option is similar to the purchase order method, except you’re further down the payment process. It’s fairly standard to have a number of contracts or sales successfully completed but still having a number of invoices unpaid. If that’s the case, it’s possible to borrow against these unpaid bills. The major issue with this method is proving that the customer is solvent enough to pay the bill!

4. Try peer-to-peer lending

Peer-to-peer lending is the new kid on the block when it comes to funding. In essence, you state the amount you want to borrow and the reason for the loan, then you undergo a credit check, and once approved, your loan is “shared” amongst several (or hundreds!) of individuals who pledge small amounts of money to your cause.

For a lender, it’s a great way to make some cash instead of putting the money in a low interest account. For you, it’s a great way of securing a loan with a decent interest rate. www.garethhjames.com, an internet business man agrees: “Peer to peer lending sounds like an unusual concept, but it’s a great way of raising cash when banks can’t help you. The sites are well regulated and safe too”.

5. Borrow against your projected sales

If you run a business that sells directly to the public, it’s possible to get finance on your projected sales. You’ll have to produce some detailed figures, but once you’ve received the money, you’ll pay back the loan based on a percentage of the sales you’ve made via debit and credit cards.

Securing a loan for your small business is never going to be easy, but the financial downturn has opened up many innovative and reasonable priced options that mean you don’t necessarily have to get a traditional bank loan.

About the author:  Harry Price  is a freelance writer who specialises in guest blogging. He is also a personal trainer and entrepreneur. He was inspired his father who was also a successful entrepreneur and always dreamed of having his own business one day.

Image license: US-PDGov

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Steps to recovery: What to do after a home flooding

By David Incorvaia

Home flooding
FEMA assists homeowners after some naural disasters
One of the worst home disasters, especially if you’re located in a flash flood zone, is water overhaul. Flooding is one of the biggest home disasters reported after hurricanes and other tropical weather – it also is a large inhibitor of post-disaster deaths in low-lying areas.

Whether a storm causes flooding or a clogged toilet, flooding throughout your home can be costly and dangerous to your health. Water is conductive and electrical currents can be deadly following a storm.

After a flood, it is important to follow a few simple steps towards recovery. Following these simple steps will ensure low-cost and safe clean up after damages have occurred.

Flood recovery guide

Call your insurance company: First thing you should always do is call your insurance company and take pictures of the incident. Proof will be needed in order to obtain compensation and reimbursement for your costs of fixing the issue. Before you start the clean up process, show the insurance company through photos and videos the extent of the damage, and while cleaning up the mess, make sure to take thorough notes and pictures of discovered damages.

Get a professional or do-it yourself: Use a shop-vac or other water apprehension device to suck up all of the visible standing water. If the damage and standing water is extensive, you should consult with a professional to ensure proper results.

Clean all surfaces and mud: A storm flood may bring in mud and other debris into the home so make sure to eliminate all debris from the site. After sucking up the standing water and shoveling out any mud or debris, use disinfectant on every surface (bleach is not a bad choice) to prevent bacteria growth and mold in the future. Make sure to grab everything off the floors, throw away all paper and cardboard exposed to saturation, and place all wet surfaces in the sun to dry out the items.

Shut-off all electrical supply: Before working in the standing water and submersed areas of interest, turn off all power to the house for safety. Unplug devices and cut off the junction boxes located in your garage or storage room in your home. This all save you if there is a shortage in your electrical circuits due to the flood.

Pump water out gently: Too much water within your home will actually change the pressure, especially if your basement is more than half full of water. Slowly pumping out the water will ensure minimal cracking of walls or a potential collapse.

Patch up all leaks: If you’re able to do this simultaneously while pumping the water from the floor it will help prevent further flooding or water entrance. Patch up all leaks from the ceilings or cracks on floorboards and doors where water may be entering the home.

Air circulation is a must: Gases may be trapped inside the home, especially if a storm flood has abruptly entered while you were evacuated. Never use matches or flammable contents while in the home and check the weather to make sure you’re able to air out the space through open windows. Opening all of the windows in the house and using standing and ceiling fans will help dry out the saturated areas.

Check FEMA and your insurance company: During a natural disaster, FEMA will provide you with services and information in regards to financial reimbursement and safety. If the flood occurs from another problem, your insurance company will need the cost of new repairs and interior items that were damaged during the flood. Being thorough with these costs is important to ensure the maximum reimbursement possible.

About the author: David Incorvaia is a Rollins College Senior. He majored in Music performance/business administration and currently performs around the southeast at various venues. Other then performing David enjoys trading options, reading, and cooking. He also blogs and writes content for www.InsuranceLand.org.

Image license: Andrew Booher, US-PDGov

Five ways to cut your business overhead expenses

By Wendy Lin

One of the great challenges of running a business is balancing the books. And in such difficult economic weather this is harder than ever. Yet the companies that succeed have found ways to reduce their expenditure by managing their costs. So read on for ten great ways to cut your essential business running costs.

IT costs

Reduce business overhead expenses
Cost management is essential for lean business operations
Businesses are increasingly turning to cloud based IT services to reduce the cost of hardware, software and IT support, and research shows that 80% of businesses have saved money by switching to cloud computing.

Using the cloud enables you to pay only for those services you need, and so reduce expenditure on essential IT costs such as server maintenance, in-house IT support services, software and processing power.

And not only does it deliver financial benefits, the ability to work collaboratively through online platforms increases employee flexibility to work from home. So you can also make savings on your energy usage, with the added potential to save on staff costs by outsourcing work.

Office space and building costs

Is your building serving you well? In most cases, companies aren’t utilising the space they have, resulting in wasted rental and rates costs. Either renegotiate the lease, downsize, or investigate the possibility of office share. This can work especially well with collaborative creative industries. Alternatively, for an extremely radical approach, do you need an office at all? Technology now allows for the possibility of remote working without any need for a base.

Employee costs

Cutting employees can be a false economy, as it results in decreased productivity. Instead, if you’re struggling with wage costs, think about reducing hours instead or withdrawing expensive perks such as free lunches. When hiring, don’t employ the most experienced candidates you can find. Experience demands higher wages, so find talented people who lack experience and take the time to train them instead.

Energy costs

Energy represents one of your largest overheads, so do all you can to reduce the cost. 50% of most businesses energy expenditure goes on heating, and 25% on lighting, so these should be your priorities. Only heat those areas of a building that you use, regularly service and maintain your heating equipment, and turn the thermostat down. For savings in your lighting, invest in energy efficient LED or CFL lighting which uses only a fraction of the energy used by traditional incandescent lamps. http://www.plannedlighting.co.uk recommends approaching a lighting company in the first instance for an energy audit. This will set out the costs savings and ROI that upgrading your lighting will produce. There are also a number of finance schemes available to help with investment costs.

Collaborative marketing

Marketing on social media costs nothing, but if your business also relies on old fashioned marketing in newspapers and magazines, then consider sharing the cost with a complementary firm. For example, a building supplies company could team up with a conservatory company to create an advert that promotes both firms, enabling you to share the cost.

About the author: Wendy Lin is a writer, painter and successful businesswoman. She enjoys consulting businesses on their accounts and is passionate about helping businesses succeed.

Image: Jorge Franganillo, CC BY 2.0
"Drowning by numbers"

Monday, June 23, 2014

Will there be an end to the Help-to-Buy program in the London property market?

London Help-to-Buy program
The London property market differs substantially from the rest of the U.K.
By Andrew Reilly

Given the need to help as many people find their way onto the property market in the UK, there have been a number of steps provided by the UK Government. One of the most successful actions undertaken by the government to assist people in finding a property has been the Help to Buy scheme. This has greatly assisted in helping people make their way on to the property market in a tough climate. However, in one of the many ways that many people recognise the London property market is different from the rest of the UK’s property market, there are complaints that the Help to Buy scheme is not of benefit in London.

This has led to a number of high profile people suggesting that the Help to Buy market should be closed off in London. One person who has stated this opinion recently is former chancellor, and father of TV cook Nigella, Lord Lawson. Lawson has called for this assistance to be closed off in the London market and he suggests that it could be done by lowering the assistance threshold to £300,000.  What is notable about this suggestion from Lawson is that it makes him the second Tory Chancellor to have gone public about his concerns.

The same opinion was voiced by Lord Lamont, with both former chancellors suggesting that this scheme was encouraging people to take on too much debt in their pursuit of property. This is a fine line that has to be traversed and there is no doubt that the assistance on offer does create a situation where some people are likely to experience problems in later years in trying to manage their mortgage. With two former Tory chancellors making their opinion on this well known, there is a growing level of pressure being placed on the policy that was introduced by George Osborne.

Lawson has been quick to point out that he is not against the scheme in principal and that around the country it actually serves a very strong purpose. However, with the London property market being quite a different creature to the rest of the property market to the UK, he believes that there is no need to see the system being in place in the overheated property market of London. With the current threshold for the Help to Buy scheme standing at £600,000 it is easy to see that many potential London property purchases can be bought under this scheme.

Help should always be provided for property buyers

The former Chancellor was quoted as saying “there is practically nothing in London which is under £300,000 but it would still be a benefit in the north”. The reference to the North is perhaps a sign of the disdain the former Chancellor feels for areas outside of London and while he makes an interesting point, to say that the housing market in London doesn’t need boosted is wide of the mark and perhaps missing the point.

There are clear problems with the London property market and while removing the Help to Buy scheme for certain buyers may minimise the financial problems that some potential buyers get themselves into, it doesn’t do much to solve the problem. There is a need to increase the supply of properties in London and this is an area that there needs to be clear direction and action.

A former Chancellor would understand the way that the market works and the relationship between supply and demand is one of the most integral elements of the economy. If there is a desire to lower the prices of the property market in the English capital, there is a need to ensure that there is a greater level of supply of properties in London. This would be a better focus for Lawson and people of a similar stature to focus on as opposed to removing the opportunity to buy. 

Lowering demand may bring about a change in the market, but it is not a tactic that will be of benefit in the long run to the London market. With high-class areas in London experiencing strong growth in house prices and areas like Islington, Lambeth and Southwark experiencing growth as well, there is a trend across the whole of the capital that is not being matched elsewhere. Providing specific tactics and strategies for London is important, but there is a need to make the right decisions.

About the author: Andrew Reilly is a freelance writer with a focus on news stories and consumer interest articles. He has been writing professionally for 8 years but has been writing for as long as he can care to remember. When Andrew isn't sat behind a laptop or researching a story, he will be found watching a gig or a game of football.

Image license: Stephen McKay, CC BY-SA 2.0
"Old Street Roundabout"

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Employer mandate soon to become history

By John Niles
Affordable Care Act employer mandate
Individuals with incomes below $11,490/yr do not qualify for subsidies
The Affordable Care Act faced a lot of criticism from business groups over the issue of group insurance. The Act requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance to their regular or full-time employees.
It seems like law makers in Washington have started to tip in the favor of these business groups. Reports confirm that support for this so called employer-mandate is fast eroding in the power corridors of the Whitehouse.
Recently the Urban Institute of Washington published a study that iterates the reasons for negating the employer mandate. Linda Blumberg, one of the authors of the study, says that the first thing we need to understand is the impact of employer provided health insurance on low wage workers. According to Linda, a minimum wage worker can do far better by purchasing a government subsidized health insurance through one of the marketplaces. The reason behind this argument is plain and simple. Many lower-wage workers make so little that they easily qualify for Medicaid and subsidized coverage under Obamacare.In almost any situation, buying a subsidized health insurance through one of the marketplaces is going to be economical as compared to employer provided health insurance.

Is employer sponsored health insurance really a benefit?

Some people argue that there is nothing wrong with the employer provided health insurance, especially if the employer is offering to pay a large chunk of your premium. Well it’s not a very good deal, says Mark Paul, a health care system researcher and economist at the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania.
Paul and a lot of other healthcare economists believe that employers view their contribution towards health insurance as a part of the total compensation paid to the employees. This is a relevant belief as it is seen all across the United States that employees who get employer-provided health insurance get lower wages as compared to those who do not get any insurance from their employers.

Can we simply write-off employer sponsored health insurance?

We cannot simply write-off employer provided health insurance. Employer sponsored plans allow employees to buy health insurance from tax free dollars. But this benefit is relevant for only those employees who get high wages. For employees with low wages, there is little or no benefit at all in employer sponsored health plans.
Some experts are in the favor of employer mandate. They say that employer mandate is necessary to stop employers from dropping the insurance coverage all together. But this belief hardly seems credible as employers already have plenty of reasons to keep offering employer sponsored health plans to their employees. Not only does it help the employers to save on Federal Tax but it also helps them to attract new talent and retain their experienced staff.

Is employer mandate worth it?

Another fact pointed out by the Urban Institute is that employer mandate is not going to be very helpful in increasing insurance coverage. According to statistical reports and surveys, less than 200,000 people will be covered by the mandate in the upcoming year. With such negatives, there is hardly any reason for hanging on to the employer mandate.
About the author: This article was authored by John Niles. John is a journalist and also works as a freelance writer. Most of his articles are centered around health care problems. Compare health insurance policy and apply for medical coverage online. Get health care insurance coverage and get free health care insurance quotes today online.
Image license: US-PDGov

Friday, June 20, 2014

The bigger the company, the bigger the threat: Why IT support is essential for growing businesses

By Damian Coates

Think of your business as a city

The bigger the population of a city, the more money and time must be invested to protect its citizens and safeguard them from criminals. The same rule applies to your business: if you're still using the same level of IT support for your business of 100 employees when your business contained just 20 employees, you have a problem.

Do you know how much IT support you need?

Busness Information Technology solutions
Larger computing capacity often means higher IT risk
Generally, the money and time you invest in IT support should be equated with the size of your company. That's why international global corporations have dozens of IT departments, while small or micro businesses may only need to hire an independent IT consultant on a freelance basis. 

More computers mean more opportunities for viruses

Computer viruses cost businesses and consumers billions of dollars each year. When you have more internet-receiving devices, your company is collectively spending more time on the internet, which means greater exposure to potential viruses. Whenever you purchase new IT equipment, you must ensure that it is protected with the most up-to-date and comprehensive anti-virus software. All it takes is one device to become infected and a file or an attachment can spread the virus to your entire IT network.

The bigger your business, the more time and money you must invest in IT support

The bigger your business, the more frequently you will need help with common IT problems like hardware issues or data loss. For example, if you are a self-employed worker with just one PC and no other staff, you are much less likely to encounter IT problems like viruses, corrupt files, lost documents or frozen screens. However, the more computers and staff you have, the greater the likelihood that any one of these problems will occur and disrupt your business.

A greater risk of employee negligence

Regardless of the size of your business or how reliable you think your employees are, people are human and can still make silly mistakes. Downloading suspicious files or attachments that were already automatically allocated to a junk folder in an e-mail account, for example, could be considered negligent, because it should have been clear to the individual responsible that the content was potentially dangerous or just pure junk. Negligence is still the main cause of data breaches in UK workplaces today.

IT training can help minimise the risk of negligence

Unfortunately, IT support does not guarantee that someone in your business will not make a mistake like this, but ensuring that everyone receives IT security awareness training could certainly help reduce the risks.

Finally, don't forget to get the extra help before your business expands

When your company is booming and you have a new host of clients to focus on, your business could become particularly vulnerable if your IT support is not up to scratch. What if a critical IT problem occurs when you're about to distribute files to a brand new client? What if someone hacks into your business account and you don't know who to contact to get it fixed as soon as possible? Get all the support you need in advance so you have all the help and support you require when your company thrives.

About the author: Damian Coates is the Commercial Accounts Director for Utilize IT Support which provide IT services and solutions to Essex, London, Kent and the Home Counties.

Image: Author owned and licensed

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Resolve your financial stress with debt consolidation

By Kc Mouli

Sometimes it so happens that a person gets entangled in debts because he  had to live beyond his means. That is more or less the case with a lot of young professionals, but at times, the debt can also be caused by other means. They may include illness, injury, accident or an unexpected loss on the job frontier. At times, even personal relationship turmoil can put a considerable strain on the finances of a person. Here the divorce could leave a partner absolutely dry of his fund and saving.

Debt consolidation tips
Out-of-control debt can cause financing costs to "snowball"
All of that causes a person to not being able to pay off his loans that he had taken before the crisis. Another thing that is important here to understand is that the debt he has gotten himself into will continuously increase his stress, subsequently his capacity to respond to the problem is going to be affected. In such a situation consolidating the debt would be a good idea.

Here finding a good loan to repay the existing loan is something that everyone looks out for. However, the process is not going to be easy, as the credit report already shows a good lot of liabilities to attend to. But the stress busting loan could be sought with some effort. These are meant for unsecured loans, which mean the amount that has accumulated due to gasoline credit, store credit, credit card, and medical bills may be included in this category.

What are unsecured debts and how they are different from secured debts?

These are specifically those kinds of debts that need no equity pledges. Here grocery bills, insurance payments or utility bills do not come within this category. While secured debts are the car loans, mortgages, boat loans, property loans etc.

How liability consolidation loan helps?

It is very evident to note that while one gets a liability consolidation loan, his store cards, credits card and gasoline cards would be immediately terminated. In a way, one can’t use the “card” after he has cleared its dues; with the liability consolidation loan. He may however, be rest assured that now he won’t be charged the interest over the due that he had on his cards. This way, he will start saving a good deal of money and he has to deal with only one agency; rather than many at once.

On the side, it also aid in making the credit report stronger than before. When a person clears his dues on unsecured debts, it clearly underscores the fact that he could be trusted with a grant of secured debt as well. A small move could help him gain a profound financial backing in terms of a fine credit report.

What should be kept in mind while seeking liability consolidation loans?

Since these loans could come from a single source, the calculation of reimbursement will be simple and stress free. However, while seeking a liability consolidation loan, it is advised that the applicant go through each and every word in the terms of agreement; as well as interest rates. It is vital that all the details in the document are read thoroughly and well-understood.

One must never allow a promise from unscrupulous financing agency that all the interest rates would drop to a lower rate, after the applicant makes his first payment. Do go through the entire document and see if this suggestion is there in writing or not. If it’s not there, then it is certainly a false claim and the agency is lying. Under no circumstances that agency shall be trusted.

Final word of advice

Although this backup loan is taken to clear many small loans, but it would be advisable if the interest rates are calculated properly. It shouldn’t happen that the liability consolidation loan is making the debtor pay more interest than his actual loan.

About the author: Kc Mouli is an expert in Debt Consolidation . He also writes for major finance magazines and journals.
Citations: Debt consolidation
Image: Jayson Shenk, CC BY 2.0
"Debt Consolidation"

MOSS will gather all the key EU VAT information

EU Value added tax
The MOSS system allows VAT reporting
From January 1, 2015, all EU-based businesses with B2C sales of digital services can opt to join the Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS) online service from January 1, 2015. MOSS has been introduced as a result of the 2015 VAT changes. The system is the result of efforts on the tax authorities’ part to reduce red tape for businesses.

The MOSS system is voluntary and is also very straightforward. The choice that eMerchants face come January 1, 2015 (or before that as, for example, registration with the UK MOSS system opens in October 2014) comes down to whether they believe they can achieve VAT compliance with the help of the MOSS system or on their own.

Merchants have the option to register with the MOSS system, when they do the EU member state they register with will become known as the Member State of Identification (or MSI).

EU VAT information
The MOSS system is designed for digital product businesses
MOSS itself is a web portal through which merchants can register and then quarterly declare all of the VAT collected on their digital sales in the EU.

The MSI, in turn, will then distribute this VAT revenue to the tax authorities in the EU member states where the sales took place. It’s a simple system and one that should be utilised by most merchants with B2C digital sales in the EU, regardless of size. This is also a key point: the 2015 VAT changes do not discriminate all merchants must comply with the new rules regardless of transaction volume or profit margin.

A merchant can voluntarily choose to leave the MOSS system at any time. There is one stipulation though. If a merchant leaves, they will not be allowed to rejoin in any EU member state for two calendar quarters from the time of departure.

There is also the possibility of de-registration from the MOSS system. HMRC, the UK’s tax authority, outlines how this could happen in a guidance document:

“VAT MOSS is a voluntary scheme. If you decide to join the scheme but fail to meet the legal requirements of its use, you may be deregistered from the scheme by the MSI tax authority and excluded from using VAT MOSS anywhere within the EU for a period of up to two years. Legal requirements include submitting declarations and payments on time. The alternative to using the VAT MOSS scheme is to register in every Member State in which you make B2C digital supplies.”

Registering in every EU member state may not be feasible or logistically possible for a large amount of merchants, especially small- to medium-sized enterprises. This has to be taken into account when a decision is to be made regarding which registration path to take for the quarterly payment of VAT receipts.

A merchant will be required to submit their MOSS return electronically to the Member State in which they are registered within 20 days of the end of a calendar quarter return period.
The four MOSS reporting periods will be:
  • January 1 to March 31
  • April 1 to June 30
  • July 1 to September 30
  • October 1 to December 31
The MOSS system has some real advantages in terms of reducing the administrative burden on merchants. The EU are well aware of the increased burden of proof placed on merchants through the 2015 VAT changes so the MOSS system is a balancing act. Again, it’s optional so it’s up to merchants to register or not.

Image source: Malawi RA, PD

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Commercial law in Ukraine

Ukrainian commercial law
Ukrainian business is governed by commercia and civil code
By Jessica Stidd

On January 1, 2004 the legislative system in Ukraine underwent some major changes due to the adoption of new Commercial Code and new Civil Code. How did the changes affect the Ukrainian legislation? What are the main downsides of the new codes and what other changes are required to allow more foreign companies to enter the Ukrainian market?

Commercial and civil code

The Commercial Code provides rules and regulations related to commercial activity in compliance with the Constitution of Ukraine. The Commercial Code provides definitions of business entities and it regulates all issues pertaining to business activities, foreign commerce included. The Civil Code provides the definition of legal entities and rules governing ownership, contracts, intellectual property rights, obligations, torts and inheritance law. The major change introduced by the Civil Code is the recognition of new types of business contracts with regard to activities such as franchising, factoring, renting and inheriting.

Conflicting provisions and other problems with commercial law in Ukraine

Having two codes regulating similar areas of business activity means that both codes need to be consistent with one another and unambiguous in provided definitions and rules. That, however, is not the case of Ukrainian Commercial and Civil Code. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for one of the codes to provide regulations, which are in conflict with other regulations in the same code or with provisions included in the other code. For example, the Civil Code provides conflicting rules regarding the time, when a contract comes into effect and it recognizes some corporate entities, which are not recognized in the Commercial Code. 

On top of that, there are numerous cases when the provisions of both Commercial and Civil Code are in conflict with subordinate laws or the regulations provided in Codes cannot be implemented due to gaps in subordinate laws. This situation is particularly difficult for entrepreneurs operating on the Ukrainian market – the legal system in its current shape is unable to regulate some of the business relationships and activities, not providing enough legal protection for entities participating in these activities. 

Many gaps in Ukrainian legislation give the courts and Ukrainian officials means to interpret the law however they want and facilitate corruption. In a competitive situation the business entities with stronger legal representation have an upper hand over smaller companies with less experience in the field. In result, the current laws in Ukraine do not support the development of free market and make it more difficult for foreign companies to do business on the territory of Ukraine.

To sum up, both Commercial and Civil Codes require important changes, which would clarify and unify the regulations provided by the Codes, however these changes will not happen within a day. Foreign entities and local entrepreneurs, who want to conduct businesses in Ukraine are strongly encouraged to find an experienced legal advisor, who will supervise their business activities at every stage of the process, from registering the company in Ukraine to taxation and solving legal disputes with competitors and partners in business. An excellent understanding of Ukrainian law is mandatory to use the gaps in legislation to the client’s advantage, not against him. 

About the author: Jessica Stidd is a writer and editor with a wide variety of experience, including writing for websites internationally and editing books on many different subjects and in a variety of formats.  It is very fulfilling for her to edit the writings of people whose first language is not English and need help with their written English, and to help them have their voice shine through to a wider audience.  It inspires Jessica greatly to write about topics that are read all over the world that promote peace and a greater understanding of different cultures. 

Image license: Open Clips/Pixabay; PD

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How much is the recommended down payment for property?

Real estate down payment tips
Down payment amounts vary depending on the lender, type of loan and borrower finances

By Jonathan Baker

Buying a home can be an exciting experience, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer. However, coming up with a sizable down payment to put toward the home can be a stressful experience. A home is likely the most expensive item most people will ever purchase. How much money should a person put toward their home? What do lenders recommend? 

Is there an average amount?  

Although most homebuyers are led to believe that they absolutely must put down 20 percent of the total home price as a down payment, this amount is not set in stone. It can actually vary dramatically, depending on several factors. According to MortgageCalculator.org, the benchmark figure that most lenders look for is 20 percent, while the Home Buying Institute lists the range as anywhere from 0 to 20 percent. With these figures in mind, the average is about 10 percent down.  


What lenders use to asses down payment amount
Lender calculations focus on statistical risk metrics
So what are these factors that lenders take into consideration when determining how much money homebuyers must put down? One of the biggest ones is creditworthiness. Generally, the higher your credit score, the less you’ll pay in interest, which will affect your down payment. If your score is 660 or above, you’ll likely pay less. However, if you pay more upfront, some lenders are willing to offer lower interest rates. 

The home’s loan-to-value ratio is another factor that lenders will look at. This shows the lender the remaining balance you will owe after a down payment is applied. It’s a ratio that shows the unpaid balance of the home versus its appraised value. This value should be under 80 percent in order to be approved for the loan. Income is another factor. Ideally, you should not put more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income toward mortgage payments. Therefore, to avoid this, you will need to adjust your down payment accordingly. The more cash you can put down, the lower your monthly payment will be. It may be worth it to save up for a longer period of time and put down a larger down payment that struggle month to month to make payments that are stretching your budget. 

If you have under 20 percent  

A 20 percent down payment seems to be the benchmark for many lenders. Although many will allow you to put down less than 20 percent, they may require you to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI). This is because the lender faces an increased risk of lending you more money to purchase the home. This expense will be added to your monthly mortgage.  

Don’t have enough money for a down payment? 

No problem! There are still many options available to help you become qualified for the home of your dreams. If you are thinking of buying a home, go to a professional mortgage broker. But when you go to mortgage broker make sure that they are reputed and are offering good rates. A wrong decision while choosing a mortgage broker can create big problems afterwards.  

About the author: Jonathan Baker is a businessman based in Ontario. He lives with his wife in Toronto. He is very passionate about his business and has a very good knowledge about topics related to  business and finance. He often shares ideas and tips about handling business and financial matters through his blogs. He can be found on Google+ at +Jonathan 

Image soure: www.shutterstock.com