Archives for October 2012

Dealing with Market Uncertainties

To say we are in an uncertain market would be an exaggeration, I would say that the best economic minds available have had a difficult time getting predictions right over the past three years.  In fact, they have probably gotten things incorrect for a much longer period if we consider what got us in the position we are in today.  Many of friends and coworkers have foreclosed on homes, short sold them, or are even holding on to them and renting them out simply so they don’t destroy their credit history.  Can you believe that?  Having bought a home a few short years ago would actually be a bad financial decision, I never once considered that, and from the looks of it many others didn’t as well.  I’m personally not in the business of speculation, especially when it comes to my hard earned dollars, instead I can only educate myself and be as informed as possible. This is the premise I went on when I finally decided to pull the triggers and purchase my home back in 2010.  Perhaps you find yourself wondering the same question as me, should you sell your house today while the market is still hot.

I can’t say that I am a real estate expert, nor am I an experienced mortgage broker, but I do deal with numbers and financial decisions each and every day.  In my limited experience I can’t imagine a more attractive time to sell your current home and upgrade to a newer and nicer one if you have the means.  Granted some people are perfectly happy in their current dwelling and that is perfectly fine, but if you have been pondering the possibilities of getting out soon then you should simply get out now.  Low rates make affording your next home that much easier.  There is still a lot of attractive inventory on the market that may get snatched up while the rates remain at historic lows.  Attractive inventories and low rates are eventually going to push up home values, which may be great for your current home sale, but It won’t exactly work in your favor when you are trying to purchase an even nicer home right after.  You want to lock in a good rate and a rock bottom price while both are still available to you.  Personally, I’m thinking about selling now, and then renting for a short period of time while I peruse the real estate listings and find exactly what I’m looking for.  There may never be a better time when a homeowner no longer has to settle for anything less than exactly what they are looking for.

Financial Analysis is Key to Any New Business

You often hear about how many businesses fail within the first year of start up.  The issues often focus on a lack of affordable human capital, increasing debt obligations, and a lack of financial capital as well.  Though at times these risk factors could be mitigated with more attention to detail.  I might be a blogger by night, but I’m a corporate finance executive by day, and as such I know the importance of finance analysis when it involves running a business.  You can’t be successful if you don’t know what money is coming in versus what money is going out, and the general purpose for your overall cash flow.

First and foremost, if you don’t create a monthly income statement (P&L statement) make sure that is the first thing you do.  This is a snapshot in time of the income your business is bringing in.  It should also highlight any expenses you are incurring, and even compartimentalize them as well (i.e. selling versus manufacturing epenses).    Once you start doing this on a regular basis you can begin to visualize trends and analyze why certain expenses are high one month over others.  Not to mention this will be you consistent visibility into how much money you are making, or not making, as the months go on.

A balance sheet is another vital piece of financial reporting that should be completed on a monthly basis.  This is a rolling view of your available cash, assets, and liabilities associated with your company at any given time.  This is especially important because it illustrates working capital, which is necessary to any successful business.  It also allows you to monitor any debt obligations you have, both short and long term.  Any good financial manager keeps a watchful eye over his balance sheet each month.

Cash flow statements are quite important as well, though they often fall to the wayside of financial analysis.  The term “cash is king” has been a popular saying for many years, and for good reason.  Since the economic fallout in 2009 many companies put most of their emphasis on cash flow, since actual money is what is necessary to meet payroll and to satisfy debt obligations.  Companies with sufficient liquidity can survive economic storms of the past and last long enough to find a successful path forward.

Please keep in mind that if you want to start and maintain a successful business then strong financial analysis is key to that success.

Social Media Marketing for the Small Business: Series 3 of 8

Welcome back for Part 3 of our 8 part Social Media guide. Part 3 deals with something that, while not exactly a specific social media site, is very social and can attract people to your business and your services just as well. What I’m referring to is your company Blog, a social media platform that can make all the difference in your customer base and your revenue stream.

The basic strategy for your company Blog is simple; if you don’t already have a custom domain name you need to decide on one and register it ASAP. Setting up your own Blog isn’t necessarily a difficult endeavor and so if you’re comfortable with WordPress or Blogger then go ahead and set your Blog up on your own.

An alternative to these sites is the site Posterous where you can set up a simple Blog that will let you tell people about your company in your own way using written content, videos and pictures.  Taking a little bit of time to compare these choices is a good idea to see which one of them feels ‘right’ for you and your business.

Of course if you’re a newb or have never set up a Blog before it may be a good idea to enlist the aid of an expert who you can give direction to about your business and who can give you direction about setting up the Blog or possibly set it up for you completely.

Once you’ve set up your Blog you’re ready to start building an audience for it, and that can only mean one thing; excellent content. The simple fact is, no matter what your platform or who your audience is, content is king on the internet.  Without interesting, informative and helpful content you might as well not even start because nobody is going to stick around (or keep coming back) if they don’t enjoy what they see on your Blog.

One of the best ways to do this is to focus on what you want to tell your prospective readers and customers. This will of course depend on your expertise and what your company specializes in. It also will be helpful if what you’re blogging about interests YOU because Blogs are a long-term investment that require time and resources to start and maintain. 

So get started Blogging and, once you’re up and running, come on back for Part 4, Yelp.  See you soon!


Bankruptcy Carries a Negative Connotation

Bankruptcy carries a very negative connotation, as it should, since it pretty much destroys your finances and credit for quite a long time.  This in turn can lead to destroyed families and lives as well.  Sometimes people are too impersonal when it comes to money simply because they believe it can’t buy you happiness.  I’m not advocating that money is the root of all happiness, nor am I stating that it is the root of all evil either.  Money is an absolute necessity, and an absolute blessing when it is handled properly.  Too often we find ourselves loosely handling our credit, bills, and overall personal finances.

Consider the dangers of bankruptcy before you go out and file.  There are many complications that we fail to understand before we act.  It may seem like an easy way out, you may think that as long as you keep your house, car, and personal belongings it’s simply wiping all the bad stuff and leaving you with a clean slate.  What you often don’t realize is that those belongings can be stripped away from you as well.  Also, you can’t simply foreclose on a home and then go out and buy another one either, you may be reduced to renting and even then they will scour your credit report looking for any red flags.  You may find yourself living with a friend or relative, or paying for a year’s worth of rent upfront in order to simply live somewhere.  To go even further, the opportunity cost of tying up funds for an entire year like that can detrimental to your finances as well.

Again, before you make and rash or drastic decisions you need to consider all of your options first.  Companies like Debt Free Direct offer alternative solutions to your finance woes.  Often times these solutions are much easier on you as the consumer, and on the creditor as well.  By exploring all of your options you can at least breathe easy knowing you researched all avenues.  I have seen several friends and relatives experience one, and at times more than one, bankruptcy and it isn’t a pretty sight.

Social Media Marketing for the Small Business: Series 2 of 8

Welcome back for the 2nd Part of our 8 part Social Media series.  In this part we’ll be taking a look at one of the most powerful Social Media platforms on the planet, Twitter.  This micro-blogging website has become enormously influential and is beloved around the world. In fact, it was profiled in Business Week and they agreed that it’s a powerful way to promote just about any type of business that you can think of!  Let’s take a look at how to use it to your best advantage.

The first thing you need to do to if you want to get started on Twitter’s powerful platform is to sign up and reserve the name that you want on your account. You may ‘tweet’ (send messages) using your own name but you want that all-important company name on your webpage no matter what you do, and you also want to make sure that none of your competitors get the name before you do. There’s a simple guide on Twitter that you can use to get things started.

Spending half an hour surfing various Twitter pages and familiarizing yourself with what’s available on their site is a great idea, and you should of course search for whatever it is that your company does or produces. For example, if you’re a florist searching ‘flowers’ or ‘local florist’ should give you an idea of who’s out there and what they’re doing on Twitter.

You can also search for your business on Twitter.  Who knows, people may already be talking about you! Once you’ve familiarized yourself with what Twitter can do it’s time to step it up a notch and really get things going for your business.

Using a few of the advance Twitter tools that are out there is the best way to start using Twitter to funnel revenue towards your biz. There are many mobile clients that Twitter has like Tweetie, TweetDeck and Seesmic that will give you the flexibility and control that you need to create your own Twitter ‘voice’ and develop a strategy to increase awareness of your brand.

Pre-defining searches to monitor keywords, grouping people to minimize noise and distractions and defining custom searches (use Twitterfall) will help you to focus in on trending topics so that you can take advantage of them and get noticed.

Use these tips and, once your Twitter page is up and running, come on back for Part 3 where we’ll talk about the power of Company Blogs. Good luck tweeting!


Social Media Marketing for the Small Business: Series 1 of 8

It seems that everyone is talking about how great Social Media is and how it’s a necessity in today’s market.  The problem; many people still don’t know how to utilize Social Media to their advantage.  In this 8 part Social Media synopsis we’ll take a look at the best social media outlets and how to best put them to work for your business.  Basic and advanced strategies that will help brand your biz and increase your revenue ASAP.

One of the biggest players on the social media scene is of course FaceBook. To get started putting the behemoth to work for you start by signing up for a regular account and then using the business name to sign up for a Business Fan Page.

While you’re busy doing that also take some time to research some of the Fan Pages of your competitors or other businesses that are similar to yours.  Take a look at what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and hat kind of content they are posting. This will give you a much better idea about what you should be doing, or how to do your Fan Page even better. Checking out what kind of pics they use, what their videos are espousing and how many ‘friends’ the have will steer you in the right direction for practically nothing.

If you already have a regular (read; personal) FaceBook membership account what you want to do next is expand the FaceBook presence to your business.  You can do this by creating a Business Account or a Business Fan Page.

Best to get a Business Fan Page as the Business Account has all sorts of restrictions and is quite basic.  A Business fan Page on the other hand lets you create a FaceBook page where your customers can register as ‘fans’ of your company.  Once they do this they will get every single update that you post to your page, thus creating a connection directly to your biz.

While you’re at it you should also consider running ‘hyper local’ ads on FaceBook to connect with all the people who live in your general vicinity.  If you’re a brick and mortar store or service center this is vital as FaceBook is worldwide but your customers might not be.

Now that you’ve got the Face working for you it’s time to move on to Blog post #2, Twitter.  Use this advice well and we’ll see you there.

Franchising 101

One of the best quotes I have ever read about franchising is this; “Owning a franchise allows you to go into business for yourself, but not by yourself.”  That quotes sums up very concisely the number 1 advantage of buying and operating a franchise, which is the fact that although you’ll be in business for yourself you’ll have the support of a proven company (and their system) behind you tohelp and guide you along your business path.

A franchise, by definition, is the right to market a specific company’s goods (or services) to the public, usually within a specific territory or location.  Typically the company (franchisor) receives a fee for ongoing support and thus has a vested interest in making sure that the franchisee is successful. In other words, it’s in the best interest of the mother company that the baby companies live long and prosper because if they do everybody wins.

The concept of franchising dates back to the mid-1800’s when the inventor Isaac Singer invented the 1st sewing machine.  Mr. Singer realized that, in order to really sell a LOT of machines, he would need help from people who had a vested interest in selling them. Thus he began to sell licenses to people in other areas of the US and also provided training so that they would become experts, like he was, on how to run and maintain the machines.  This was the very first franchise and was extremely successful. Singer sewing machines would go on to become the biggest sewing machine brand in the world.

Today franchises lead the way in business, with 1 in every 12 new businesses a franchise.  There are franchises for practically everything, from taxes (Liberty Tax Service) to tires (Goodyear Tire shops) to food (McDonalds, Chipotle Grill, Menchie’s frozen yogurt et al) and even medical services (Doctors Care). The reason; they have a much higher rate of success than single, stand-alone businesses.  In fact, the US Chamber of Commerce found that 97% of new franchises were still in operation after 5 years.

If you’re looking for a business opportunity a franchise is thus a very dependable, highly successful route to take. If you’re interested in more info click onto one of our other articles and do your due diligence before making any decisions.  Enjoy!


Top 10 Small Business Opportunities in 2012

One of the best bets for small business minded entrepreneurs is definitely online.  There are so many online business opportunities out there that it would be hard to give an exact list of them all.  Even with the online piracy act laws that the present administration keep trying to jam down our throats the fact is that there exist many opportunities online that are lucrative and don’t require nearly as much computer expertise as just a scant 5 years ago.

For example, Social Media specialists will be a growing field as the rising power of this online phenomenon continued to gain momentum and continues to shape trends and drive revenue streams. The simple fact is that every single business in the future will need a social media expert to guide and structure their social media campaigns and profiles.  There are a number of services that can be offered under the social media umbrella and, if you’re a social media guru, you will find your services in demand.

If you can show business how to let their employees work ‘from the cloud’ you will also be in demand in the coming years as more and more companies strive to keep their people at home, saving time, energy and office space. A support company that helps businesses to help their people to work remotely is an excellent opportunity in a rapidly growing field.

Crowdfunding and crowdsourcing services are also on the rise.  Crowdfunding allows entrepreneurs to find the money that they need to get their projects off the ground and Crowdsourcing lets them find the ideas that they want. Putting together a web-based platform that lets them do both is like throwing birdseed at the park; pretty soon they’ll be flocking to what you have.

As social media grows more powerful so does the threat of sabotage and reputation damage by unhappy customers and unscrupulous competitors. A bad review or an unflattering photo can be very damaging and, if you can help your clients to avoid or erase these problems, they will pay you handsomely for your Reputation Management services.

Finally there’s web content, and if you’re a talented copywriter and can keep that content flowing there are many companies that will pay you generously to do it.As the search engines constantly change the need for high-quality, original web content grows even stronger. Fill that need and online businesses will fill your coffers.

So get out there and use these ideas to start your own small business today.


The Top 10 Things You Should Almost Never Buy

Today there are many different ways to get the products you need at much lower prices if you’re willing to forego new and buy them used. Secondhand items, as some like to call them, are in many cases just as good as new with imperceptible or no damage at all and can save you 30, 40, 50% and more.

Where can you find these used items?  Well, there’s eBay for starters, as well as a host of other websites that are similar ‘auction’ websites.  The massive Craigslist website has an incredible range of used product categories’, including freebies (!!) that you can peruse from home and find great deals.  Finally there’s the ‘old school’ way to find the used items you need; go to yard and estate salesaround your town.

So with that in mind let’s take a look at some of the things that, for all intents and purposes, you should never buy new because buying them used will save you big bucks.

One of the most abundant used products is books.  From eBay to Craigslist you can find used books almost anywhere and, if you don’t want to bother buying them, there’s the library where you can rent them for free. Magazines too!

If you like music or movies there is a huge used marketplace for both either online or in brick and mortar stores. If they were well taken care of they should play just fine and there are even ways to remove scratches if you ever encounter them.

The same thing holds for video games, and you can also get these, CDs and Videos at the library.

Clothing is such an obvious choice for buying new as to be almost silly to mention. There are so many ways to find used clothes at a bargain that it’s not funny.  As well as Craigslist (which I already mentioned) there’s usually a Goodwill store in every town that has amazing amounts of clothes as well as other items like kitchen tools, books, decoration and much more.

And here, in no particular order, is a list of many more items that you should never buy new, especially if you’re on a tight budget and don’t let your pride get in the way.

  • Jewelry
  • Furniture
  • Games / Toys
  • Baby clothes
  • Maternity clothes
  • Instruments
  • Pets
  • Sports equipment
  • Cars
  • Garden supplies
  • Electronics
  • Cell phones

After a recent purchase I want to add that you should never shop the big box stores for overly expensive light fixtures.  Energy efficient, price friendly chandeliers are the way to ago.  If you visit you will know exactly what I am talking about.