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Friday, October 31, 2014

5 free tools to help buy a home with poor credit

Mortgages and credit rating
Sub-prime mortgages are a type of low-credit housing loan
By Chad Deveault

Buying a home with bad credit can be a hassle, but there are ways around it. Here are five tools that can assist you in the process of buying a home with bad credit.

1. Check your credit report. As an American citizen you are allowed one free credit report per year (by law). A credit report will have important information about your financial transactions, accounts and how you pay your bills. You will need to verify who you are and then they will give you information about your credit score. There are three major credit bureaus in the U.S., and some may charge a subscription fee for you to find your credit report. You can find a free credit report at: www.annualcreditreport.com. Also, as of 2014, many credit card companies now provide a free monthly credit score to all of their cardholders.

2. Apply for a Federal housing administration (FHA) loan. The FHA is a fairly simple loan to apply and qualify for, even for people with poor credit. There may be some problems obtaining an FHA loan if your credit score is 500 points or lower. Those who have a credit score from 500 to 579 may only qualify for borrowing a 90 percent loan-to-value. If your credit score is below 500 and you meet requirements, you may be able to apply under what is called "non-traditional credit history or insufficient credit." The FHA is government funded and offers flexibility for people with poor credit.

3. Build your credit. Specifically in the area of mobile homes, there is a program for those with weak credit scores that allows you to build your credit, while putting money toward a mobile or manufactured home. When your credit has gained some ground and you are eligible for a loan, the service fees you give can be put towards your own mobile home. So you can build your credit while adding money for a down payment on a home. You should always be working toward building your credit, so why not contribute to a down payment on a home as well?

4. Use a mortgage calculator. A mortgage calculator can help you by calculating your monthly mortgage cost when purchasing a home. It's a quick and easy way to find out how much you would pay throughout the years your mortgage would last. This may also involve property tax, home insurance, and mortgage insurance. Enter your location and price, and this tool can be of great assistance in helping with finances for home buying.

5. Stable income. No one likes to be financially unstable and it sure doesn't help in home buying. Showing stability in your income can greatly increase your chances of being approved for a home. If you can show you are able to keep a good reliable job that will cover a mortgage, and that will be a big help to you, even if your credit score is low. To be able to display a solid quantity of money in your savings account can also go a long ways when buying a home with poor credit.

These are just a few tools and tips to consider using for those with poor credit. Don't let a bad credit score stop you from working towards your home today!


About the author: Chad Deveault (with article contributions by David Leiter). Chad works on a marketing team as a freelance writer covering a wide range of topics in the oil, housing and trucking industries.

Image: Author owned and licensed

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Trouble-free ways to succeed with intraday trading

Day trading tips
Numerous capital markets allow day trading activites
By Jake Hyet

Intraday trading, or day trading, is considered to be the most popular method of electronic trading and can furnish solid returns to individuals who are willing to take the time and have the patience to learn the system. 

A word of caution here, like anything to do with the stock market, it can make you a lot of money, but there is also the potential for big loss, so just be careful not to use money you can't afford to lose. Here's some trouble-free ways to succeed on intraday trading: 

Pick a market


Choosing only one market or at the most two in which to concentrate your efforts will help increase your chances for success. By doing this you will be able to gain the most knowledge and experience you can in that particular market.

Trading on stock and security markets  


Concerning trading on the stock and security markets where the trades are constant, but also continually changing. Day trading is designed to provide traders with the opportunity to buy and sell financial assets in short periods of time while always having the goal of selling at a higher price than the price they purchased them at.

It is, however, important to know how the system works and to learn the tools and tricks ingrained in it before you enter day trading. One point, a day trader must have a minimum equity level which is money that is deposited into the platform within which the trading is handled. Also, don't forget that you don't have to go it alone. You can always opt for investment management services.
Use money to control risk

This money is used to control the risk (in form of buys) that a trader can take. A trader is permitted to hold stock worth four times the value of his equity during the day when trading is going on. However, the trader may only hold twice the amount of his equity in stocks after the end of the day's trades. Since the stocks that are typically invested in by day traders are fast moving stocks, the bottleneck is handled without difficulty.

Proven strategies for day trading


Trend following -- It involves watching the trend that a particular stock is taking to predict the profitability in trading in it. Purchasing a stock when its price is on its way up and selling it sometime later at a profit is an example of this.

Scalping -- This strategy depends on small profits which are generated when selling a stock that has minimally increased in value. It focuses on capitalizing on small profits over many stocks to compound into larger profits. 

Range trading -- Some stock prices are seen to move up and down in a wave like manner. The strategy emphasizes on speculating on the prices that form the peaks of the wave and capitalizing on them by buying when the prices are lowest and selling when they are highest. This is more of a job for an investment management firm though, as is the method below.

Use of artificial intelligence -- This method consists of using software programs that parse through real time market data and according to the conditions that you assign to it, the software makes real time fast trades. This strategy capitalizes on algorithms that define which trades to do and when to do them.

Use strategies together


The strategies are never used solo because the market trends are not accurately predictable and they necessitate that the trader evaluate and revaluate their position for maximum profits. Discipline is important to day traders, meaning that they adhere to their self-set rules regarding their trade activities.

One common rule is the three E's. Entry, exit and escape. Entry is the maximum price at which to buy a stock. Exit is the profit which a sot k generates at which the stock is sold. Escape is the loss in value of a stock at which the stock is sold to prevent more losses.

Day trading is not a get rich quick plan, but with analytically sound judgment, patience and continuing practice, you can earn a good deal of money. One trade, one day at a time.


About the author: Jake Hyet is considered an expert on intraday trading and investment management having worked in both fields for a decade. He writes extensively on the stock market.

Image: Luis Villa Del Campo, "Nasdaq Market site TV studio"; CC BY-SA 3.0

5 ways to make email marketing work for you

email marketing tips
Customizing content for recipients helps boost impact
When you start to look at ways you can promote you business online,  one method you are bound to come across time and time again is email marketing.

As email is now a solid part of many of our lives it stands to reason that this could be a good way to reach your customers and promote your business. However as with any type of marketing or promotion you undertake it is about making it work for you and this means not taking a blanket approach to your marketing, but instead look at what is going to work your business.

One of the best things about email marketing is that as promotion methods go this is really affordable, which means it is accessible to businesses of all sizes. So, if you decide that email marketing is for you, what's the best way to make sure it is as successful as possible?

Know your customer

Think about the emails you are sending and whether you would be happy to receive them as a customer. Rather than just write emails for the sake of writing them you need to get to know your customer base and your target audience. That way you can make sure that the emails you send out to your customers are relevant to them and that they are likely to pay attention to what you are saying rather than dismiss your email as irrelevant and not reading it.

Who are you emailing

Although it isn't hard to get hold of email addresses, just emailing random people is not going to do any good for your business. Instead what you need to do is make sure that you are collecting relevant and up to date email addresses of people that are interested in your product. Make sure you have a section on your website so that people can sign up to receive emails from you if they want to. On top of that you can also have a section on your check out page so that when people buy from you they are opt in to your mailing list and will receive email addresses from you in the future.

Why should people sign up with you?

If you want to build up a successful email list then you need to make sure that you give people a reason to sign up with you. This means highlighting on your website why they should give you their email address - so for example exclusive offers, early access to sales etc.

Brand awareness

If you are going to be sending out emails then you need to make sure that your brand becomes one that people know and can trust. Rather than just sending out random emails you should make sure that the information you are sending is relevant and interesting. By showing readers of your emails that you know what you are talking about, you give them a reason to trust you and your brand and that is a great way to generate sales.

It's not all about the hard sell

It is easy to assume that as you are able to email your customers, you should be encouraging people to buy from you at every opportunity but that is not the case at all. If every time someone gets an email from you it is about how much money they should be spending then they will quickly switch off and not bother to read any future emails from you. Instead you need to make your communication with then fun, interesting and relevant so that when they see an email from you in their inbox, they want to read it rather than avoid it.

These 5 tips might help with your email marketing but that's not all. Instead you should be paying attention to your customer base and your target audience. That way you can easily tailor make any of your email methods to suit the needs of your business and that is the best possible way to ensure that it is as successful as possible. As with all marketing you need to keep an eye on things and tweak where needed so that you know it is always working as well for you as it could be.


About the author: My name is Tara and have interests in technology, health & fitness and parenting. I enjoy writing and can be found on most evenings sitting at my computer blogging and meeting new people.

Images: Suckitwo, "What is Double Opt-In?"; CC BY-SA 3.0

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Top tips for an effective experiential marketing campaign

Marketing tips and techniques
Experiential marketing is an alternative to conventional methods
By Bill Turner

Often called engagement, live or participation marketing, experiential marketing is a strategy that directly engages the customer and invites to actively participate with the product or service to increase awareness of your brand.

It is not to be confused with field marketing, while they both bring the product to the customers; field marketing provides information about the product through leaflets and sampling. Experiential marketing can be an effective instrument to test products or as an insight tool. To help make it an invaluable campaign, here are some top tips to make it work for you.

Select the best venue


The location is one of the important factors for a successful experiential campaign. When choosing a venue you need to ask yourself; where do people spend most of their time? Will the campaign be run from one location or taken on the road? Will they be willing to stop and get involved in the campaign?

Shopping centres are an effective location use in an experiential campaign as a majority of people who are looking for a break in their shopping spree might take advantage in participating in the event.

Engage the audience


One of the first things you need define your campaigns target audience. For it to be effective, it has to appeal to an audience’s interest and be suitable for your chosen target. At its heart, experiential marketing is all about creating a memorable experience that engages the senses through touch, sight, taste, sound and scent. To help with this synergy, you should define the audience first, and then create a campaign that will leave a long lasting impression.

Quality staff


While the message and engagement is important, you need to ensure that the event is properly managed and manned by quality staff. They should be poised to help the audience engage with the product, be energetic and intelligent. You should also invest in hiring the services of a professional logistics company who will be able to deliver stock, promotional material and merchandise with quick efficiency to any location you need.

Use modern techniques, but keep it personalised


Social media is an excellent tool in making people aware of an event and talk to your audience. Make the online experience interactive and allow them to share their experiences of your campaign via hashtags, Twitter and Facebook. Invest in technology that promotes and encourages real time conversations and that will allow you to engage with your audience. Customers will warm up to a company that add a personal touch to their services.

Take in the customer response


A great benefit of an experiential campaign is the immediate feedback you can receive from the audience. It is important to take on their comments, or criticism on board for future campaigns, or to rework your strategy in real time.

Experiential marketing is all about engaging the audience and providing them with an experience to ensure they will remember the product and your brand. Using the advice mentioned above and applying them to your campaign is an excellent way to start a long lasting relationship that will develop to valuable customer loyalty.


About the author: Bill Turner is a quiet person with plenty of experience in writing and the press, he now lives by the coast and lives a simple life.

Image: Geralt/Pixabay; US-PD

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Newsletter: Appraising business digital security costs

Monday, October 27, 2014

How to be a good landlord

Property management tips
Property management laws differ between states
By Tulsa Property Managers

Anyone that has been a landlord for an extended period of time will realize that this form of investment can be both a blessing and a curse. Luckily, with a little forward planning and some extra time invested into one’s property, a higher turnover rate and legal issues can often be avoided while keeping the property as profitable as possible throughout the years. 

Research tenant and landlord laws


Before letting a single potential tenant look at your property, it is important to take a few hours and carry out some research. Tenant and landlord laws are notoriously complex, and failing to understand them could lead to some major financial or legal issues down the road. Due to the fact that these laws change between every single state, it is important to contact your state’s Department of Housing to receive information on all rental laws and have these laws printed and on-hand. 

Create a personalized lease


If issues with a tenant do pop up down the road, a comprehensive and airtight lease may be the only thing that will help a landlord avoid an unpleasant legal situation. Basic leases can be found at a number of companies and organizations such as a local office supply store and will cover issues such as the rent and deposit. Landlords can then take these leases and add any custom rules or information that they have about that specific property. The more thorough a lease is, the smaller the chance that a major mishap or misunderstanding will take place. 

Be proud of your property


When a landlord is proud of their property and the work that they have invested into it, tenants will notice and typically show more respect for the property themselves. In addition to taking care of legal obligations such as cleaning the unit before renting it out, owners should consider some small changes that they can make to improve the overall feel of the property. This may require nothing more than painting the outside of the home, repairing a fence, or mowing the lawn. 

Create a dialogue with tenants


When tenants feel as if they cannot speak with their landlord openly and honestly, misunderstandings are sure to take place at some point. While landlords should always respect the privacy of their tenants, it is important that tenants always have a number of methods they are comfortable to use to get ahold of the owner. Tenants will often have small complaints or suggestions that will be easy to remedy when handled early on such as a broken appliance or noisy neighbor. 

Stay respectful but firm


One of the most difficult aspects of being a landlord is remaining friendly and respectful with tenants while still being firm about rules. When the rules are clearly stated in the lease, many of the most common issues will be avoided entirely, but problems are sure at come up at some point for long-term landlords. Fees for late rent should never be waived and a notice should be immediately given for any rules that are broken. On the opposite end of the spectrum, landlords should also consider what they can do to show tenants they appreciate them such as a gift card during the holidays or birthday card on their birthday. 

In the end, those that consider themselves a successful landlord will enjoy what they do, take pride in their property, and be making a profit. By focusing on these few goals, those that own property can ensure that their rental units will remain a great investment for years on end. 


 About the author: Tulsa Property Managers is a Jenks property management company offering professional property and real estate management, consulting and sales services throughout the Jenks and Tulsa, Oklahoma area.

Image: Geralt/Pixabay; US-PD

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mathematical reasoning used in financial calculations is deeply rooted in human lineage

Financial reasoning and cognition
Mathematical reasoning is evident in hominid ancestry
Monkeys understand what numbers are and make use of their numerical knowledge in their decision making processes. They are also willing to both learn and use mathematical symbols when rewarded with incentives. This means the reasoning used in financial calculations are deeply rooted in human ancestry.

These notions have been reinforced by a study demonstrating a higher mathematical capacity in monkeys than previously thought. More specifically, the experiments indicate the ability of monkeys to memorize and implement knowledge of 26 distinct mathematical symbols per Tech Times.
 

The study

The animal research seeking to reveal data about primate math skills was led by a neuro-biologist at Harvard Medical School and involved training rhesus monkeys to learn a number system. Once the monkeys knew their math symbols, they were tested by having to make choices between symbols representing smaller numbers and larger numbers. Since there was a reward associated with the larger numbers, there was a motive to choose the bigger of the two and this is what happened over 70 percent of the time according to New Scientist.

Findings

The use of rhesus monkeys in the research is quite important because these monkeys developmentally diverged away from humans at a much earlier time in history according to Live Science. Moreover, rhesus monkeys are believed to have separated from the human lineage approximately 19 million years earlier than chimpanzees, which are already known to have math ability. Furthermore, if rhesus monkeys possess mathematical skills, then the ability to use math becomes a more fundamental or deep rooted ability in primate brains.

Additional research

Numerous animal psychology studies have been conducted to test the mathematical ability of monkeys. In addition to chimpanzees and rhesus monkeys, the subjects of choice have included macaques, which have also demonstrated numerical capacity per the American Psychological Association. What these additional studies do, is help validate other research and account for differences in individual monkey behavior. Furthermore, like humans, monkeys may have a range of abilities that make some of them more adept or able to learn some things than others, math being one such example.

Implications

Monkeys' ability to use math has implications in their natural environment. However, how much they use math is still being studied. Researchers seek to identify events or circumstances in which numerical perception takes precedence over other abilities such as auditory or spatial perception. In addition, if used in conjunction with other perceptions, scientists and others seek to understand how math influences monkeys' decisions in the wild. One such study is published in the International Journal of Zoology and reveals that another kind of monkey, specifically vervet monkeys, used "arithmetic-like reasoning" when making foraging decisions.

Primate brains are complex organs capable of amazing things. Continuing studies that test monkeys' mental ability and skills help reveal just what their brains are capable of. By being aware of what monkeys can do with numbers, their interaction with the world can be better understood. Monkeys' quantitative skills also reveal information and raise questions about the importance of math as a factor in human evolutionary development. For example, if monkeys and humans both use math, then this may support the idea that creativity plays a greater role in human development than quantitative ability.

Image: 3DWiki; "Hugo Rheinhold's Affe mit Schädel (von Darwin Monkey)"; CC BY-SA 3.0

Friday, October 24, 2014

Innovative hotel business ideas

By Milan Budimkic

If you are looking to open any sort of business, not just a hotel business, maybe a bed and breakfast, or anything similar, you have to do one thing to be successful. Well, you have to do many things, but this thing is of the greatest importance. Your business, no matter what it is, must be remarkable.

Maybe you are asking yourself what do we mean when we say remarkable. It means that your business must be worth making a remark about. And today, since the Internet is so widespread and social media are used so much, remarks or reviews can mean the difference between success and failure. It's a thin line, so be careful.

hospitality industry tips
Business differentiation helps build brand equity
Don't let yourself and your business fade in and blend with the masses. Make your business stand out. Make it so incredible and awesome that people won't be able to resist using your services. But, this can't be easy to achieve. Many guests will be very experienced travelers, and they are not that easy to impress if that's what you're thinking. Most importantly, be objective and don't make the mistake of setting the bar low, set it really, really high.

Although style, decoration and such things are important, service is the key. Without good service, everything else will look weak. With great service, and mediocre decorations, everything will look ten times more amazing. If you don't provide your guests with good, or even great service, they will find it somewhere else.

The next step you should be focusing on is problem solving. Every current market place has a row or problems, it's your job to find them and fix them. Find something other hotels are lacking that the guests would love, and implement it in your own business.

Down below you find examples of some really original hotel businesses with some really original services and offerings.


Townhouse hotel Maastricht

A very friendly hotel, you will be greeted with nothing but smiles at the front door. You'll even get a warm bowl of home made soup when you check in the hotel. And local freshly baked cakes when checking out. Who doesn't love freshly baked cakes?

Qbic hotels

Restoring old office blocks and turning them into hotels. Isn't that an original idea. It lowers the costs of construction hugely, and it reduces construction time too.


The student hotel

They offer low cost fully serviced rooms for students and travelers alike. It's a great place for students and young people to meet, stay, eat, drink, and live their lives. You can stay for as long as you like. It's really the perfect place for a travel weary tourist or student. The service is all inclusive. The hotel has libraries, loungers, a gym, cafe, restaurant, study rooms, bikes, WiFi and free cable TV.

So, after reading this, you can get an idea of how to be original and remarkable. Create a business and a hotel guests will remember many years after they have stayed there, and then you have truly reached success.



About the author: Milan Budimkic is a creative freelance writer for industries that include but are not limited to the travel, sport, entertainment, internet marketing, and much more. When not blogging, Milan likes to travel and read a lot.




Images: 1. contri, "DSCN5967", CC BY-SA 2.0   2. Author owned and licensed

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Top 4 free video conferencing programs

By Mark Stubbles

Video conferencing is becoming more and more popular among major businesses and corporations. Video conferencing helps to promote happy workers, it needs less travel and commuting time, creates better communication, it's Eco-friendly, and you can save money by using video conferencing within you're business. There are several platforms available to use for video conferencing. Below is a list of a few that have proven to offer more and are much more professional.

Google+ 

The first program is Google+ Hangouts. The service is very basic but offers what is required, a hangout space for those who are meeting to discuss what is important. The service is free and simply requires have an active Google account. The service runs with Gmail, YouTube, Google+, and other Google services. Google+ Hangouts is becoming more and more popular among companies.

A lot of people don't realise that Google Talk is still available, you can learn more about it here.

TeamViewer

A second video conferencing program is TeamViewer. Like Google Hangouts, the service is free. It can be used on a computer, tablet, and even your mobile phone. The service is great because no matter where you are, you can answer the call and discuss what needs to be addressed.

WebEx

The third service is WebEx Meetings Basic. The service allows chatting with three other people for free. But you're wanting to communicate with more people, which is likely the case with business, there is a small inexpensive fee to pay. WebEx is mainly for computers meaning that it requires that you are connected to a computer or laptop.

Skype

The final service, easily one of the most well known and most used is Skype. Skype is free but you can pay to have more calls available. Group calls are free which is truly beneficial. You can have massive group calls for free, there are no limits. Skype requires that you open an account. Skype can be used from a computer, tablet, and smartphone meaning it is accessible from everywhere. Skype is definitely more trusted with large companies looking to do video conferences with their employees.

BlueJeans
Free video-conferencing helps control business operation costs
A product like BlueJeans can be used to integrate all the above and many other platforms bringing together users all over the globe, even if they use different platforms. Learn more about Blue Jeans here

Choosing which service is more suitable based on your business is a personal decision. Each service is suitable for every company. The most used are Google+ Hangouts and Skype. Each are trusted and very effective. They offer fantastic service and and much more well known. You will want to make sure that the video conference service you end up choosing should meet the needs of the business all together.

Video conferencing is a thing of the future. It offers companies a new more effective means of communication, it is cheaper and assures that everyone can attend conferences. It is a very reliable system of communication that can be used from anywhere in the world. It does not matter whether someone is on vacation in Europe, on a train, or even if it is during the holidays, there is no travel so the conference can be completed quickly and stress-free.  


About the author: This post was supplied by Mark Stubbles, Mark has used Skype, Google+ and BlueJeans to with friends, clients and suppliers all over the world. 

Image: Author owned and licensed

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

9 steps to building and selling a company in 24 months

By Rob Johnson

Step #1: Find a single customer to buy a service from you

Business startup tips
Following a business plan helps reveal the route to success
Preferably this is a service that's hot and growing. Check out Google Trends and see if the search terms for this particular service are growing. Right now some things that are hot are:
  • Social media marketing
  • Helping companies accept bitcoin
  • Providing services to companies who want to publish a kickstarter campaign
It doesn't necessarily have to be something that's growing massively, it can be something that's stable as well like carpet cleaning or moving services. Figure out what you're interested in and what you're good at and build a service offering around that.
When you do find that first customer, over-deliver on value. Truly give them the 5 star treatment.

NOTE: If you really struggle finding that first customer, offer to sell a service to one customer for free. When you have a customer take you up on that offer, over-deliver significantly and use the success that you bring them as marketing material to sell your first paying client. How you do this is dependent on your business, but think about getting testimonials, measuring how much you've helped them, etc.

Step #2: Find 9 other customers

Believe it or not, finding that first customer is much harder than finding the other 9. Now you know how to find them, how to craft your offering, how much to charge, the logistics, etc.
Now go find 9 others.

The reason is for doing this is two-fold:
  1. Every subsequent customer that you find teaches you more about the business and the industry. It also gives you one additional contact that you're giving the 5 star treatment to that will go out and talk about you.
  2. There's a psychological boost that you'll get each time you exchange goods or services for money. It's really a thrill the first time an entrepreneur receives money from something that they've created.
Use this time while finding the 9 other customers to start analyzing the business model. If the business never grew further than providing this service, is it profitable? Does it at least provide an adequate living for the people delivering the service?

You need to start to get a feel for the numbers around the business. If you're in the fortunate position where the business is already profitable (or even break-even) you should be really happy. Getting enough clients on-board for a service business alone can make it attractive for a potential acquirer.

Step #3: Sell one customer on a recurring package

Steps 3 and 4 may not apply to all business types. If it doesn't apply to you, feel free to continue down to step 5.

If there's a way to take what you're selling and sell it on a contractual term or a package, do it.
For example, if you're doing social media marketing for small businesses and up until now you've been selling one-off marketing campaigns, see if you can get one customer to hire you as their primary marketing firm on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.

This will be more difficult to do obviously than selling a one-off package, but it provides your business with more security because you have reliable income.

Step #4: Find 9 other customers to sell on the recurring package

For the same reasons as step #2, we want to scale up our recurring package to 9 other customers.
Depending on what type of business you're running, having 10 recurring customers alone has the potential to be a respectable lifestyle business.

At this point you'll be in a position to really understand a lot about the business, the industry and have a lot of great contacts. You'll know where your customers spend a lot of their time and have marketing channels in place to reach them.

Step #5: Productize the service

Start experimenting with ways to productize the service that you've been providing. It might be through an info product of some kind like an online video course or eBook. Or perhaps it's a software-as-a-service platform that helps your clients manage all of these tasks for themselves. Perhaps some other combination.

Talk to your customers about what specific pain your service has really helped them with. Really try to get down to a small specific burning pain that you've helped them with, then package that pain into some sort of a product.

As you're building the product, get frequent feedback from your existing customers that you're still providing the service to.

Step #6: Sell the product off the back of your service business

This can mean that you try to upsell your existing service clients or just use it as an alternative offering in your sales channels. Take note of what works and what doesn't in terms of selling the product. Pay special attention to the feedback that any buyers give you.

Step #7: Iterate until they love it

This is really just a continuation of step 6, but you need to iterate on the product until everyone who uses it absolutely loves it. Really pay attention to feedback. What do your customers like about it? What do they hate about it? Experiment with alternative forms of delivery.
Can you make it more valuable in some way? Is there a way to deliver it in a different format?

Step #8: Scale

Now you're in a position where you have several service-related consulting clients who are probably a mix of recurring and one-time fees, plus you've got a great product that helps them.
Now it's time to scale.

Once you're confident that the product is truly exceeding the needs of your clients, figure out how to get it in the hands of as many people as possible. All of the products that I listed above (infoproducts, SaaS solutions, etc.) should scale quite easily from a dozen customers to hundreds or thousands.
This is largely a marketing exercise and spending a little time with Google will push you a long way towards solving this problem, but here are a few places to start:
  1. Content marketing: Start creating content that's useful for your customers. It might be a blog, a youtube channel, a podcast - whatever. Figure out the medium that works best for your type of business and start creating awesome content. This will establish you as an authority in the space as well as start to drive traffic towards your product.
  2. Build an email list: Through your content channels, drive people towards an email opt-in form that gives away a small product like "10 steps to solve [insert a problem that your customers have]" to start building your email list. Email lists are still hugely valuable.
  3. Pay per click (PPC): Give yourself a small budget and try to pay for Twitter or Google ads to drive people to a landing page that sells your product. If the cost of acquiring a customer is less than what you make over the lifetime of your customer, you essentially have a money-making machine.
  4. Partnerships: Is there another product that compliments yours? Approach them and see if there's a bundle that could be built in combination of the two.
There are many ways to drive traffic, those are just a few.

Step #9: Sell the company or collect dividends

A solid service business with a growing product business is a valuable asset. What you do with that asset is highly dependent on your personal situation and goals. You could continue to grow the business and run it as a lifestyle endeavor for yourself. You could try to hire someone else to run the business and then just sit back and collect dividends from the profits which frees you up to do something else (or nothing at all).

You could sell the business.

Selling a business usually takes many months (if not longer), so be prepared for this ahead of time. Start by approaching all of the potential acquirers: competing companies, competing products, etc. Tell them that you're looking for potential ways to work together and sit down with them.
While sitting with them, let them know that you wouldn't be opposed to selling the asset for the right price.

Most of them will tell you "no" and that's fine. Tell them that you'll send them a monthly status update in case they change their mind.

Every month, email each of them with a short update about how the company is growing, any major changes or initiatives, etc. There's a good chance that one of them will eventually reason that it's easier to acquire you than continue to compete with you.

If that strategy fails and you're still looking to sell the company, consider approaching a business broker or a private equity firm. If the business is profitable, it's an asset. That asset has value and they can help you figure out how to extract the value (for a fee).
There you go. Nine steps to creating and selling a company.

It's obviously a general step-by-step system, but the likelihood of success for a process like this, as opposed to "let's go raise a bunch of VC funding and sell to Google," is much higher. You're probably not going to sell a company like this for hundreds of millions, but for a lifestyle entrepreneur this is a great process for understanding the intricacies of coming up with an idea, building an offering, scaling that offering and then navigating the waters of an acquisition.

Good luck and let me know how it goes :)

About the author: Rob Johnson is the cofounder of Makers Academy - Europe's largest coding bootcamp. Rob consults with organizations like Tech Stars, Startup Britain, LeanConf and Imperial College on how to help entrepreneurs validate their business ideas cheaply and quickly.

Image: Author owned and licensed

Taxes for U.K. LLPs set to be introduced

Since April this year, members of Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP) have been subjected to new taxation rules.   

U.K. LLC taxes
Tax law changes reduce partnership classifications
These changes have been introduced in order to limit the number of people working for LLPs who were classified as partners rather than employees.

For businesses affected by these changes, it’s important to understand exactly what the new rules entail and to ensure your company doesn’t fall outside of the legislation.

Why were the changes brought in?


Traditionally, there have been a number of different sectors that have gone down the route of converting into an LLP. The practice has become fairly common amongst legal and chartered accountancy firms. This was often used as a way of saving on salaries, as members were classed as self-employed. This meant that they could benefit significantly from senior members of the firm transferring to partner status.

HMRC looked at a range of measures to reduce tax avoidance. This included making changes to the way LLPs were governed, which for some members has had a significant effect on their financial standing.

Many of the major firms within the affected sectors have been warning businesses and their clients about the potential pitfalls. Trade organisations, including the Institute of Chartered Accounts in England and Wales (ICAEW), have been holding sessions to highlight the changes to member companies. There are details of a tax guide on the ICAEW website detailed in a report by the chartered accountancy firm Francis Clark.

What are the changes?


The changes to the taxation regulations for these companies were introduced from 6th April 2014. They apply to all firms in England that have been formed after the LLP Act 2000. The rules form part of the Finance Bill 2014, which includes an amendment to the Income Tax Act 2005, part 9.

These amendments will have an impact on those who are not deemed to be partners under the new rules. To be classified as a partner, they will now have to meet any one of the three criteria that have been stipulated by HMRC. Anyone who does not meet one of these requirements will be reclassified as an employee, losing out on any benefits for themselves and the business that came from being self-employed.

The first of these criteria is that 25% or more of their income must be dependent on the profits of the company. Some partners could be affected, even if they believe they meet this stipulation, if their share is based on profits of an individual office or region rather than the company as a whole.

For partners on a fixed income, they can still keep their status if 25% or more is put into the business as capital. The third criterion is that they have some form of influence over the partnership.

For those partners that don’t satisfy one of these rules, they will become classed as an employee when paying taxes and National Insurance. This will bring employer contributions into play, including 13.8% for National Insurance.

We are yet to see the full impact of these changes, but it was expected that many businesses would try to restructure to work around them. This could include more partners putting capital into the business to satisfy this condition.


Image: Alan Cleaver, "Tax by definition"; CC BY 2.0

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Air travel quality has been stagnant among U.S. airlines

Americans complained three millionths of a percent less to the government about a declining quality of air travel last year. In other words, out of every 100,000 people, less than one or .3 people had fewer qualms with airline logistics than in 2012. Perhaps it is because they do not have time or because expectations of airline travel are lower, but according to a study conducted by academics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Wichita State University, the lower level of consumer satisfaction is evident in the Department of Transportation's published Air Travel Consumer Report.

Reasons for lower quality

Air travel quality standards
Traveler complaints fell despite lower quality of service
Consumer complaints were one of several variables used in the air transportation quality study. These consumer complaints where themselves divided in to several smaller categories such as flight problems, reservation complications, baggage issues, discrimination and several others.

Among the majority or 64.5 percent of consumer complaints made in 2013, dissatisfaction with flights, customer service and baggage handling were prevalent. The consumer complaints were weighted in a formula that seeks to provide a less subjective airline quality rating. However, the very small difference between year-over-year data is too small to be considered a substantial decline.

Reasons for complaints

It is worth noting that the research data used in the co-authored study was not consistent among different airlines. Moreover, independent of consumer complaints, airline quality was actually found to have improved. To explain further, various airlines had differing levels of performance based on the study data. For example, according to the Associated Press, smaller regional airlines received poorer grades. In addition, the nature of smaller airlines is said to make them more vulnerable to poor weather and therefore more likely to incur problems that negatively effect fliers. Of the best performing airlines, Virgin Atlantic scored best per CNN.

Other research

Although the aforementioned research claims to have a statistical advantage due to consistent annual measurements, it is not the only industry research. For instance, J.D. Power and Associates also conducts surveys about the airline industry and the resulting data is published on its website. Furthermore, its data found that Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air had the highest level of consumer satisfaction among several airlines. Whether or not either of the studies is truly reflective of consumer opinions is debatable as the population sample for the government related data consisted of less than 10,000 people.

Consumer variables

Consumer satisfaction is not always within an airline's control. For example, some airlines recently announced they will no longer be including limes for in-flight beverage services due to supply problems; unforeseen airplane maintenance issues also have a negative impact. Another factor is ticket prices; if they rise more than the average rate of inflation, but service quality remains flat or decreases, then there is chance consumer dissatisfaction will increase. Yet another variable are the airports themselves; if they become more crowded and the airports do not adjust their services to accommodate that increase, then the pre-flight portion of air transportation services is also influenced.

As demand for airline services increases and as airline shareholders seek annual profits, pressure on airlines to to trim travel benefits and cut corners on quality of service rises due to cost reasons as well as capacity restrictions. Although the data in the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University/Wichita State University study was largely unchanged in regard to the overall Airline Quality Rating, several of the year-over-year changes measured were small. In light of this, it is difficult to quantitatively conclude that the quality of air travel and consumer satisfaction with air travel was significantly different in the last two years based on the research results.

Image: Pbsouthwood, "Lufthansa 737 interior", CC BY 2.0

Monday, October 20, 2014

How to be efficient at managing office stationery

Office stationary inventory tips
Extensive borrowing of stationary adds to office operation costs
By Harry Price 

So you’ve been given the daunting task of managing your office stationery. It is no easy task and keeping on top of it can be a nightmare. As it can account to as much as 40 percent of a business’s operational costs, it is quite a huge duty to manage, but the cost can be reduced and the job easier to manage.

Following the advice below should set you on the way to becoming extremely efficient at managing your office stationery supplies.

Consolidation


Take inventory of what supplies you already have in the office. Ask each department and co-worker what type of stationery they already use and get an estimate of how much they have and what they’ll need. Your list should include the basics; pens, paper, pencils, letterheads, staplers etc. Compare the lists and see if there is anything they would need, but do not currently have. However, remind them their requests should be realistic as stationery supplies do not stock lookalike androids.

Easy access


Store what inventory you have in a location that you can easily monitor and provides easy access for your co-workers to get to. Monitor the amount of stock you have on a regular basis and create an inventory list to prompt you to order when the stock reaches a certain level. It also helps to ask your colleagues to notify when they have nearly used up a specific item. For those who don’t notify you of low stock levels, we suggest a stationery embargo as punishment. That will teach them.

Contact a supplier


To replenish your stock, you will need to contact a stationery supplier.  Establishing a relationship with a professional one will ensure that you receive top quality items. Some suppliers offer discounts on orders if you spend over a certain amount, so it does work out cheaper in the long run to order a little more than you need. Compare prices on bulk prices and subscribe to news letters to get the latest news on items.

Reduce costs


Encourage your colleagues to reuse old stationery to reduce costs on orders. Paper printed on one side can be an effective notepad. Avoid throwing paper away that can be used again and keep it in a ‘scrap paper’ box for later use. You can use A4 envelopes as file holders or to hold receipts and use recycling bins to cut down on waste costs.

Enforce rules


Some of your co-workers may be tempted to take stationery home with them. Liaise with management to enforce strict regulations regarding stationery being taken home. The more stock taken out from the office, the more you will have to order which will result in being costly. You could set up a system where each

department will send a requisition form to you, which will help in keeping track of the stationery ordered. Suggest budgets for each department as this can deter colleagues from taking it home. Just avoid becoming a stationery dictator, those people are never invited to the office Christmas party. It really isn’t an easy task to manage the office stationery, but following this brief guide can make it a bit more straightforward. Just remember to keep an eye on stock levels, contact your supplier as soon as, find out what each department needs and it will make your life that little bit easier. Just don’t let the idea you control the office stationery go to your head. The power can be swiftly taken away!



About the author: Harry Price is multi-talented.  In addition to his writing skills, he plays football for his local league, speaks 3 languages fluently and can play several musical instruments.




Images: Shinealight, US-PD; 2. Harry Price, author owned and licensed

Saturday, October 18, 2014

How to establish a credit history from scratch

By Bill Turner

It is thought that building a credit history, when you have not used credit before, is a difficult task. Some lenders want to see that you have as history of borrowing and paying back before considering you for financial products such as credit cards and loans.

How to build credit history
Credit history is one of several key credit variables
However, if you do not have credit history, this should not deter you, as establishing credit history will give you a chance to start an excellent credit score.

For first timers, how can you start building credit history? It may seem difficult, but following these simple steps may set you on your way.

 

Set up a bank account


Opening and managing a bank account is an excellent way to start building your credit history, if managed properly. Ensure that your account has enough money to pay off any bills as this will show that you have a good relationship with your bank and avoid leaving your account empty. Set up direct debits for easy payment, this can benefit your rating and some companies offer discounts on bills for paying by direct debit.

Get on the electoral role


Getting registered to vote will prove to future lenders that you are a real person and is one of the most important aspects when it comes to credit history. It can be done by either going to your local council or online. It is easy to do and can have an impact on whether you are accepted or rejected for future credit.

A secured credit card


These are similar to a regular credit card, the only difference is that you have to pay a deposit, usually a maximum of £500. This will provide assurance to the creditor that you will repay your debt. Once the card is paid off completely, you will have the deposit returned to you. When you use the card to buy something, the money is not taken from your deposit; instead, it acts like a regular credit card and the money is borrowed from the lender. It is an effective means to start building a credit history and will show how responsible you are with borrowing capital. Along with this, you should avoid making numerous applications. Focus on one card by paying the bill every month and keeping the balance low.

Manage payments


As mentioned with the direct debits, when using the secured cards you need to be able to pay off what you have borrowed on time. Any missed payments will be noted as a default on your report and act against you when applying for future credit.

Apply for an unsecured credit card


If you have managed to keep up with the payments of your secured card, at least 12 months’ worth of payments, you should then apply for an unsecured. These cards come with no security deposit and with higher credit limits.

Following these suggestions may help you in starting to establish a credit history. Other online financial organisations can provide you with other financial products if you feel that your credit history is not up to scratch. They can suggest the products that are ideal for you, such as a secured credit card that can help you build, or repair, your credit history.


About the author: Bill Turner is a technology guru and entrepreneur. He is a free-lance writer who specialises in guest blogging. When he's not marathon training, you can find him strolling the beach front.

Image: Pne, CC BY-SA 2.0

Friday, October 17, 2014

What happens if you get in an accident while driving someone else's car?

Uninsured versus insured drivers
State insurance requirements often include coverage for secondary drivers

 By Ray Donato

Getting into an accident can be one of the most traumatic and horrifying experiences you have.  Getting into an accident while driving someone else’s car makes it worse.  The insurance industry is highly regulated by statutes at the state level and has particular laws that govern how insurance is applied to any situation.  If you are aware of the specific rules as they apply to an accident your ability to manage a crisis and make sure you are protected.

Generally speaking


In a very broad sense, if you find yourself behind the wheel of a car you do not own and end up in an accident, you can breathe easy.  While you may have to answer to a friend or boss, your coverage in several states including Florida is going to be nearly the same as if you were driving your own vehicle.  The basic coverage minimum in Florida requires every street legal automobile that is going to hit the roads to have a minimum coverage of $10,000.00 personal injury protection and $10,000.00 in property damage liability.  Regardless of who caused the accident, the coverage will take effect. 

If you have your automobile with your insurance, there is going to be a behind the scenes battle between insurance companies to discern who will be paying the bill.  Driver’s policies follow them regardless of the vehicle they drive unless there is a specific rider that requires them to drive their car.  The same rules will apply for any passengers in your vehicle while driving someone else’s car as if it were your own.  If there is a variance in your coverage or the coverage of the owner of the vehicle there will likely be a mediation, arbitration, or judicial determination to settle the claim.  Regardless of the decision, the coverage will apply.  The question will ultimately be which carrier pays for it.

What to do


If you do find yourself in an accident be prepared.  Know what the coverage you have and how it will interact with the law if you drive someone else’s car.  Your insurance company will have a set protocol for you to follow when you have an accident driving your car.  Since your coverage extends to all vehicles you drive, unless specifically excluded, you will still need to follow the protocols as if you were driving your vehicle.  Be very aware of your liabilities in an accident and be wise in how you handle the circumstances.  Reporting the accident and making a statement while driving someone else’s car are equally as important as when you damage your own.  The best advice is to treat the accident in the borrowed automobile as if it were your own since the liability is similar.

The differences to be aware of


It is not a good idea to get too comfortable with the idea that driving someone else’s car is an equal risk to driving your own because it is not.  There are limits to coverage by insurance, and it does not require very much damage to hit the caps of coverage.  When you drive someone else’s car, you open yourself up to the additional costs of their car and assume liability to them for their transportation to work.  The best idea is to drive your car whenever possible and to let someone else drive you when your vehicle will not get the job done.

As with anything you do, be careful always to know your rights and legal protections.  The insurance company is a business like any other organization, and will look out for its interests.  While you may have to call your insurance company and the insurance company of the vehicle you are driving, you may want to consider calling an insurance consultant or attorney before you do anything when deciding what type of coverage to get for yourself.  Insurance should not be a box you check off on a to do list.  It is your protection against the costs of an accident.  Having the wrong coverage is as bad as not having any coverage at all.  Make sure to ask penetrating questions of your insurance provider and get the coverage you need. For a good insurance plan that will treat you right, I recommend looking at http://insuranceland.org.
 

About the author: Ray Donato, is a freelance writer who lacks his own transportation at this time, and so often borrows friends' vehicles in order to get around. He has taken the time to learn what applies in his case and what does not so he can be prepared and will never leave his friends hanging. If you wish to learn more about Ray you can visit on Google+.

References:


Image: License:  W. Robert Howell, "Car Accident"; CC BY-SA 2.0

Thursday, October 16, 2014

All you wanted to know about conveyancing cost and the actual process

Property conveyancing
Large multi-unit investment property transactions may benefit from conveyancing

If you are new to dealing with property and want some help on understanding conveyancing and the involved conveyancing factors, here is a brief discussion of the process. Let us take up one topic at a time to get an overview of what to expect.

Why conveyancing?

This is best described as the complete process that helps in completing a property exchange between a buyer and a seller. The process usually includes much more than setting up of legal documents and exchange of contracts. It is the set of activities that you need to go through, as a buyer or the seller, right from the time an offer is accepted on the property till the keys are handed over to the buyer.

Who to reach out for help?

Ideally, the buyer and the seller need to get in touch with solicitors of their own to help them with their proceedings. The conveyancing cost needs to be borne by the two parties individually, unless they have agreed on some sort of an agreement.

How to get started?

Once an offer is accepted on a property, the buyer and the seller need to identify reliable and professional solicitors to help them through the process. Each solicitor is specifically going to look into the interests of their client. It is important to understand that while you can go through the process of conveyancing on your own, having a solicitor to help you ensures that you do not get stuck with legal processes at a later stage and everything goes smoothly for you.

The appointed solicitors would ideally share a draft of activities, terms of engagement and legal proceedings with you, mentioning the associated conveyancing cost factors. They will then proceed with sharing the same with the solicitor of the other party and request their draft of proceedings as well.

Property searches

A buyer’s solicitor generally needs to go through a larger set of activities when compared with the seller’s solicitor. Property searches and background checks are one of them. The solicitor would need to get in touch with various utility and government agencies to determine factors related to the property like flood risks, water resources availability, repairs and renovations history, etc. The solicitor will also liaise with local authorities to understand if they have plans of public constructions in the future where the property being sold can appear to be an obstruction.

All such searches have costs associated with them. To understand such costs better, check websites like Best Conveyancing Quotes and get in touch with them for more help with the entire process of conveyancing.

Getting rid of mortgages

The seller’s solicitor, apart from going through other processes, will need to clear out any outstanding mortgages on behalf of the seller. The mortgages are generally cleared after the exchange of contracts – but the paperwork needs to be ready and in place.

Payments and contract exchange

The solicitors will then share the contracts, help their clients understand and sign them off and exchange the contracts once the payments are made. This very much completes the process, although a few other factors may be left out for the conveyancing solicitors to look into.

Post contract exchange

The legal documents may take up to 20 days to reach the parties. This is something that the solicitor will collect and help you with. The solicitor will also look into payment of the stamp duties after the contract exchange. Finally, the solicitor will hand over a bill for the conveyancing cost incurred.


About the author: Matt is a professional blogger and he writes regularly on legal services related to property. Matt describes the process of conveyancing in brief and cites some of the conveyancing cost factors in this article.

Image: Campanile; "Back to Back House"; CC BY-SA 3.0, GFDL