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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Wine before nine: America's forward-thinking wine trends

U.S. wine industry trends
Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted;
some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.
- Paulo Coelho

By Erin Tran

Even though wine has been around since 7000 BCE, its connection to everyday life, technology, and business is incredible to look over. Today, wine is a dessert to some, a means of livelihood to others, and an inspiration towards innovation. In the end, wine has one main purpose and that is to be enjoyed.

Americans work longer hours, have less vacations, and a stronger need to relax compared to any other country in the developed world. In Japan where over-working is also a problem, the term for “death by work” (literally) is “karoshi.” Businesses understand this need to relax and enjoy life and many are responding through their offerings. Let’s take a look at some of America’s innovative wine trends that businesses and customers are moving forward with.

Wine on tap

The idea of wine coming from a tap is brilliant, simple, and more eco-friendly. With less bottles to toss and an easier way for restaurants to manage the serving temperatures and quality of wine, many places across the country are seeing wine on tap popping up. Winemakers and wine drinkers were hesitant at first but many realized the benefits of a longer-lasting, higher-quality product that is also cheaper to keep on hand.

Many communities in the US are favoring buying local and Texas is definitely one of the states that really boasts buying local. Thus, it was only natural to offer the ability to purchase local wines in kegs. At Whole Foods’ home base, Austin, TX, shoppers gained the eco-friendly option of purchasing wine on tap in 2012 and it claims to be the first grocery store to offer wine on tap to its customers. The trend spread across Texas to many restaurants, primarily by word-of-mouth.

Whole Foods wine time

Pushing the envelope on wine through the inspiration of craft beers, Whole Foods promotes their Sip, Shop & Enjoy philosophy by allowing guests to visit their Wine and Beer Bar in select stores around the country and do just that—grab an adult beverage and sip on it as you wander around the store checking off items on your grocery list. The wine is available through taps.

Comparable to beer growlers, Texas’ 16 Whole Foods offer “Old Schoolers” glass jugs that customers can wash out and bring back for more wine on tap, but they are more commonly referred to as “boars.” Another plus is that Whole Foods recycles wine corks, so now you don’t have to stockpile them in your junk drawer in hopes of using them as fishing floaters in case of a zombie apocalypse.

Starbucks evenings

Speaking of zombie apocalypses, Starbucks not only caters to their groggy coffee zombies in the morning, they also picked up on what other small coffee houses around the country had a niche in—serving alcohol in addition to coffee. Extending the coffee house atmosphere into a relaxing place to have a drink after 4pm, Starbucks offers a selection of wine that varies from city to city and a more random supply of beers. 

In addition, they have gourmet Small Plates and Dessert available to nibble on too. The food is nothing short of fancy for a more upscale atmosphere:
  • Blue Brie Cheese, Toasted Wine Walnut Cranberry Bread and Fig Preserves
  • Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Skewers with Honey-Dijon Sauce
  • Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Balsamic Glaze
  • Truffle Mac & Cheese
  • Chicken and Roasted Tomato Flatbread
  • Artichoke and Goat Cheese Flatbread
  • Chocolate Fondue with Dried Fruit Medley and Madeleine Cookies
  • Salted Caramel Cheesecake Brownie
Shut-up and take my money. Oh wait, they’re not everywhere yet. The launch of Starbucks Evenings began in Chicago, Seattle, LA, Atlanta, Portland, and Washington, D.C. Cities like Dallas do not foresee Starbucks Evenings coming anytime soon since most counties are considered “dry” where restaurants are not allowed to sell alcohol but most are BYOB. At least they have wine on tap.

Single-serving wine bottles

In areas and events where BYOB is the norm, including certain restaurants, get-togethers, picnics, hikes, camping, etc., the invention of single-serving wine is the golden ticket wine drinkers are looking for. They are available in glass and plastic containers, both recyclable, and the latter much less breakable. Stadiums and festivals are also toting single-serving wine for a more convenient and safe way to sell to customers who are wandering around without a table to set their wine glass on.

For those who would like to create their own single-serving wine bottles, there are multiple benefits to doing this. First, you can choose whatever wine you like and pour it into a 187 ml reusable wine bottle with a screw top instead of carrying around a 750 ml bottle. Second, when you’ve had a glass or two and put away the bottle, moving the wine into smaller bottles reduces the oxidation and decanted sediments.

Third, this gives you the option of having multiple bottles of wine open and available to drink. Fourth, if you want an even more budget-friendly option, purchase liters of wine to distribute among your smaller bottles instead. Fifth, if you’re a little heavy-handed on the wine pouring, this is a great way to help you maintain serving sizes.


About the author: This is a guest blog by Erin Tran, a writer for LiquorMart.com. If you liked this piece, then follow me on Twitter @LiquorMart. When I’m not writing about wine or culture, I’m usually looking for the next wine festivals and checking out local restaurants.

Image license: NoahHererra/Pixabay; US-PD 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Email marketing mistakes can cause consumer panic

By Andrew Reilly

One of the best things about email marketing is that it can provide you with an opportunity to communicate directly with your clients. However, one of the worst things, on occasions, about email marketing is that it can provide you with an opportunity to communicate directly with your clients. While this is generally a positive thing, if your email marketing strategy is poor, or a mistake occurs, you may regret being able to reach the inbox of your clients in a swift and timely manner.

Email marketing errors to avoidThis has been the case recently for Carbonite, a company that provides a backup service. The firm sent an email out informing clients that they had a total of zero files stored in the cloud. The email, which has been put down to a glitch suffered by the email marketing team, caused a great deal of consternation for many customers, both current and former. If you were no longer a client of the firm, you would be annoyed at being informed of the fact that you had no files in storage, which you knew to be the case. If you did have files stored in the cloud, you would start to panic, worrying about whether vital documents had been lost by the firm.

The cloud is an important part of work and operational duties for most firms and people in the modern era but when cloud computing and storage doesn’t work, there can be huge consequences. This is why the thought of losing all of your data or documents can be a terrifying situation for many people. This means that the email sent out by Carbonite would have been a massive PR blow for the firm, even if their clients didn’t actually suffer any data losses.

It didn’t take long for affected users to make their way to social media in order to complain about the service they received. Bad customer service has always been passed on quickly but in the current climate where social media rules the roost, customers can complain and moan like never before. This means that news of the Carbonite spread far and wide in next to no time.

This incident would have been bad enough for a firm but worse was to follow after the company managed to send out a block email informing clients that their free trial of the services offered by the company was going to conclude on the next day.

A bad news day got worse for the firm

It turned out that the email was received by a number of users who had long stopped having a Carbonite subscription, and even more worryingly, the email was received by some users who had never signed up for a Carbonite account in any way, shape or form.

The firm was now in full fire-fighting PR mode, assuring clients with accounts that their subscription was not set to end and that if clients did have data stored in their cloud, that everything was safe. One of the vice presidents of the firm sent an email to the affected customers, apologising but stressing the fact that everything was safe and the incorrect emails were caused by glitches in their email marketing software.

Even though it can be helpful to have a handy scapegoat when it comes to getting out of a problem, blaming software or an external provider isn’t going to have any impact on the firm. When a consumer receives an email from a firm, they don’t stop to think whether this has been received from an external company working on behalf of the firm, or whether it has been provided by an email software firm, they only think of the actual firm that sent it out.

This is why it is important for businesses to ensure that they work with firms, including email software providers, that can be relied upon for an effective service. This is why working with a firm like Wizemail will make a difference because you can rest assured that you receive the best level of service possible. Trusting in a well-regarded and highly respected email marketing firm, provides you with one less thing to worry about, enabling you to fully focus on your core strengths and activities.

It is not as though Carbonite has suffered a fatal blow due to these emails sent out in error, but it is not as if they have helped to boost the firms identity or image either. When it comes to creating a strong and viable image, there is a need for firms to think about every aspect of their communication channel, including their email messages.

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: PCL-BO; CC BY-SA 2.5

Defined benefit – Who benefits the most?

Advantages of defined benefit retirement plans
Annuity purchases are not required for defined benefit pension plans

With this type of pension, you will receive a set, guaranteed level of income without the need to purchase an annuity. This will relate directly to your salary when you retired and the amount of time that you paid in to the scheme. This is where the common name for this type of pension comes from: you receive a defined amount of benefit, based on your final salary. There is no need to purchase an annuity.

It works on an accrual basis over the period of time you hold the pension plan. This takes the form of a fraction, and will most commonly be 1/60 or 1/80. For every year you pay into the scheme, this fraction will be added to the amount of your final salary that you receive in your pension.

Estimating your pension


To work out how much of your final salary you will receive, multiply the fraction by the number of years you have paid in. For example, if the accrual rate is 1/60 and you pay in for 30 years, you will receive 30/60 (or more simply half) of your final salary as an annual income from your pension.

Another form of defined benefit pension, called a career average pension is also available although it is less common. This works in a similar way but relates to your average salary across the whole of your career rather than being based on your final salary.

Recent trends for defined benefit pension schemes


This type of pension plan has recently fallen out of favour with many employers and become significantly less common than it once was. There are two reasons for this. The first is that this type of plan has always been more attractive for employees than employers. This is because all the investment risk is taken by the scheme, and it is obligated to meet a level of payout that was set far in advance rather than simply handing out a final pot for an annuity purchase. The employee, meanwhile, benefits from almost perfect stability. For more information on pensions stability and risk, more information can be found on the Aon Hewitt website.

The second reason for the decline of final salary pensions and the key trigger for the final shift away from them, is that they are becoming more expensive. People are living longer, and unlike annuity-based schemes, the payout level of a final or average salary pension is not subject to any adjustment. This means that more money has to be paid out over a longer period than with most other schemes.

Who benefits the most?


Those who are taking out a defined benefit scheme earlier in their career stand to benefit more. Those who are presented with the option to take out a new scheme to supplement their retirement income later on will have fewer years for accrual, while those who hold the scheme for longer will have time to build up a healthy retirement income.

It can also benefit those who wish to be protected against certain eventualities. For example, if you die before reaching pensionable age while holding this type of pension, your spouse or dependants will be eligible for death in service payments. You can also receive a full pension if ill health forces early retirement on you, or a reduced pension for voluntary early retirement.

Image license: Chris Potter; "Education Retirement", CC BY 2.0

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Essential elements of corporate training

By Margaret Jones 

Corporate training is one way to improve an employee's skills and enhance his performance by focusing on professional development. Employers use this training to help new employees adjust in the new environment, teach new skills to current employees and move employees to jobs that require different skill sets. This training can be specially designed for a business or it can be general corporate training that can be beneficial for the employees of any business. Many companies have an entire department dedicated to corporate training. This department focuses on the skill development in the employees with the help of training specialists, technical writers and in-house instructors.

Corporate training tips
Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com
Here are some of the essential components of corporate training:

Computer training


Many companies believe that corporate training and development can help their employees to compete on their behalf in emerging markets. One area of corporate education that can be found in almost every business is computer training. Employees need to stay updated of the technological advancements and software changes as technology is one among the things that changes frequently.

Training is often provided on general software systems such as Microsoft Office or other software specifically used in the company. Software for internal use in the company are developed by in-house programmers and that means that whenever there will be changes made to the software, employees will need to undergo additional training to learn how to maneuver through the new features and functionality. This training can be provided by the business on an in-house basis or the employer might send his employees to the off-site education centers and pay for their training.

Leadership training


Leadership training is another popular area of corporate training. Companies need to nurture leadership skills in their employees due to which they offer courses as well as seminars to their current employees, trying to build a strong team in the organization. Leadership training will cover areas such as meeting management, giving presentations and learning how to influence and inspire employees. Leadership training is a great way for employees to advance to senior positions and get a breakthrough from entry-level roles. Some companies may need to induce this kind of training to promote employees to more advanced positions.

Communication training


Business writing skills are often taught in the corporate training courses. Business writing needs clear and concise writing with formal attributes used in the right places. Some examples of business writing include business correspondences such as e-mails, official letters, proposals and management briefing. This type of writing is known for its element of style and formality. Training in corporate communications teaches people how to persuade and educate the public. It requires both assertiveness and confidence in the presentation style and talking manner. 

Learning and mastering the communication technique needs practice. Many training programs offer public speaking opportunities to their students so that they can practice their presentation skills. This practice might sometimes include a video session and a classroom review. This video recording and review helps students to understand their mistakes and make it easier for them to correct them.

Meeting management


Meeting management is another skill taught in corporate training. Meeting management includes learning techniques that help in arranging and managing a meeting for an organization. A good meeting includes an agenda that defines the issues and the expected outcome. Any meeting can be productive and informative for a group if right corporate training methods are followed.

Corporate training varies from company to company and is highly dependent on the area of operation of the company. It is clear that businesses that rely on technology will need to offer more technical and computer training, whereas the ones that are based on retail should focus more on training their employees in customer service and sales. Companies without internal training departments often hire specialists from outside to conduct seminars and training for their staff. In addition, many businesses have started utilizing online training courses to train their employees as well.

About the author: Margaret Jones is a business woman and a freelance writer who works in Bangkok and writes articles for websites and language schools, like Language Express.

A look at Toyota's corporate history

Toyota Motor Co. turned 77 years old today. The company's legacy and brand equity is built on a history of progressive engineering, expansionist production goals and a product line that has adapted to meet changing market demands and regulatory requirements. Toyota has done this despite a 62.7 drop in car production that was related to the 2011 Tsunami in Japan. The company has also overcome costly vehicle recalls of 11 million automobiles in 2009 and 2010.
This infographic celebrates the 77 years of this automotive giant and charts some of its history and background. 


http://www.woodstockmotors.co.uk/uploads/Toyota-Birthday-Infographic.jpg

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Benefits of finance and accounting outsourcing

Finance and accounting outsourcing
Consistent bookkeeping is vital for accurate financial records
By Phil Steel 

The health of a business is often determined by the health of its business processes, including the finance and accounting branches. A business owner is only able to make educated decisions for his business if he is aware of the current situation of his business.

Knowledge of the payroll, invoicing or monthly bills, the capital flow, risk management and other financial markers will help a business owner determine whether he is in a place to grow his business, to explore new avenues or new opportunities, or if he needs to batten down the hatches, restructure the business processes, tighten the capital use, and seek new financing or partnerships.

One of the greatest challenges a business owner will have in this process is finding the time to ensure that the finances, accounting, and bookkeeping are up-to-date, organized, and filed appropriately. To help ensure this happens, many small business owners will need to consider finance and accounting outsourcing –this is one of the fastest growing outsourcing areas.

Finance and accounting challenges are intense and time consuming in any industry. No one will argue that finance and accounting is the heart of any business, and all potential growth will be reliant on the strength of the processes developed around these areas. Following are a number of benefits of finance and accounting outsourcing.

Effective, consistent bookkeeping


Perhaps one of the most time consuming aspects of a business’ paperwork is the bookkeeping. Bookkeeping is defined as the recording of all day-to-day financial transactions of a business. This includes purchases, sales, receipts and payments. Bookkeeping can be as simple as inputting all activities into a basic ledger, creating excel sheets to capture information, or using defined software programs to capture the same information. This information is then used by accountants to file pertinent forms and such to government, to pay payroll and corporate taxes as well as to find out the financial health of your business.

Bookkeeping is an essential service—it is important for business owners to know their own limitations and accept that there are many benefits of outsourcing bookkeeping for fast growing companies (one of them being the consistent amount of time that can be put into the bookkeeping by outsourcing this service to another organization or company). A business owner does not have to tack this on to the end of the day or week’s activities and hope to find the time or energy. They can be assured that someone’s full attention and energy is focused on this task.

Financial expertise


Whether we want to admit it or not, we often need the help of those with more expertise than us – this is quite common when it comes to the specific areas of finance and accounting that make the option to outsource that much more viable.

Outsourcing to an organization or company with such expertise gives you immediate access to the knowledge, experience and management of that team without having to take the time or resources to build it. You gain a comprehensive multi-disciplinary team focused on strengthening your own business processes – you also have access to a highly skilled team with access to the latest technology.

Most businesses will immediately realize the impact of having access to the functional expertise noted above, but the benefits will also include having access to improved market information and trending, business cultural growth, better change management, and a more strategic view of the business status and potential growth.

The gift of time


If a business owner is content that the finance and accounting processes of his or her business are sound through effective outsourcing, he or she then can appreciate the newly acquired gift of time. By removing the ongoing day-to-day work associated with maintaining the bookkeeping, a business owner can focus on what he wishes to achieve most – the growth and stability of his company.

The time consuming daily processes of bookkeeping are removed; there is no guess work in whether the accounting is being done effectively since you have vetted the company you have hired and they have a good reputation. They are keeping you alert to the financial stresses or risk management. This is what a business owner wants to have – comfort in their processes so they can shift their attention to creating growth and exploring opportunities.

The bottom line is that the benefits of finance and accounting outsourcing can be felt immediately by many business owners, and these will have the potential of creating stronger business processes and a greater focus on growth.

About the author: This article was written by Phil Steel, an outsource consultant who offer services like bookkeeping, accounting, audit, payroll management, and much more, for fast growing companies to meet their financial needs.

Image license: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://pixabay.com/en/calculator-accounting-number-404000/

Women buy more tech gadgets than men per study

Differences in gender psychology influence sales
Women have broken a previously held stereotype that men buy more technology according to a Mashable report quoting research from a firm called Parks and Associates. Specifically, in three of four equipment categories, women surveyed surpassed men in purchases.

Women expressed a greater interest than men in purchasing tablets, laptops, and smart-phones whereas men were only more likely to buy flat screen televisions. Since men have traditionally been thought to be more likely to purchase technology, the change in functionality of technology in terms of female behavior is thought to be a reason why.

The reason why changes in the purpose of technological equipment is a possible explanation for why more women purchased the technological products is rooted in human psychology, socialization and history.

In other words, psychological and social differences between the two groups are believed to account for the new affinity toward technology. To illustrate, according to the Mashable report, women are participating and purchasing more technology because of its ability to enhance lifestyle preferences such as how they communicate and interact. For example, women are more likely to participate in online gaming via social media sites such as Facebook.

So why might new technology appeal to women more than men? The answer to this can be found in  another study cited by a Wharton University report. Moreover, according to the study, women have ingrained ways of shopping that reflect a different set of values to men. The values accentuate both caregiving and interaction to the point that it would be reasonable to infer that women would buy more technology than men. For example, since women are thought to be better shoppers, they are more likely to buy things for men even they don't use the items themselves.

The question of why women are more inclined to shop for technology remains though. Moreover, lifestyle and female psychology only partially explain the phenomenon and this is because both the way women behave and think also have reasons. According to research cited by Discovery News, these reasons stem from historical social patterns. In particular, the patterns of foraging versus hunting in human history and pre-history may have ingrained itself in the psychology of women. Since foraging is more tactile and involves a different kind of communication and social behavior than hunting, women may have more developed and skilled shopping habits in addition to being more partial toward the activity.

Another reason why women buy more technology than men is more conventional and involves marketing. For example, a marketing campaign by Women's Health Magazine instills women with the value of seeking technological gadgets through a targeted advertisement. Of the gadgets recommended by this magazine, are a mini-lap top, instant camera, movie player and energy meter. These items also reflect the behavior patterns discussed in the Wharton report referring to behavioral psychology, shopping acumen and technological symmetry between product functionality and lifestyle.

Image license: London Student Feminists; CC BY-SA 3.0

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Top 3 monetization options to consider when developing an app

Commercial app development tips
Free apps open the door to future sales
By Mariah Cameron

Mobile app development has attracted many people who venture into this business with the prospects of making money. This does not come as a surprise for an industry that is estimated to be worth billions of dollars.

If you plan to make money from developing apps, then you should think about using the best monetization strategies. There are various ways of monetizing apps, all of which have their own pros and cons.  The ideal monetization method to use will ultimately depend on the nature of any given app. However, here are the top 3-monetization options you should consider before developing an app.

Direct app sales


Selling on app stores is the most obvious way of making money from mobile applications. But, you will be surprised that most apps are actually free to download. However, if your app offers a unique solution and there is a clear return on investment to the user, then it may be logical to charge for it upfront.

Usually, platforms such as Apple’s app store and the Google Play store take a percentage of what you make after selling an app. Of course, there are many other ways of selling an app without having to incur commission fees. But, keep in mind that competitive pricing, uniqueness, and value are critical factors that will determine whether people will buy your app or not.
Mobile commerce monetization
Combine multiple monetization techniques to boost earning potential

Freemium pricing


This is one of the most common monetization methods for mobile apps. The freemium model allows customers to download an app at no cost and later generates revenue from in-app purchases. Most people love free things, so this model of pricing encourages users to download apps. There are generally three ways of using in-app purchases and make money from an app that is free to download.
  • The free trial mode of pricing is one of the most common strategies. This allows users to experience an app for a limited time. Once the trail period expires, users can unlock the app’s full functionality through an in-app purchase. This method is highly trusted as it gains the buyer’s confidence.
  • Another way to monetize an app is selling virtual goods. This is common with games whereby players are prompted to make an in-app purchase to proceed to higher levels in an engaging game or upgrade to a better version.
  • You can also make money from your app through subscriptions. This strategy has proved to work well for content related apps and those that deliver a service.

Advertising


If your app has a really large user base, advertising is one of the monetization avenues you might want to explore. Mobile based apps work in the same fashion as traditional web advertisements. Developers simply sell advertising spaces to various brands that want to reach target demographics. Advertisers typically pay developers whenever ads displayed on their apps generate clicks or impressions.

In addition, you can make money if another company acquires your app. A great example of how this can work is the multibillion-dollar acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook. In other cases, monetization options are obvious such as when a business sells products directly to buyers. Keep in mind that monetization methods will depend on the type of app you want to develop. In order to make an informed choice on how to generate revenue from your app, ask your developers to suggest the best monetization options.

About the author: Mariah Cameron is an app development enthusiast who loves to capitalize on great business ideas. She has developed multiple apps for over 5 years and turned them into successful ventures. To learn about the team of developers that Mariah partners with, visit http://www.xdesign.com/.

Image license: Geralt/Pixabay; US-PD; 2. Dion Hinchcliffe; CC BY 2.0

Commercial impact of online sales tax collection

Selling online probably did not feel like one big Delaware after the Marketplace Fairness Act is was became law. This law is a legislative effort to collect approximately $12 billion in annual sales tax revenue that would otherwise be an Internet retailing subsidy. On April 6, 2013, the U.S. Senate approved preliminary passage of the Act with a vote of 69 to 27. Of the 69 yes votes, 21 were from Republicans. If passed, the law will require online businesses with retail revenues over $1 million to collect sales tax from customers.

Internet sales tax
In-state e-sales require businesses to collect tax

Expenses


Internet retailers have benefited from a lack of sales tax collection ever since the World Wide Web became a marketplace for goods and services. The Marketplace Fairness Act would negatively impact online businesses in a number of ways. 

First, according to USA Today, the cost of collecting taxes from multiple jurisdictions will be a financial expense for businesses without a tax collection process already in place. Brick-and-mortar companies are already required to collect sales tax, and thus will not be impacted in this way.

Revenue


A second way businesses are affected by the Internet sales tax law is through revenue. When customers feel the extra pinch when purchasing online, they are likely to think twice before buying. This would mean that online retailers would face potentially lower annual revenue numbers in addition to having higher expenses. Moreover, survey results reported by CNN Money show that nearly 30 percent of online shoppers would increase their shopping at brick-and-mortar stores if the online tax legislation becomes law.

Representation


An Americans for Tax Reform publication raises additional potential problems associated with the Marketplace Fairness Act. The letter to the bill's sponsor, Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, questions how businesses will be protected from out-of-state legislative acts, unreasonable audits and tax liens if the law goes in to effect. Moreover, when online retailers sell to out-of-state clients where the business has no physical presence, those companies would not necessarily be adequately represented regarding tax penalties imposed by those states.

Competitiveness


Although the Marketplace Fairness Act is believed by its supporters to facilitate even tax collection across all businesses, businesses that have operated for years without collecting sales tax will face an entrepreneurial hurdle that challenges their competitiveness, should the bill become law. This is made evident in a speech by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, which raises the concern of online retailers having to deal with another economic headwind and a new obstacle to commercial dynamism as consequences of the bill. 

Even though an Internet sales tax influences consumer behavior and affects business administrative practices, there are some business protections built into the law. For example, businesses with annual revenue under $1 million would not be subject to the tax collection requirements, and if they are, they would be given free tax software to help with the transition. However, according to House Judiciary Chairman Robert Goodlatte, the bill is still underdeveloped, because there is “no uniformity on tax rates and definitions.”

Image license: Geralt/Pixabay; US-PD

Monday, August 25, 2014

Evaluation of executive compensation

Executive salaries compared to average Americans
Higher executive compensation does not always increase corporate performance

Limiting executive pay by law is controversial and reflects a conflict between notions of regulatory reach and commercial practices. Currently, corporate compensation is considered a business decision by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). However, performance based corporate compensation data must be disclosed by law such as Section 953 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act otherwise referred to as the Dodd-Frank Act. In theory, it is against the principles of capitalism to limit executive pay; however, the point at which corporate dysfunction is perpetuated by individual gain is hotly debated.

The financial asymmetry evident in some executive salaries is thought by some to be abusive of shareholder interests. For example, Tom Hutchison of the Motley Fool quotes The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) as stating when incumbent Chief Executive Officers chair their own Board of Directors, an inherent conflict of interest arises out of the process. Moreover, since Boards of Directors represent shareholder interests, their selection process is not necessarily conducive to the financial goals of a businesses. Nevertheless, the American Accounting Association cites research claiming that institutional investor panels concerning executive pay lower compensation by $2.3 million.

CEO pay raises
CEO pay in excess of worker production can lower ROI
In defense of executives, commentators at the Harvard Business Review state various positions on the matter. Some say the issue of executive pay detracts from the issue of who is hired, how they get paid, and what they do to contribute to corporate success. Another implies a talent vacuum could form if executives fear a persecution of sorts, or stated otherwise, have their accountability questioned. Still another claims good CEOs are not paid enough. In any case, there are valid reasons why limiting executive pay by law is not necessarily the best option to a public, shareholder and regulatory concern.

The Dodd-Frank Act addresses some of these concerns via disclosure regulation, but performance based compensation already existed before that legislation was passed as evident in a report to the Senate Committee on Finance. So a question becomes how effective is the existence of performance based compensation if it inherently ameliorates the concerns about excessive executive pay, yet the issue remains. This discrepancy is highlighted by a report published by the Wall Street Journal that finds performance-based compensation does not actually lead to positive business performance.

Executives are responsible for leading a business to success, but they are not omnipotent money machines either. In some cases, the public and shareholders find themselves at odds with a catch-22 that leads to non-performance with compensation, and non-performance with less of it. Increases in income disparity, and concerns about the effectiveness of corporate governance fuel the debate, but so far the law has not managed to stem the controversy. Often, businesses that are not well managed, have poor earnings growth and declining share values lead to executive resignations or turnover anyway. In this sense the market economy takes care of business over time without the help of regulations.

Image license: BoogaLouie, CC BY-SA 3.0; 2. BoogaLouie, US-PD

Record breaking IPOs

By Linda Perez
                                 
Business leaders have been launching private companies to the public market for over two hundred years. IPOs used to be known as stock subscriptions in the early days, but the principle of issuing stock to the public market has led to enormous growth opportunities over the years.

Growth potential


The success of an IPO service is measured by growth over time, not simply the initial public offering stock price, and how rapidly it may rise. Once stocks can be purchased on the open market, trading prices are determined by market forces. Many IPO stocks have extremely high volumes of trade on the first day as investors buy and sell. Stocks may leap in price, but the first few days are a volatile time for the newly-public company.

The following is a brief overview of some record breaking IPO services.

The largest initial public offerings
Stock trades in the secondary market following an initial public offering

Agricultural Bank of China


The Chinese IPO market is the world’s largest, outstripping the US since 2009. The Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) raised US$19.2 billion at its IPO in June 2010 – the biggest IPO in history. Though the stock then fell, the bank was worth US$128 billion on its first day. Investors worldwide are currently looking to China for stock investments.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China


The Chinese dominance of the world IPO market started with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), which went public in October 2006. Their IPO was a record breaking US$19.1 billion, a record broken by Agricultural Bank of China four years later. The market was confident ICBC would return profits--perhaps because their retail customer base at the time of launch was 153 million people.

Visa


Visa launched in March 2008, and their launch was the biggest IPO in US history. The company raised US$17.9 billion—over a billion more than Facebook’s IPO.This is particularly impressive as Visa launched in the early days of the global financial crisis. Visa is still going strong. Their 1-day return was 28.4 percent, and their 1-year return was 28 per cent. Visa Inc. stocks were US $225.56 on March 7, 2014.

General Motors


GM went public in November 2010—a record breaking turnaround, as it they launched their stocks just over a year after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The global economic recession had hit GM hard, and despite a US Treasury grant the auto giant was forced to file Chapter 11. After filing, the US Treasury loaned GM US$30 billion and received a 60% stake in the company. GM’s IPO was a success story. They raised US$15.8 at their IPO, one of the biggest in US history. GM stocks were US $37.69 on March 7, 2014.

Facebook


Facebook’s IPO is probably one of the most well-known, as tech giants like Facebook and Twitter garner a great deal of media attention. Facebook went public in May 2012, and raised US$16 billion. However, record breaking first days did not mean instant success. The 1-day return was 0.6 per cent, and Facebook’s 1-year return was a negative 30.9 percent. Share prices did not rise above the initial frenzy until over a year after they launched, though in 2014 the stocks are reaching all-time highs. Facebook, Inc. stock was US $69.80 on March 7, 2014.

Twitter

Twitter launched with as much publicity as Facebook, and also closed their first day lower than they opened. The social media company went public on November 2013, opening at US$45.10 and closing at US$44.90. Twitter, Inc., stocks were US $53.53 on March 7, 2014.

UPS


UPS had a record breaking initial offering price: US$50 per share when they launched in November 1999. The parcel delivery company raised US$5.5 billion in its IPO, with a 1-day return of 36.3 per cent, and a 1-year return of 17.3 per cent. UPS stocks were US$98.22 on March 7, 2014.

HCA Holdings


HCA Holdings, which runs hospitals in the US, had the largest private equity-backed IPO. HCA raised US$3.8 billion in when they launched in March 2011. HCA’s 1-day return was 3.4 per cent, but their 1-year return was a negative 14.6 percent. HCA stocks were US $49.63 on March 7, 2014.

All-time US success


Whole Food Markets


Whole Foods’ went public in 1998. The supermarket chain, which opened in 1980, has seen an astounding one thousand per cent growth from their market cap of US$104 million in 1992, to their market cap of US$6.38 billion in 2010.Whole Foods Market, Inc. stocks were US $53.67 on March 7, 2014.


About the author: Linda A Perez has been in the finance industry for the past 2 years. She is presently working at a finance company in Canada. She has her interests in cooking, photography, craft and painting. Follow her on https://www.facebook.com/linda.aperez.169

Image license: Royalty Free or iStock source: shutterstock.com

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Staycations offer budgeters affordable Labor Day destinations

Labor Day travel does not have to be expensive. Numerous booking agents compile listings of the most popular locations for Labor Day travelers and some of these locations have free venues, affordable sites and fares that cost less.

Although Las Vegas and New York have been among the most popular Labor Day travel destinations in past years, other cities such as Washington D.C. and Chicago offer locals on staycation several affordable options to enjoy the last holiday of the summer season.

This year, Labor Day falls on Monday, September 1st and will mark the 132nd U.S. Labor Day Holiday since the tradition began. This three day holiday gives many vacationers, workers and students a last opportunity to enjoy the summer weather before returning to less travel orientated activities. Since in many other countries Labor Day occurs on different dates, travel plans vary based on seasonality, tradition, and locales.

Las Vegas, Nevada


Las Vegas, Nevada has ranked high as both a Labor Day and Memorial day destination by travel booking firms such as Orbitz. What's more, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 78 percent of Americans travel between 50 – 249 miles on holidays making Las Vegas a largely South Western Labor Day destination. For those seeking to venture away from the casinos, shows and the NASCAR Speedway,  nearby scenic opportunities are abound in the Grand Canyon.

New York, NY


New York City is a home to the labor movement because in 1882 the city hosted a respite for local workers per National Public Radio. This traditionalizes New York City as a symbolic place to celebrate the holiday. In late August and early September the weather is still quite warm in New York City, and New York is filled with many interesting things to do over a long-weekend. For easterners, it is also a closer and more practical destination point than Las Vegas. New York was ranked among the top five Labor Day Holiday locations by Hotwire.

Chicago, Illinois


Chicago has also been listed among the most booked travel destinations according to Priceline. This was  also  the case for Memorial Day 2012 per PRNewswire. Among the places to visit in Chicago are Millennium Park, Chicago Gardens, and the well renowned Shedd Aquarium. For vacationers without a fear of heights, Willis Tower's Sky Deck offers a spectacular view of the city from nearly 1,343 feet up. Chicago is also known as the home of  deep dish pizza; this pizza is the rival to New York thin crust pizza.

Washington, D.C.


For Washingtonians seeking a “staycation,” or Americans seeking to visit the nation's capital, Washington D.C. has a lot to offer. For baseball fans, the Washington Nationals are leading their division as of late July, and are scheduled to play the Cardinals and the Cubs during Labor Day weekend. The District also has lots of shopping opportunities, historical tours and all kinds of free museums. There is essentially something for everyone in Washington D.C., and for students taking government classes, a trip to D.C. is like fun homework.

San Francisco, CA


Another hot Labor Day weekend destination is San Francisco according to ABC News. San Francisco offers a variable pace, and pleasurable activities such as a hike on Angel Island, or a stunning ferry tour of San Francisco Bay. For those looking to stay in the city, San Francisco has plenty of sites that express its diversity, and honor its rich history including one of the biggest Chinatown's the U.S. has to offer, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Haight Ashbury and Union Square.

Image attribution: Freedigitalphotos.net; standard royalty free license

Friday, August 22, 2014

Toyota IQ: The perfect budget city car?

Energy efficient city cars
Fuel efficient city cars reduce transportation expenses and make parking easier
By Arthur Wilson

City cars are becoming more and more popular due to the rising cost of fuel and lack of parking spaces. Toyota has made the iQ City Car which answers both of these problems. It is easy to park and cheap to run.

Toyota has designed a city car which has small dimensions but which still accommodates four people. The clever design makes it versatile and classy. The price is more than the Aygo or the Sandero but there is no other car on the market like it.

The iQ measures just under 3 metres in length which is slightly more than a Smart car but the compact dimensions make it easy to park in crowded cities and towns. Where this innovative car scores most highly is that, unlike other small city cars, this one will fit in four people. The dashboard is designed so that the front passenger is seated slightly further forward than the driver and this allows more space in the rear of the cabin.

That said, the rear will really only be suitable for a teenager and a car seat but it is still an impressive design. A word of warning though. Driving this car on the motorway can be a frightening experience so it is best to stay around the town. Crosswinds can blow the car about and it feels out of place in fast moving heavy traffic.

Performance 

In the Toyota iQ City Car you can do a U-turn pretty much anywhere you want. The model has very light steering and handles well for such a tiny car. It is available with either a 1.0 litre three cylinder engine or a 1.33 litre four cylinder engine.

The car will achieve 0 to 60 mph in a leisurely 14 seconds but as it is so small this actually feels quite fast. The standard five speed manual transmission is better than the automatic box which is noisy. A small car like the iQ City Car will never be as comfortable as a larger vehicle and you can't adjust the steering but it has a good driving position with some elbow and shoulder room in the front. But, if you are tall forget it, as leg room is really limited.

The base model of the iQ has alloy wheels, a six speaker stereo and air conditioning. The better iQ2 also has automatic headlights, front fogs, climate control and a keyless entry system. Running costs are very low and the car is free from road tax due to the low emissions. On the whole insurance premiums are also very cheap.

Taking care of your IQ

Constantly driving around town can mean that both the exterior and interior of the car can get grubby very quickly so if you are acquiring an iQ, consider how to protect the vehicle and protect its sell-on value.

Think to yourself "Are my seats covered and protected, do my car mats fit correctly and will my iQ get scratched by other cars when parked at night?" 

Having correctly fitting car mats is one way to protect the interior, as well as seat covers. Also ensure that you check for chips in windscreen and get them fixed as soon as you seen them. The bigger they got, the more they will cost you to repair. 

Is the Toyota iQ the perfect city car?

For driving to and from work in a congested city like London or Manchester, the iQ is ideal. It's small and comfortable to drive. It may not be as stylish as a top of the range Aygo, but for the price to buy, insure and tax an iQ, it's certainly worth considering when buying on a budget.  


About the author: Written by motor journalist Arthur Wilson. Follow him on Twitter @Ayup_Arthur and let me know your thoughts!


Thursday, August 21, 2014

The war on counterfeit tickets: The measures manufacturers are taking to avoid fakes

How manufacturers bypass fake tickets
Just as currency uses counterfeit precautions, so too do ticket producers
By Tammy Wiltshire

Summer has arrived, heralding the start of the festival season. Along with Wellington boots, tents and plenty of mud, this time of year also sees a dramatic increase in something decidedly less festive. Yes, we're talking about counterfeit tickets. Those passes to seeing your favourite bands or sports team (if you're heading to one of the many events of the summer, such as Wimbledon) that you bought for a suspiciously low price could be a complete waste of your money. So how do you sort the real thing from the pretenders, and what are manufacturers doing to ensure that legitimate tickets are easily distinguishable from the fakes?

Holographic foils


An increasingly popular way for manufacturers to set their tickets apart from counterfeit ones, holographic foils are easy to incorporate into the design and layout of a ticket, but extremely hard for forgers to replicate. Ticket buyers should look for holographic foil that is consistent with other tickets provided by the company or venue, and for something that creates a two or three-dimensional effect when light hits the holographic structures at different angles. Anything that looks flat or static should not be trusted, as a genuine holographic foil shifts and changes colours when moved under light.

Barcodes


Many tickets have barcodes on their labels. Using a barcode means that the tickets can be scanned at the entrance to the venue, helping the promoter or venue keep track of how many people have arrived. It is also a good way of making sure that if there is any suspicion over the legitimacy of the ticket, as it can be verified in a quick and simple way. If tickets being sold for an occasion have a barcode or serial number on them and yours does not, chances are it is a counterfeit. As barcodes are a popular choice amongst manufacturers, it is worth being sceptical if a ticket being sold does not include one.

UV markings


A slightly more high-tech sounding addition to a ticket, but one that many manufacturers are now using. Invisible under normal light, the UV markings will appear when a special UV scanner or light is used to check the ticket. Extremely hard for ticket forgers to re-create, this is a valuable addition weapon in the war against counterfeit tickets, and one that many manufacturers will be wise to use.

Coloured layers


Security paper is a great way to distinguish between a counterfeit and genuine ticket if a venue lacks modern technology such as barcode scanners. There is a layer of coloured paper that can only be seen when the ticket is ripped in half. The coloured layers are extremely difficult to mimic and a simple way of adding a subtle security feature to your tickets.

Quality materials


Finally, perhaps the most overlooked way to check if a ticket is genuine – but perhaps the easiest. Legitimate manufacturers will be in possession of the highest quality materials, so if the ticket is printed on to flimsy, paper-like material, it's more likely to be a fake. If you scratch the surface of your ticket with a coin or your nail and the ink smudges, it's very likely to be a counterfeit, as the professional printing facilities at a genuine manufacturer will produce tickets of a high quality finish.

The ongoing struggle


Of course, forgers’ abilities to recreate tickets are ever-evolving, but these weapons in the war against fake tickets are what manufacturers are using to assure customers that the tickets they have purchased are the real thing. If in doubt, check to see if any of the design features included on our list are present on your ticket, and keep some ticket stubs of your own to use as reference points. With this knowledge, you'll be free to enjoy your favourite events without the fear of being turned away at the entrance!


About the author: Tammy Wiltshire is the Marketing Manager for label manufacturers Labelnet, Tammy has worked in the industry for many years and understands the problem that counterfeit tickets are having on consumers and event companies.

Image: Kaz/Pixabay, US-PD

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Optimise your email marketing for mobile users

Mobile email marketing
Testing email marketing campaigns helps refine techniques
By Andrew Reilly

If you have taken steps to think about your email marketing activities, give yourself a pat on the back because far too many businesses haven’t taken the time to properly approach their email marketing campaigns. This means that you are likely ahead of many of your rival firms and peers but there is a need to do more to ensure that you are getting the best sort of result from your email marketing campaigns. There is a need to acknowledge that the nature of how people and businesses access their emails is changing and if you want to get ahead in the modern environment, you need to make sure that your email marketing campaigns have been optimised for mobile users.

Even from your own personal knowledge and usage, you will know that smartphones and tablets provide an easy and useful way to access the internet. This means that you can stay in touch at all times, no matter where you are, as long as you have an internet connection. This is definitely something that will appeal to businesses and it provides you with an opportunity to make a connection at all times. However, when it comes to making a marketing campaign that is right for mobile users, there are a number of things that you need to do.

Always test your emails

It sounds simple, but you need to be aware that there are many different ways people access their emails. Some users will use the default email provider on their phone, some will use specific apps and there is also the different operating systems and screen sizes to take on board. All of these different elements will impact on the way that your email looks to users, which means you want to test your emails for as many different devices as you can. This is where working with a viable email marketing software provider can make a massive difference. The top firms in the industry provide templates and testing facilities that will ensure your emails are perfect for every style of device.

Keep it simple

Again, think about your own usage of your smartphone or your tablet. In general, keeping things simple is the best option because when things get complex on a smartphone screen, it becomes messy and difficult to know what is going on. If a user doesn’t understand the email, they will likely move on to something else, which means that you may lose a sale, or even lose a customer entirely.

Think about the space

You know that you have less space to work with, which means that you need to use it to your advantage. An email read on a desktop can have a number of lines of text while still looking attractive but this isn’t the case with an email read on a smartphone. There is a need to be more visually impacting and this may mean using stylish graphics or using some other activity to capture the imagination of your user.

Think about the tap

When creating an email marketing campaign that will be used by smartphone or tablet users, it is important to focus on the tap element as opposed to the click. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that the call to action element is big enough to have your thumb in place. If it is not, many users may struggle to tap through, which means that your call to action is not concluded. You want to make it as easy as possible for the user to take you up on a call to action, so this is something that needs to be incorporated into your campaign.

It is always important to remember that people’s attention spans are shorter, especially when it comes to using their mobile devices, which means that you need to hit them quickly and in the right manner. This is where calling on templates and services by professional email marketing firms, such as Wizemail, can make all the difference in achieving success.

If you don’t know where to begin when it comes to creating an email marketing template, don’t, find a template that exists and then use this as your platform. Over time you can develop your knowledge, skills and understanding of what will help you to achieve success in this form of communicating but getting a helping hand at the beginning is never a bad idea.


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: Opportplanet; CC BY 2.0

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lloyds limiting mortgage support for many London property buyers

Lloyds bank in the news
Lloyds bank has existed for nearly 2.5 centuries
By Andrew Reilly

When it comes to getting on to the property ladder, or moving up it, is hard, especially in London. This is why it is important to obtain as much help and assistance as possible but it seems as though one major bank company is looking to limit the amount of help and support that they can provide.

On the one hand, this is perfectly understandable and if the banking industry took a bit more responsibility for their actions, the economy may not have suffered so much. However, there is no doubt that in areas like London where the value of property is continually rising, the limits being placed by the Lloyds Banking Group may squeeze some people out of the property market.

The company has recently announced that for all loans worth more than £500,000 they will limit the mortgage lending amount to a level that is four times a person’s income. This move has been taken by the company in line with the “specific inflationary pressures” that can be seen in the London property market. There is no doubt that the London property market stands apart from the rest of the country and it is important to evaluate it on its own merits and standings. The role of organisations like the Lloyds Banking Group will have a huge impact on the people who are looking for a new property in London in the months and years to come.

The company made the announcement after two key issues. Firstly, figures were released which indicated that house prices rising at an average rate of 8% a year and the figures in London were even larger than this. The other factor that made the company act was the Governor from the Bank of England issuing a statement about the risks which were associated with high loans for mortgages.

The firm is trying to balance the needs of potential property buyers outside of London while protecting themselves and the market in London. There are two very distinct regions with London, and the South-East of England, operating in one way and the rest of the country operating at a lower level. The firm pointed out that the house prices in London are standing at a level which is 30% higher than the peak that was obtained in 2007. While there are many reasons for this surge in demand, the basic economic principle of supply not keeping up with the level of demand has seen the prices of property surge to high levels. The firm has stated they expect this new cap to affect close to 8% of all the lending they would likely carry out in London.

The firm states only a limited number of London property buyers will be affected

On the surface, this doesn’t seem too bad if the firm believes that 92% of the business they carry out is likely to be unaffected. However, it should be considered that it is this 8% that will need the most support in finding the right London property and this means that people will be greatly affected by this change in stance. There will be debates and discussions about the rights and wrongs of this decision but there is no getting away from the fact that this is another decision that will negatively impact on the ability of some people to find a suitable property.

Lloyds has stated that the new cap is not going to apply to people who are looking to renew their mortgage, so this will be of some comfort and benefit to people. This means that people who will be affected include people looking to take out extra levels of borrowing and people who are looking to remortgage in order to be able to afford to move or upgrade their property. This new stance will apply to customers who are looking to obtain lending from Scottish Widows Bank, Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Bank and Halifax.

While this move is only being taken by the Lloyds Banking Group at the moment, there is every chance that this move will be replicated by other companies in the banking industry. It is rare for a banking institution to make a bold move that stands in opposition to activities undertaken by the rest of the industry so there is every chance that other firms will act in a similar manner. This will place a greater level of pressure on potential property buyers across the English capital.

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: Tim Green; "Lloyds Bank"  CC BY 2.0