Are you spending too much on office supplies?

Running your own business provides the type of freedom that many people spend years dreaming of. And if it is a home-based enterprise, you have the added bonus that costs and overheads are kept to a minimum. It all sounds great, until you look at the bank statement at the end of the month and ask yourself just where all that money is going.

The problem is that whether it is in a traditional corporate environment or a room at the back of your home, an office soaks up money in consumables. Generally, it is more in the form of small drips than major floods. However, that is only the more dangerous, as those expenditures are harder to spot, yet they can still add up to a significant dent in your bottom line. 

If you’re scratching your head as to how you’re managing to spend so much on office supplies, here are some areas to look at that might just alleviate the problem. 

Paper

An office gets through lots of paper. That might come as a surprise in this largely online world, but it is true, and it goes to show that we are not quite as paper-free as you might think. In part, however, our use of paper is down to habit rather than necessity. Some people still prefer to read a hard copy of a document, as opposed to simply viewing it on a screen. 

If that’s because they want to make ink annotations, fair enough, but if it really is simply to print it, read it then throw it in the recycling, it is a habit that you should encourage them to break. Also, adopt a policy of printing double sided, or of placing waste sheets face down in the printer feed so that they can be reused. 

Ink

Reduce the amount of printing, and you won’t just save paper, you’ll also use less ink. It is one of life’s ironies that while today’s printers are incredibly cheap, their consumables can still cost a fortune, especially if you buy direct from the manufacturer. It is both cheaper and easier to buy Canon ink from third parties, and they typically stock cartridges for other major manufacturers such as HP, Epson and Xerox, too. 

Desktop stationery

A basic fact of life is that you can never find a pen when you need one, and this is particularly the case when you operate a business. You can order pens, staplers and so on in bulk, but the problem is that if you employ staff, they can start to assume there is a magical and inexhaustible supply. The result? A few weeks later, you are having to order more. 

You don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill and start rationing out paperclips, but if you choose wisely and give one person the responsibility for stocking, distributing and reordering stationery, there is a 100 percent guarantee that people will take better care of it, and what was lasting only six weeks will suddenly keep you going for six months! 

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4 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Notes

In spite of all the technology available to jot down information like important notes, there are still many reasons to take what feels like a step backward and write your notes by hand.

You may look at the abundant stash of digital equipment you’ve gathered to support your business enterprise goals and wonder, “Why would I let this amazing technology go to waste?” Quite simply, there are some tasks that benefit from a more traditional — or some may even consider it old school — approach. More importantly, you don’t have to completely abandon your technology in your quest to take truly beneficial notes, as you will soon discover.

Consider these four important reasons why you should write your notes:

1. It Is an Effective Method of Learning, Absorbing and Retaining Information

Research shows that hand writing notes is one of the most effective ways to study and retain new information. According to a study published in Psychological Science, taking notes by hand requires extra processing of the material written. The reason for this seemingly simple phenomenon is that committing information to paper through writing stimulates a part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS serves as a filter for all that your brain needs to process, prioritizing the information upon which you are immediately focused.

Essentially, writing your notes means you may find it at least slightly less likely to refer to them in the future, thanks to better retention. Your new associates and business prospects will appreciate your sharp memory and attention to detail.

2. Hand Writing Can Help to Improve Any Necessary Content for Your Business

If any aspect of your home-based business requires writing tasks and capabilities, such as writing blog posts to support your website, note that writing by hand can help you improve your writing skills. Writing out an early draft, or even just jotting down notes from your research, can help you gain a better understanding of the topic, how it relates to your business and the best approach to writing the post. Think of all the outlines you wrote out in school and how useful they were to guiding your writing. The same benefits are there, no matter how much or little writing you do for your business.

3. You Can Use Your Tablet or Smartphone to Write Your Notes

You can have the best of all worlds with the right electronic devices to support your business goals. A mobile phone along with its accompanying smart writing stylus is a prime example of tech gadgetry that lets you do it all. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Note8’s intelligent S Pen lets you write, draw and even doodle with incredible accuracy. You get the sensation and memory retention benefits of hand writing while still being able to save every document for future reference.

4. Writing By Hand Helps You Maintain Focus

It is easy to become distracted during meetings, training sessions and seminars if you are not an active part of the event. If you pull out your laptop to jot down a few notes, you may find yourself wandering over to Facebook or answering a few emails. Using pen and paper — or the electronic equivalent — to dash out ideas can help you stay focused, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Whether you are drafting your notes with a classic pen and legal pad combination, or a smartphone and stylus, you will discover a newfound depth that can help bolster your daily business practices.

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Success on a Shoestring – How to Build a Healthy Business on a Small Budget

In today’s economy, growing a successful business is an accomplishment of which you can be proud. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks to starting a business these days is the fact that it probably won’t see a profit for quite some time. However, finding cost-effective ways to grow a healthy business can be easier than you think. To establish a viable venture, you must be smart with its budget. Below is a short guide on how to do just that:

Have a Plan

Every good business starts with an idea, which evolves with a solid plan. Your business plan should include specific details for how things will operate. For instance, will your company trade from a brick-and-mortar building or will you explore virtual office solutions to cut costs? When you have a clear vision of the path to success, it’s much easier to get the job done.

Don’t Obsess About What the Competition is Doing

Yes, it’s important to know what your competition is up to but you don’t want to become totally fixated on them. Instead, focus on managing your bottom line and what you can do to be more attractive to customers than the other guys. Believe in the unique advantages and value that you offer, rather than attempting to mimic the competition and becoming just another me-too. It’s crucial to understand that every business, even those operating in the same market, can and should have different ways of serving their clients. If you don’t find ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors, you won’t be able to grow.

Automate Tasks

You can save your business a lot of money by automating tasks rather than hiring employees to do them. In today’s “there’s an app for that” environment, things like inventory, communications, sales activity, accounting and more can be managed virtually, at huge savings.

Foster Good Supplier Relationships

Regardless of the type of business you run, you must rely on others to make it successful. From inventory to office supplies, the people from whom you purchase your stock and supplies should receive high priority. Go out of your way to build a friendly rapport with them, and they’ll be more apt to extend a line of credit that frees up short-term capital for other productive uses.

Figure Out Where to Cut Costs

Growing a business on a tight budget is tricky, but not impossible. The key is to figure out what expenses are necessary, and which ones you can do without. For example, do you listen to music in the office? If so, is that Spotify subscription a necessity or can you just turn on the radio instead?

Cutting costs anywhere you can – even those that seem minimal – can free up funds for more important things that will contribute to the growth of your business.

Use Social Media to Market Your Business

Marketing can be expensive, and there’s no way around having to do it. Fortunately, social media is a very cost-effective way to market your business to the masses. While you’ll still have to spend money to advertise on social media if you’re prepared to put in the work, it can be much cheaper than most other forms of marketing. As your company grows, so should your marketing budget, which will open other channels for building your brand.

Just because you don’t have a huge budget, doesn’t mean you can’t experience business success. By implementing the tips above, you can build a healthy business, even on a shoestring.

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Leadership: Putting an end to the Classic Myths

It’s become something of a buzzword in the industry over the last few years, with umpteen autobiographies and business journals really putting a spin on the term “leadership”.

In truth, this isn’t something that you can pick up a book and learn in a flash. Sure, if you were to turn to the best online MBA, you would probably see some real progress, but a lot of people rely on pure experience over a long period of time.

The problem with a lot of the autobiographies is that they are very opinion-based. In the business world especially, there are a lot of opinions doing the round. This, in turn, creates a lot of misconceptions which can cloud the issue of leadership somewhat.

Bearing this in mind, today’s post is going to tackle some of these leadership myths, and highlight what’s really true about the elusive L-word.

“Leaders have to be born”

This is one of the most ridiculous myths of all. There’s no doubt that every person in the world is born with a different personality, and some of these personality types will be associated with leadership more than others.

However, to suggest that leaders can’t be made would be a gross inaccuracy. Many believe that leaders are created through the circumstances that they find themselves in. There will be occasions when they naturally find themselves in said circumstances, and others where they strategically place themselves in these situations to try and develop themselves. To coin the same example, studying for an MBA is a case of someone aiming to creep out of their comfort zone and ultimately develop their leadership qualities.

“Leaders will never delegate the important tasks”

This is another myth that couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the most important things that a leader needs to be able to do successfully is delegate. This is a point that few would disagree with.

It’s plain wrong to suggest that leaders won’t delegate the most important tasks on their agenda though. On the contrary, they will find the right person to do the job. In some situations, this might involve them carrying out the task themselves, but on others they will be more than happy to delegate accordingly.

“Leaders are imposing and charismatic”

One of the biggest stereotypes of leaders is that they are imposing figures that are full of charisma. The main reason behind this misconception is that it’s these types of leaders which tend to find themselves in the public domain. In other words, they put themselves in the shop-window, and everyone else thinks that there is no other way to be a leader.

However, if we were to view leaders around the world, the overriding characteristic would be influence. Some might do this through more vocal ways than others, but the key attribute beneath everything is the ability to influence others. Others will respect them, and it’s not necessarily for the way that they portray their ideas.

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8 Things to Research Before Becoming A Franchise Owner

If you’ve decided that you’d rather buy into an already-successful franchise than risk starting your own business, there are some things you should know before you go ahead with your decision. Fast food franchises, such as Quiznos, Checkers and Wendys, for example often encourage individuals like you to buy into the franchise, but it’s up to you to do your homework before investing. You would own your own location, run your own store and be your own boss. You would be responsible for hiring and firing employees, and you would get to learn how to run a business. You’d of course have to pay a royalty to the franchise corporation, but the rest of the profits from your location’s sales would belong to you. Opportunities are abundant when it comes to being a franchise owner, and you just have to do your research to ensure that you are buying into a reputable franchise with strong brand power and a loyal customer base. Here are 8 things you need to research about a franchise before buying into it.

  1. Do customers love them? It’s crucial that you research how popular this franchise is before buying into it. Do the customers love it? Do customers leave positive reviews about the food? Quiznos, for examples, is known for its quality and customers can’t stop talking about how fresh the ingredients are and how flavorful the sandwiches are. And yes, there currently are Quiznos franchise opportunities.
  2. How strong is their brand power? In other words, how well known are they? How strong is their brand? How successful are their marketing campaigns? If their brand is in good standing, reputable, widely recognized and positively regarded, that’s a great thing.
  3. How many franchises do they have? It’s better to buy into a franchise that doesn’t have too many locations. For example, there’s a Starbucks on every corner, and several Starbucks locations compete with each other (they compete with their neighbor two blocks away). If there are less locations, there is less competition.
  4. What locations are available? When it comes to owning a franchise, three words come to mind: location, location, location. It definitely matters what location is available for you to buy. It would be amazing to get a location near a business district (hello, lunch breaks!) or near a university, or on a busy street that gets a lot of foot traffic. Sometimes the locations that are off of a busy highway do quite well also. Definitely put some serious time into researching the location.
  5. How reasonable are the costs? Owning a franchise comes with costs. You’ll have to pay for employees, inventory, equipment and more. You’ll also have to pay a royalty (franchise fee) to the franchise corporation. Research these costs to make sure they aren’t completely unreasonable. You should decipher what your total investment costs will be before you make your decision.
  6. How long will it take to break even? Since owning a franchise involves some up-front costs, you should research how long it will take to break even. The reason this is important is because you don’t truly start profiting from the business until you break even. Sometimes, this can take awhile. You have to be willing to wait to see the profits.
  7. What is the earning potential? Your research should include an attempt to figure out how well a franchise owner in a comparable location is doing. You should ask leading questions to figure out what your earning potential could be if you buy into this franchise.
  8. What level of support does the franchise corporation offer? Support is key, and many franchise corporations offer an incredible level of support to their individual franchise owners. Support comes in the form of instructions, guidance, materials, deals on equipment, negotiations on your behalf, advice, etc. Ask the franchise corporation what they offer in terms of support.

 

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Home Insurance when Working From Home

home insurance when working from home

Working from home has a number of great benefits. No commute, flexible schedule and lower stress are just some of the advantages of running your business from your house. However, it also comes with certain complications. Protecting your home from ruin is now tied up with protecting your business from going bust. You need to make sure you have both business and home insurance when working from home. When it comes to home insurance, have you taken into account your business insurance needs as well? You’ve built your dream home office, now make sure everything is covered!

home insurance when working from home

Theft and Fire Insurance

Working from home can have its perks in the world of insurance. Your home is actually significantly safer with you being there most of the time. When purchasing home insurance when working from home insurance from your chosen provider, be sure to let them know that you spend your working day occupying the house.

Your presence will deter burglars and mean that you can stop the spread of a fire. This should lower your premiums. If you are buying home insurance in New Jersey, you will already have a lower premium compared to a state such as New Mexico. This is because of differing state by state crime rates. However, being home all day reduces the risk of theft even further.

Public Liability Insurance

Unfortunately, there may be some extra costs that come with running a business from home. If you have customers and clients regularly visiting, then you may need to invest in public liability insurance. This means that if anyone is injured in your home (if they’re there on business), your insurance company will pick up the cost instead of you.

Your home insurance won’t be enough to cover this. So if part of your business is having members of the public over, be sure to cover yourself. Otherwise you could be facing a pricey court case.

Dedicated Business Insurance

Beyond public liability insurance, you will need home insurance with a dedicated business service. Home insurance when working from home may not automatically cover your business entirely. If you have employees working in your home, then they need to be insured. Likewise, your home insurance may not cover specialist work equipment. If your business relies on any technology or machinery, then it makes sense to cover this under a dedicated business insurance plan.

Running your business from home is increasingly common and makes financial sense.  Working from home is the future! However, remember that your home insurance may not cover business costs. Get dedicated business and public liability insurance to keep your company protected. You can also use the fact that you are always home to try and get a discount on your regular home insurance.

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Working in the West: Traveling for Business has Plenty of Perks and Colorado Springs Offers some Great Venues to Visit During Your Trip

If you happen to be traveling to the Colorado Springs area on business you have to try and make the most of the opportunity to enjoy some leisure time around your busy work schedule.

Here are some of the must-see venues that deserve your attention if you are working in the West.

Inspirational views

There are some great hotels in the area to stay at like the Colorado Springs Marriott, for example, and as well as enjoying comfortable accommodation you will also be within close proximity of some very worthwhile attractions.

If you want to witness one of the most photogenic landscapes you are likely to see anywhere the one place that should be on your leisure itinerary is the Garden of the Gods.

These awesome and distinctive rock formations are a major draw in Colorado Springs and you can take a segway or jeep tour around the area if you want to enjoy as much of the scenery in the time you have available.

A bit of time for hanging about

If you are seeking an adrenaline rush and want an aerial view of Pikes Peak and Manitou Springs a good way to do that would be by being suspended in mid-air and getting ready for your zipline adventure.

The Manitou Springs Zipline Adventure experience is well worth considering as the five different ziplines give you an amazing view of the area from the air, that’s if you can focus while soaring across this spectacular alpine canyon location.

Soak up a bit of history

If you would prefer your leisure time to be more sedate and educational a good attraction to visit would be the National Museum of World War II Aviation.

As well as enjoying an inspirational journey that tells you all about the history of the aircraft and the role they played in the war you can also visit neighboring WestPac Restoration and see how they are restoring some original aircraft to their former glory and ready to take to the skies again.

A challenging escape from work

Escape rooms are a popular new phenomenon in a lot of places and Colorado Springs has at least 11 different experiences to choose from.

The idea behind these escape rooms is to work out the clues and find your way out of the rooms within a limited amount of time. There are a variety of themes from “Escape from Hellscream”, which has a horror twist to the game, to “Planet Deadline” which will appeal to sci-fi fans.

If you want to escape from work for an hour and like a challenge, try one of the escape rooms located in Colorado Springs.

Whether you want to enjoy the amazing natural scenery or enjoy some man-made entertainment you won’t be short of options when it’s time to take a break from work during your stay in Colorado Springs.

Make sure you try and squeeze some of these attractions into your itinerary.

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Everything You Need to Know About Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a division of Amazon best known for serving up a massive online marketplace for just about everything. In a Forbes article, Jason Bloomberg noted that “AWS is reinventing what it means to be a software vendor for all the markets it serves, including consumer, developer, SMB, and enterprise.” If you’re looking for a powerful cloud service provider, you’ll find that AWS is one of the most innovative and expansive options available with a growing suite of web tools that go above and beyond the standard offerings.

The Basics of AWS

Image via Flickr by magerleagues

At its core, AWS is a cloud computing service that gives business owners the computing power they need with remote storage and maintenance. AWS delivers powerful functionality that’s designed for flexibility and scalability. This service offers all the benefits of any cloud storage provider along with a host of other perks. AWS offers a serverless reference architecture for everything from the Internet of Things to web apps to image recognition. AWS has also announced services that will expand into artificial intelligence, databases, and more.

Helpful Training and Certification Services

Amazon supplies a comprehensive suite of digital training services to help users understand all the features of AWS. You can enroll in free courses, develop new technical skills, and validate what you’ve learned for AWS certification. This is an outstanding offering as the full functionality of AWS is far too expansive for a new user to grasp without seriously studying some of the innovative new technologies that have rolled out with this service.

Reliable Security

Cloud security has long been a major concern for business owners as they transition to this business approach. AWS secures its data centers with network firewalls and uses in-transit transcription across all services. Using the service’s provided tools, users can trace the who, what, and where of calls for maximum visibility. Businesses can also incorporate their own security layers within AWS for additional protection on top of what’s already available.

Powerful Scalability for Computing

AWS Lambda is a computing service that enhances the capabilities of AWS, allowing you to run code without provisioning your own server space for the activity. AWS Lambda responds to user requests and provides the necessary capacity and infrastructure to run your code on a per-use basis. This means that you don’t have to supply an abundance of servers for prospective users who may not begin using your code immediately.

AWS Lambda scales seamlessly, so you’re prepared for anything from a slow start to a sudden rush of activity. You pay only for the compute time that you consume and pay nothing when your code isn’t running. This functionality is a key example of how Amazon’s web services are structured to streamline your business activities in the most efficient way possible.

Whether you’re looking for convenient cloud storage or access to a serverless application repository, you can find the features and functionality that you’re looking for with AWS. Designed to serve as a catch-all for all your cloud needs, this solution is meeting its goal admirably.

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Are Your Products Flowing Smoothly? : Supply Chain Management is Important to Your Business

Most people in business recognize that supply chain management is crucial to their success, profitability and customer satisfaction. There are numerous benefits to ensuring your supply chain is properly managed and serves to provide a structure to your business that is efficient, productive and progressive. There is also the fact that as business has become more competitive in recent years; it’s now harder than ever to stand out from the crowd. Supply chain management is integral to achieving this as it provides a solid structure from which to offer a high-quality service to your buyers.

Here we take a closer look at the distinct advantages of good supply chain management:

Improves Customer Service

Everyone knows that the customer is king when it comes to business and delivering good quality products, goods or services in an efficient and cost-effective way, ensures repeat business going forward. Customers want to know their orders will be delivered to the right location at a time that is convenient to them and without having to wait too long. Ensuring your operation is streamlined to deal effectively with individual orders will keep your customers happy and more importantly, make them come back for more.

Reduces Operating Costs

Your supply chain is as important to your retailers and suppliers as it is to your business. Keeping a close eye on product inventory in terms of stock and distribution should be well managed as part of your supply chain strategy to ensure consistent and smooth flowing fulfillment of orders. If you have a product that is particularly popular at any given time, your supply chain should be set up to make sure there’s enough stock at outlets to meet demand. If your supply chain is efficiently managed, you can significantly reduce your operating costs.

Improves your Financial Position

An efficient supply chain is often a good way to streamline costs and boost cost-effectiveness of your operation. Naturally, it goes without saying that if you are making savings in one area of your business, you’ll notice a corresponding increase in revenue. Good supply chain management protects your business from overstocking and wastage and consequently boosts your bottom line.

Increases your Cash Flow

A good supply chain is responsive to orders as they arrive, so that they are fulfilled within the quickest time. Obviously, if you can get your goods to your customers in ten days rather than twenty-eight days, you can invoice them sooner and benefit your cash flow.

How to Achieve Good Supply Chain Management?

You understand how your business works better than anyone and also the buying behavior of your customers too. In order to understand how to best organize your supply chain, you need to undertake some supply chain analytics, to help you create a clearer picture of how you can best serve your customers by improving your supply chain. The difference between good and bad supply chain management can mean the success or failure of a business and so this is an aspect that requires closer attention.

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Supporting Your Local Businesses:  Why Should You Buy from a Local Dealer?

When purchasing new or used vehicles, consumers have many different choices. It is often tempting to buy from a chain store or other branch, because such outlets offer substantially the same experience at each location. Furthermore, they are more well known, because they have large advertising budgets.

But buying that vehicle from a local dealer is usually a better choice, although the reasons are not always apparent.

Economics

Franchise businesses send a good portion of their earnings out of the community, but locally-owned businesses reinvest almost everything they earn back into the local community, and that benefits everyone. Moreover, according to one study, local businesses generate 70 percent more economic activity than franchises.

There are advantages in terms of payroll as well. Most all local businesses employ mostly local workers, and in many cases, the wages and benefits are higher. Additionally, local businesses are much more likely to use local banks and other nearby institutions.

Finally, local businesses foster competition. If there are many small or medium-sized outlets competing over the same business, consumer prices are lower and business innovation is stronger. Furthermore, to gain an edge, local businesses often offer better customer service.

Service

There is much more to say with regard to that last point. Customer service at a franchise is either totally outsourced to another location or probably performed in accordance with regimented standards that have nothing to do with the local community.

In contrast, almost everyone who works at a local business, from the very top to the very bottom, is heavily invested in the community and knows the customers that patronize that business, so the experience is much more personal.

Inventory

Most people believe that franchises have more selection than independent businesses, and while that may be true in terms of the cars on the lot, that’s not necessarily true overall. Typically, small business owners have direct access to vendors, so if there is a specific item that you want to purchase, that item will be available much more quickly at a small business than a large dealership.

Furthermore, contrary to popular myth, prices are usually no lower at a franchise location than they are at a local business, because for the most part, vendors set the prices for their products and they do not like discounts.

Generally, most business owners are willing to go the extra step to earn a customer, while that same urgency is not always present at a franchise location.

Community

Local businesses give communities a unique look that would be sorely missed if those businesses disappeared. Many people recognize this fact, as in one survey, only a desire for more restaurants eclipsed a desire for more local businesses among community residents.

For local businesses to contribute, the community must rise up. If a franchise location has a slow month, the financial loss may hardly be a blip on the radar. But if a local business has a slow month, the impact could be significant, and if that business closes, there is not always another one ready to take its place.

Do your community a favor and shop local.

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