The Customer is Always Right

I always say that the most important asset of a company is its customers, and I will reiterate that again here. If you have no customers, or more accurately, no paying customers—you have no business. It is impossible to have a business without any customers. This gives your customers unbelievable power, they own you! So, if you believe owning a business means you get to be the boss, forget it; the customer is the number one boss, bar none.

If you think that you have worked for some of the most incompetent, god-awful, foolish, horrible superiors before, they may pale in comparison to your new bosses—your customers. This is exacerbated if you work in a business that services end-customers (rather than a business-to-business scenario, which isn’t a picnic either). I have worked for nearly a decade and a half with businesses that sell products and services to the consumer; let me tell you that customers as a group can be beyond anything you have imagined.

Have you ever spoken to someone who works in customer service? If you don’t work directly with customers in your current job, then I suggest you speak with someone who does before going to work serving customers. Some customers will blatantly try to scam you or steal from you. I have spoken to numerous customer service representatives that have recounted stories about people wanting refunds because their dog chewed up a product and now believe it is “defective.” There are the representatives who work for a major bath and home retailer who explained that every year, right after Christmas, customers would return dozens upon dozens of used holiday tablecloths. One customer even had alterations made to the tablecloth to fit her unusually shaped table. The reasons for those returns—it “just didn’t work for me.”

There will be customers that will try to not pay you, there will be ones that try to nickel-and-dime you, customers who return products as damaged that they actually broke themselves, and customers who will take the product out of the box, replace it with something that you don’t even sell, and try to return it for a full refund. There will be customers who will dispute your charge on their credit card because they didn’t like the way they were treated or who will complain that the meal you served them was too cold and needs to be “comped” or discounted. Then, there will be customers who are so lonely that they will want to keep you on the phone, tied-up in person, or engaged in an email dialogue about all of their personal problems (none of which relate to your business).

You will send promotional emails to customers with a 50 percent discount on one item from May 1–6, and dozens will email back asking when the offer is good through, how much is it good for, and whether they can use it when they get paid on May 10. Guess what? All of these people are your new bosses. Lucky you—as a business owner, these are the people for whom you now work!

What’s Bad News for the Oil Companies is Great News for Consumers

While this news doesn’t come out of the United States, it’s still bound to make US consumers everywhere quite happy. 

It was recently reported that Bob Dudley, the CEO of oil giant BP, said that oil prices are going to go lower and remain low for at least a year and possibly up to three years.

In fact, when he was interviewed by the BBC recently (that’s the British Broadcasting Company for us Yanks), he said that BP was making plans to deal with lower prices for the next few years, including job losses and falling investment in the North Sea oil industry. It was also reported that the oil industry is going to be cutting back on capital spending by 10 to 13% in 2015 due to these slumping oil prices. 

Most American consumers have been extremely happy about the rapid drop in gasoline prices over the last few months, a feeling that is compounded in the UK, where prices have historically been about 30 to 40% higher than those here in the states.

When interviewed, Dudley said that oil prices have historically always fluctuated and, when they do, they usually remain low for a number of years. He was quoted as saying “we have got to plan on this price being down, and we don’t know exactly what level, but certainly a year. I think probably two and maybe three years.” 

Although it’s been reported that oil prices around the world stayed relatively stable since 2010 until about the middle of 2014, at approximately $110 a barrel (US), since June of last year the price for one of those barrels has been cut in half and is now hovering around $48 a barrel. US crude is even lower at $47 a barrel. 

While consumers in many countries are happy about these lower gasoline prices, the fact is that many countries, even some that you wouldn’t think about at first, are being affected and will continue to be affected negatively by these falling oil prices. For example, Scotland, which sees many employed in the North Sea oil industry, is going to see some very big economic challenges. Indeed, there are two large projects right now that BP has in the North Sea and many of the people that are working them are from Scotland.

One worry that many have is that, once these low prices and, oil will again rebound and gasoline prices will shoot back up to even higher than they were at their highest in 2014.

It just goes to show that, for every silver lining, there’s a dark cloud on the horizon. For the time being however, the average consumer, both here in the United States and in the United Kingdom, are feeling a lot less of a stinging sensation at the gas pumps.

Starting a Business in 2015?

We talk a lot about personal finance here on this blog, as our regular readers know. Of course many of our readers are entrepreneurs and, in 2015, many will start a new business.

With that in mind, we wanted to remind all of them (and maybe even you) that there’s one vital step that they need to take, and make, in order to increase their chances of success incredibly. Some of you might say “well, duh we already knew that” when you hear it, but the reason we’re writing about it is because many entrepreneurs simply don’t do it.

The “it” we are talking about is writing down your business goals.

You might call them something different, maybe objectives or accomplishments, but it’s incredibly vital that you think them out, write them down and, over the next days, weeks and months, come back to them and make sure that you’re on track.

Some experts will tell you that, without writing down goals, you can’t make a marketing plan because you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish.

Even a basic marketing plan should include the end result, and without goals you don’t know what the end result would look like or should look like.

Again, some of you might be thinking that this is so incredibly obvious that it shouldn’t even be mentioned, but the simple fact is that many entrepreneurs don’t write down their goals but instead simply just launch their business, even though they still don’t have an idea of where they want that business to end up.

For example, do you want to build your business for a year and then sell it to the highest bidder? Do you want to own a chain of businesses, or just one? Do you have a specific number in mind for how much money you want the business to make, or how long you are willing to take in order to get there.

No matter what you are planning to start in 2015 (or whenever) you need to identify your business goals first before anything else.

One other thing that’s important about goals is this; they need to be measurable.

Every single goal that you write down should have some kind of quantifiable component that you use in order to measure whether or not you’ve been successful in meeting that goal. For example, if you’re launching a small boutique cosmetics store, you should have goals in terms of numbers, sales, customers and so forth. You also need to have measurable goals for your marketing and advertising as well.

As you can see, setting goals is incredibly important part of starting a business and writing your marketing plan. Indeed, writing them out and seeing them on paper is sometimes enough to put a fire under your butt to get going or, in some cases, slow you down a bit to take a look at exactly what you’re planning, and possibly change those plans.

No matter what type of business you begin this year, write down those goals, check back on them often and, of course, good luck!

Four Ways to Finance your Wholesale Business Start-ups

Each year, a number of people come up with attractive ideas to start retail or wholesale business. No matter, how ground breaking your idea for a new business is, you cannot get it off the ground without arranging finance. You need money to make money. You might think that there are many ways to fund your business but most of them are suitable only for established businesses. Following are a few ways that can surely be financially helpful for start-ups.

Contact investors with a well-written business plan

Before even considering financing your business, most of the investors ask for a business plan. Your business plan must be brief with clearly defined short and long-term goals for your business venture along with sale, cost and revenue projections. You will have to mention how much money you require to start the business, how much finance you already have and if you have any assets or resources to start a business. Depending upon the type of investor, you will have to indicate the degree of control an investor would have over your business operations.

Evaluate possible financing options

Personal Savings

On average, more than 60 percent of start-up financing comes directly from the pocket of newbie entrepreneurs. Even if you do not have a lot of liquid assets, there are other ways to finance your new business by leveraging your other assets such as property, jewellery or half-priced items. Your personal investment shows investors that you are personally handling some risk and are committed to your business.

Equity Investment

Equity means ownership and equity investment means money in the form of personal savings from your banking and checking account, loans from any individual including you or other people. Investors agree to fund your business in exchange for a share in the ownership of the business. You must do full homework before considering the equity investment option by first determining how much ownership you are willing to offer and at what price. Remember, if you will sell 51 percent of your business shares, you lose the control of your company.

Angel Investment

Another form of business financing is to approach investors or venture capitalists. These are the individuals or financing companies that fund businesses with high growth potential, based on the merits of business plans. Make sure, you have a proper exit plan when you sign up for angel investment. Most of the angel investors offer money, not as a loan but as an equity investment. Be very careful before accepting angel investment. On the contrary, you do not have to worry about regular payments with varying interest rates as angel investment is not a loan.

Commercial Loans

Commercial loans from banks and financial institutions are considered as the most common form of financing for wholesale businesses. You can go for long-term loans for larger expenses or for fixed assets such as property, machinery and equipment. Banks also offer short term loans that are viable to finance small and daily expenses such as inventory, payroll and emergency items. Short-term loans are usually issued for one year or for a few months and can include revolving lines of credit.

Securing loan for wholesale business start-up is usually difficult but you can increase your chances by making a good impression on your lender with a strong and practical business plan and by showing dependable projected cash flow.

How to Make the Most Out of Your New Business

Getting your modern business on its feet is one thing, getting it to make money can be a total beast. Running a business can also be overwhelming without the right tools and ideas to create success in this day and age. From smartphones to the internet, and advertising right, to getting people to like and trust you–it can be a real nightmare. Take the monsters out of the think tank, and set sail for success with these great business development tips for the modern entrepreneur.

Smartphone Savvy

Get smartphone savvy, and create apps that promote your business. People are constantly face first in their mobile device. Which is where apps come in. These little guys are great tools that take the load off your back, and get your company rolling. If you have a restaurant offer delivery on GrubHub. Sell fabulous fashions and beauty items on Etsy. Have a lawn service or beauty salon? Offer deals on Groupon. All of these and more are there to help you get your name out there.

Create Coupons

Online coupons and promo codes are the smart tools for the modern business. Companies like Groupon will run your sale items for a minimal price. Remember, you have to invest your own money wisely in order to make money. Then watch the purchases fly in! People are constantly looking for that ‘big deal’ or ‘way to save BIG’, give them a good reason to do it with your business.

All in Advertising

Get with the social media program. Twitter, Facebook, Google plus, Tumbler, Linkedin, Pinterest and your email are all hard to manage just for your personal life. They can also enhance your business life! Ever searched for an item on Amazon, then mysteriously see that same item in your facebook feed reminding you you really want it? Yeah. That’s social media for you. Programs like HootSuite can help you manage all your social media posts at once, or if you want the big guns to come out you should search for an SEO/Social Media Management company. These guys can even track where you see the most traffic, get the most for your money, and tell your facebook friends what’s new this week!

Post it!

People forget about the power of the U.S. Post Office. Create fun postcards for local advertising or sweet ‘thank you’ notes. No matter what sort of business you have, some people think through sight and touch. You can do this on the cheap with stores like Shutterfly. Use simple design software to create a logo or a classic design that is eye catching, include your contact information and what you offer, and send it to potential customers or people you’d like to thank for their business–and spark a good relationship.

Advice for New Forex Traders

Forex markets have become extremely popular lately. Almost anyone who has some savings considers investing it in the Forex markets in order to get good returns. The Forex market is larger than all the stock exchanges of the world put together and is definitely a trading arena where large amounts of money can be made. The Forex market never sleeps and trading takes place 24/5 from Monday to Friday. At the same time, the Forex markets are extremely dynamic and without the proper knowledge there is no way you can become successful.

Here are some tips that will help you be a good Forex trader:

Make sure that you choose a Forex broker that is best for you. If you choose correctly, you will have won half the battle. A good Forex broker assists the trader during the entire process of Forex trading. There are some Forex brokers that are the best for new Forex brokers. These are the ones that have comprehensive Forex trading courses and unlimited access to the demo account. A good Forex broker will take you towards success in Forex trading success one step at a time.

The process of opening a Forex trading account is not difficult. The work involved is reading the rules and regulations and filling out the online application. It is a matter of a few minutes. However, you do need to look at the characteristics of the Forex trading account before you decide to commit. Look through the spreads offered, the commission charged, the leverage provided, the trading platform offered and other such aspects before you make your decision.

Spend a lot of time training and practicing. Open a demo account and trade with the broker’s virtual money. The manner in which the account is set up allows you to use real time data to make decisions. Everything is like it is in the Forex markets except for the fact that you do not use real money for trading. When you feel confident about making your own decisions, you can move over to a real account.

Make sure that you know when to lock in profits and don’t be greedy. Know when to limit your losses when you see a trend that is down. Having the sense to make these decisions comes with practice and maturity. But it is best that you try and control impulsive decisions from the very beginning.

Do not underestimate the importance of technical and fundamental analysis. Base your trades on data.

Want to be Successful? Avoid These 5 Emotionally Charged Habits

There are, to be sure, many things that contribute to your overall success. Things like your attitude, your ability to lead, your people skills and so forth all have a big influence on it, no doubt.

One factor that many people don’t realize is extremely important however their ability to manage their emotions and, when under pressure, remain calm. Below are a number of behavioral factors that the president of TalentSmart, Travis Bradberry, advises that you avoid in his post on LinkedIn entitled “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”

If you want to make sure emotions don’t hinder your success, read on. Enjoy.

1) Successful people never live in the past. Bradberry says that “Emotionally intelligent people know that success lies in their ability to rise in the face of failure, and they can’t do this when they’re living in the past.”  He goes on to say that “Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow [past failures] to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed.” In other words, living in the past makes it very difficult to move forward in the future.

2) Successful people don’t try to be perfect. Here’s the thing; perfection doesn’t exist. Bradberry says that “Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible”, and adds that “when perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure, and you end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently instead of enjoying what you were able to achieve.”  Realizing that perfection is an impossibility, successful people instead aim to do their very best and are content with the results.

3) Successful people avoid surrounding themselves with negative people. The fact is, it’s human nature to listen to people who complain because we don’t want to seem impolite or insensitive but, as Bradberry says, “There’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral.”

Unfortunately, negative people are quite toxic and, if you associate with them too closely or too often, that toxicity can definitely cause you problems you don’t want or need.  Bradberry gives some excellent advice about how to deal with negative people; “Think of it this way: If a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the secondhand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers.”

4) Successful people don’t hold grudges or dwell on past problems.  Highly successful people are usually emotionally intelligent and they focus on solutions rather than focusing on problems or holding a grudge for an error that someone made in the past. Bradberry explains that a person’s emotional state is determined by where they focus their attention. “When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress, which hinders performance. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance.” He advises that anyone looking to be successful avoid holding grudges, and anger, at all costs.

5) Successful people can say “no” if it’s necessary.  Interestingly, it’s been found that people have a difficult time saying “no” are more likely to burn out early in their careers, suffer from stress and even from depression. Bradberry says that “Saying no is indeed a major challenge to most people,” adding that “it’s a powerful word that you shouldn’t be afraid to wield.” In fact, successful people don’t “beat around the bush” when they feel the need to say “no”, especially if it means honoring their existing commitments. They simply say it and move on.

Hopefully the information and advice above has opened your eyes to some negative habits that you might have yourself and will help you to change them. Working on these things regularly can, over time, change your negative habits to positive ones, and usher in a success that you never thought possible.

The importance of content marketing optimisation

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Optimising content marketing is as important as the digital strategy. Every day we read the already well-known phrase “content is king”. However, we do not always stop to understand the magnitude of that statement. Indeed, to reach our target audience today, we need to provide value, offer a proposal that highlights, and sparks interest.

As a result, we turn to the daily publishment of vast amounts of information, in all its versions (articles, videos, photos, infographics …), which do not always get the expected response from the user. This happens for a reason: the content must not only be good, but extraordinary. It must be so very bright that it can impact directly in the heart of the recipient.

Therefore it is important to develop a content strategy; to work each message, to highlight each piece of content, each element that makes it, in order to maximize its ability. This is called content optimisation, which can be achieved if we follow the following steps:

Adapt content to different devices

Some small business trends show that we are not yet really aware that there is life beyond the computer. When consuming information, 41% of these users opt for their smartphone, while 20% prefer their tablet, while only 16% use their computer. Therefore, the content must be clearly visible on any device, especially considering the usability of it.

Enrich the message with links to reference sources

One way to increase the credibility of the content is to strengthen the arguments with opinions and media data demonstrated and corroborated. Thus, our contribution gains in value; which will help you stand out from other similar pieces.

Do not forget the visual component

The image is the queen of the Internet. Not surprisingly, Marketingquery has suggested that 90% of the information we pass on to our brain is visual. 4 out of 10 users better assimilate the content text in image. So the success of infographics explains this trend. It contributes to a better assimilation of the message, and we are able to remember up to 80% of what we see, while only 20% of what we read. Therefore, we cannot pass up the opportunity to strengthen our content with images.

A video is worth a thousand words

The demand for audio-visual content by users continues its remarkable growth. The latest report from Adobe Digital Index showed an annual growth of 157% in this type of behavior. So, the videos have been established as the most demanded of the Internet content. An incentive that becomes a key for optimizing our content element.

Similarly, the existence of video helps to increase the residence time of the page, and thus the contact mark.

We must feed the need to know more

Resources like suggesting related articles, links to other posts or content created by the company, and the proposed discharge incentives are complementary content that engage the user, while allowing us to know them better, tastes, preferences, habits of behavior and why not, personal data to keep in touch.


Digital Activity

There are plugins and online options that allow specific phrases to be tweeted with the article, with one click. Thus, their natural instinct to share feeds. Users enjoy discovering and sharing content on social networks. 84% say they share content as a way to convey their commitment to certain social problems. Furthermore, for 78% share in social networks allows them to get in touch with people, promote interaction and know their interests. Also, 69% feel part of this place called world when contributing content. Ultimately, 49% shares information and ratings on products in order to contribute their personal evaluation and even move to action.


Encourage conversation and interaction with content

The Internet is an open dialogue and a free exchange of information and content medium. Therefore, it is important to give the public the tools to express themselves, discuss and share their content wherever they wish.

Many Companies Continue to Cut Benefits for Employees

There’s no doubt that the economy in the United States has improved a bit since the recession but, unfortunately, there are still many companies around the United States that are continuing to cut employee benefits. According to a survey performed by the Society for Human Resource Management, benefits including educational assistance, pensions, health insurance, long-term care insurance and so forth, are continuing to be either reduced or removed by many companies. Their survey included 510 human resource professionals from around the country, and those professionals gave some insight into the types of programs that are being cut.

One of the first is pensions and, according to the survey, less than a quarter of  employers continue to provide this traditional savings plan to their employees. At 89%, 401(k)s are available to many more employees and almost 75% of employers will contribute to these retirement accounts. Still, the fact that less than a quarter of all employers around the country are giving their employees the opportunity to have a pension is definitely something to be concerned about.

Health insurance and long-term care insurance are also being cut by many employers across the country. The fact is, ever since the cost of retiree health benefits was brought to the awareness of major companies, those companies have begun to control their exposure risk, and that means offering less of both types of insurance. Also dropping is the number of employers that will give loans to their employees to help them with emergencies or disasters. In 2010 it was 18% but it’s dropped in the last four years to 12%.

In 2010 12% of all companies were offering help to their employees to pay for college costs but, in the last four years, that’s dropped 8% to 54%. Paying for cross-training to help employees develop skills has also dropped, as well as paying things like professional memberships, referral services and company sponsored 529 plans, all of which are dropping as well.

If you’re a parent working for a large company in the United States, you probably already know that the percentage of employers offering dependent care flexible spending accounts is falling as well. On-site vaccinations, childcare referral services and other services put in place to help parents with their child rearing duties have fallen precipitously over the last few years.

As important as it is for parents to have help with their child-rearing duties, it’s also important to help care for elderly family members. The fact is however that referral services for the elderly are only being offered by 5% of employers across the country, and only 1% are offering geriatric counseling.

Other employee benefits and services like on-site health services, cash outs for vacation time, discount tickets to things like sporting events, concerts and even company sports teams have all seen major reductions over the last few years as companies big and small try to reduce their overhead, cut costs and increase profits.

All of which means that, when searching for a new company to work for, doing your due diligence to find out what they offer, and don’t, is vitally important.

The Top 2 Tips for New Stock Market Investors

If you just decided to start investing in the stock market, you‘ve hopefully done a lot of research and homework in order to make sure that you have at least a little bit of an idea about what you’re doing. That being said, the 2 Tips that we have for you today are absolutely vital for any new stock investor. Know these well, and follow them, and your chances of success will be much higher. Enjoy.

The 1st rule is to never, under any circumstances, invest money that you will need soon. If there’s one absolute fact about the stock market, it’s that it has no guarantees. An investment that might look absolutely perfect on paper might, in real life, be a complete bust. For this reason you must always consider that you could lose every dime that you put into the stock market, and take into account what this could do to you financially if it were to happen.

Although there is inherent risk when investing in stocks, there are ways to minimize major losses and one of those is to never use money that you’re going to need some time in the near future. Here’s an excellent example that will illustrate rule #1 quite well: Approximately 2 years ago Chipotle (CMG) was priced at around $400 a share but, shortly thereafter, short sellers crashed it to $250 a share. Today however Chipotle is back over $500 a share even though, throughout the entire time, they didn’t change a thing. As with many companies, their stock simply grew as it had been doing all along and is still doing today.

If you would have purchased those shares when they were at 400 and held onto them until today, your profits would be quite nice and still be growing. However, if you would’ve purchased when the shares were at $400 but then, because you needed your money, were forced to sell when they were at $250, you would have lost a huge amount of money.

The 2nd rule is to use limit orders when buying and selling your stock. You probably should already know that, when purchasing any stocks, you have either the option to buy via a “market” order or using a “limit” order. When you use a Market order the current going rate for the stock is the price you will pay. Using a Limit order lets you set your price for the highest amount of money you are willing to pay for a stock as well as the lowest price at which you will sell it.

The problem with using a Market order is that you are at risk to the impulses of the stock market, and they can be big ones. The fact is, even on a daily basis stocks can go up and down a few percentage points and, if you put in a Market order at the wrong time, there’s a possibility that you’ll get caught at the high end of the average value of a stock that you purchase. Conversely, you might end up at the low end of the variance that day when you sell.

If you use a Limit order however, you protect yourself from these market fluctuations much better. By letting you set the maximum price that you’re willing to pay for a stock, a Limit order allows you to take advantage of stock prices that are under or over the current market price, depending on whether you are purchasing or selling. This can allow you to gain valuable extra profits.

There are, to be sure, a lot of other excellent rules that you should know and follow when investing in the stock market. Make sure to come back and join us here in the future because we’re going to be bringing you those rules as well.