South of the Border Startups: Understanding the Legalities of Starting a Business in Latin America

Many people move to Latin America after they’re retired, but those who aren’t ready to bid farewell to the workforce may consider moving down south to start a business. Though opening a successful business is difficult no matter what country you’re in, there are some unique challenges to starting your own company in this particular part of the world. Here are some basics for those who want to build their startup in paradise.

Don’t Be Afraid to Work With Agencies

In many Latin American countries, agencies facilitate many of the processes of starting a business. You’ll work with real estate agents and lawyers just to get a property, and it may be worthwhile to get involved with other local agencies that can help you make connections with your target end consumers.

Build Relationships

As with any business anywhere in the world, building relationships is one of the key components to finding success. In the United States, we’ve grown accustomed to doing a lot more networking over digital channels as opposed to taking clients out for dinner or having in-person meetings. Yes, Latin America is rapidly catching up with the US and Europe when it comes to using social media channels and beyond, but don’t underestimate the power of getting to know potential partners and consumers in person.

Understand Your Market

Avoid thinking about Latin America as one, single place, and really dive deeper into the culture of the country where you’re planning to open your business. This goes for setting prices points that are in line with what people in the area expect to spend if you’re catering to locals. Consider hiring people who understand the current business climate, as well as people who work in the country of your choice and can cater to on-site needs.

On the flip side if you’re thinking of opening a hotel or other type of business with a target audience of tourists there’s another set of rules to take into account. Entrepreneurs looking for hotels for sale in Costa Rica, for example, will need to look at the location and get a sense of the demographics of the people heading into town.

Know There’s a Difference in Legalities

In Costa Rica, for example, there are a number of laws that dictate how your company must be named. The name of your Sociedad Anόnima (or S.A. the Spanish language equivalent of a Co.) must be unique and approved by the Registro de Marcas de Comercio.

Additionally, there must be at least two owners in order to establish a company in Costa Rica, and you must account for small details like how many times you’ve been married, if you’re divorced and why you only have one last name (in Spanish-speaking cultures, most people take both parents’ last names). You’ll also need to set up an official home address, which may pose some problems if you have yet to make the move down south.

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How to Have a Successful Trade Show

Trade shows are a great way for your company to make an in-person introduction and pitch to potential clients. For many companies it is the only opportunity to meet them face-to-face, display their products and create a working relationship. Companies often spend months and tens of thousands of dollars on their display booths at these events hoping to present themselves in a good light. The stakes can be high, so it is imperative that they put their best foot forward. Here are some tips to ensure that your company has a very successful trade show.

Make Sure Your Booth is Special

There will be hundreds of booths at the trade show and at least a dozen or more from companies in your same product category all fighting for the attention of the same potential clients. To make sure attendees pay attention to your booth, you need a booth that really stands out in the crowd. This of course starts with your getting the best location for your booth which requires you booking early and maybe paying more for prime space, but it could be worth it.

Your booth needs to be high quality and convey your company’s image, values, and product or service capabilities and at the same time be attractive and compelling to attendees. Good quality booths can be used for years. So splurge on high-end materials throughout.

Consider using popular themes for your booth. Movie and television theses are a good choice. Just make sure you can fully commit to making it look great. A poorly executed popular theme could backfire.

Make abundant use of display plinths to strategically place your products and company brochures around your booth so that no matter which way someone might enter they will be front and center.

Your booth theme should also include your team and how they dress and act. Perhaps putting everyone in cool or funny shirts might work. It is also no secret that many companies hire pretty young ladies to work their booths. This strategy can be really effective as long as you make sure that attendees make the connection between them and your company.

Whatever strategy you choose, the bottom line is you want your booth and your company to get noticed.

Giveaways Really Work

A sure way to get people to notice you is by offering them something for free. It is a fantastic way to engage people and educate them on your products as well. The best giveaways are something related to your product or even the product itself. If you are a food company set up free samples of your product and have your team standing by to explain the benefits of each one being sampled. If your product is software, you can offer sample versions of it and have the sample being displayed on computer screens in your booth. This gives attendees an opportunity to see your product and then walk away with a freebie they can try later.

Even offering a cup of coffee or piece of candy is a great idea. Freebies also position your team to ask for contact information about the person. When you give something people often feel obligated to give something in return. Take advantage of this and have a quick way to take down someone’s details.

Use Social Media to Increase Activity

Social media sits at the center of many people’s lives and many of those people are your potential clients. So it can play a critical part in your having a very successful trade show. Before the trade show use social media to connect with clients and potential clients and give them a preview of what they can expect from your company. Use this as a chance to preview any products you will be showing and if new products will be unveiled, use this medium to build up the hype.

During the trade show you can use social media to keep everyone informed about what is going on at your company’s exhibition booth. Any special performances, giveaways and demonstrations can be touted on a minute to minute basis. Using social media can also give you quality feedback during the trade sow and help your team to better manage their time. You can also use it to give directions to anyone who is having trouble locating your booth.

For those who could not come to the trade show social media gives them an opportunity to experience what your company did at the trade show. They will also see how active you are about your company and products and this will garner additional excitement about being in business with you.

Use these tips to improve your performance at your next trade show. They can make a huge difference in returns on your investment.

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Mastering management skills to help your business succeed

There’s no getting around it: one of the key contributors to failure in small and medium-sized businesses (and sometimes even big ones) is poor management. Altogether too many people think that because they can build a business they can run one, and try to learn on the job. Others get out of their depth at a departmental level, inadvertently undermining the rest of the enterprise. However, it doesn’t need to be like this. What makes the difference is recognizing that a manager isn’t just there to tell people what to do – good management requires specific skills. If you want to make a success of it, these are some of the things you have to learn.

Strategic thinking

The first thing you need to understand is that management isn’t just internal – it’s about understanding the position of each department within the company as a whole, understanding how that company fits into its sector, and understanding how that sector fits into the wider economy. This makes it possible to make effective decisions about actions that are needed and how finances should be managed. A manager has to be able to see the big picture, and should aim to plan about three years ahead while remaining flexible enough to account for changing circumstances.

Networking

Part of a manager’s job is to network, both within the company and outside it. Good networking brings in opportunities for improving the mechanics of the supply chain. It provides the chance to keep on learning new techniques for internal use, and it helps you to keep your finger on the pulse as far as developments within your sector are concerned. Networking doesn’t just take place at formal events, so you should be ready to get out and about and build up useful social connections.

Time management

In order for a business to run smoothly, everybody needs to be coordinated. This means that sticking to deadlines is really important. Managers not only need to get their own work done on time but also need to make sure that everybody in their teams do. This isn’t just about pushing people. You’ll also need to be aware of their individual capacities and make sure that work is portioned out in a manner that is practical, even if that doesn’t always seem fair.

Setting objectives

In order to facilitate work getting done on time and employees being able to engage with it enthusiastically, managers need to be able to set clear objectives and persuade their teams of their importance. At the most basic level, employees know that their livelihood depends on the company’s success, but they need to understand why particular actions are important to that success, and they need to have a clear picture of what’s required of them. As a rule, they will be more efficient when they can see how what they have been asked to do will contribute to the whole.

Communication

Communicating successfully with employees, board members, and others requires real flexibility on a manager’s part. This is one of the most important aspects of the job, and the reason why, for instance, Washington State’s online MBA program offers specialist courses in communications. First and foremost, it’s important to recognize that individuals vary and that information can’t always be delivered in a one-size-fits-all way. To be successful, you will need to be able to identify and adapt to the needs of your team. You’ll also need to be strong on formal communication techniques, especially for external use.

Investing in people

Ultimately, a manager can achieve nothing without a good team, but it’s the manager’s job to refine and develop that team. This means that you’ll need to be able to identify talents that should be brought to the fore, deal with clashes between team members, and identify weaknesses that suggest the need for additional training. All this will be more successful if your team members feel valued as individuals and are able to develop real trust in you, so you will need to work hard to be seen as supportive, attentive, and fair.

Good management enables a business to optimize its assets – including human ones – and punch above its weight in the marketplace. Management skills can be learned, but this is only possible when managers accept that they don’t know everything already and are willing to see themselves not only as bosses but also as functional parts of a larger business organism. If you’re ready for this, sharpening up your skills could enable you to take your business to the next level.

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Net Worth: Why You Should Track it closely for Financial Success

A person’s net worth is the ultimate determinant of their sum wealth. The net worth is the result of deducting liabilities from the assets. Calculating the net worth gives one a clear picture of the total cost and earned and spent in a lifetime. Tracking the net worth helps one keep their goals and perspective in check. For example, if a person’s total amount of assets amounts to $200,000 and liabilities equals $300,000, the individual will have a negative net worth of -$100,000. It is crucial to establish the financial status of a person or an enterprise so as not to accrue a deluded sense of net worth and fail to achieve success.

Reasons why it is imperative to track the net worth 

1. Considering that net worth is the honest reflection of a person’s wealth, it is a perfect way to determine if one is making positive or negative financial progress. Bob Berger of Forbes.com, states that a constant or increasing net worth is a sign that investments are bringing positive returns. A declining net worth means that one should deduce which activity is draining the money and work towards adjusting the situation.

2. A clear picture of the net worth eliminates the notion that income is equal to one’s wealth status. A person earning $500,000 per year with liabilities amounting to $200,000 in a year is worth $300,000. The same result applies to an individual making $350,000 with liabilities amounting to $ 50,000 annually. With this concept in mind, it is easier for one to plan the steps towards realizing financial success by reducing liabilities to increase the net worth. Besides, considering the assets only when establishing net value, such as a home or a successful investment, is a misguided way to achieve success. The difference between the property and the liabilities like debt determines the exact net worth.

3. When applying for a loan, most banks and lending firms will evaluate the borrower’s sum net worth to determine credibility. A bad credit loan automatically disqualifies one from receiving the cash. Keeping a positive net worth helps one acquire a higher credit limit that can be helpful in expanding one’s investments and ultimately reach goals.

4. A good net worth is essential in keeping the debt status in perspective. A significant amount of loan offsets a lot of people. However, if one’s net value exceed the amount, then it is clear that the debt level is not extreme. A loan that exceeds the net worth means that one should probably cut down on the amount borrowed and live within affordable ways to amass wealth. A low net value to loan ratio is also a great motivation for one to find means to realize a higher rate that translates to increased prosperity.

According to Investopedia.com, the net worth is bound to experience fluctuations just like the financial health of any other industry. As a result, the net worth will reflect the status of the financial health of the various assets and liabilities. It can be difficult to establish one’s long term goals and short term goals without a clear picture of the money owed and money earned. Determining the ultimate net worth with the help of a financial analyst, or a convenient net worth determining software application will save one the stress that comes from tapping into savings and investments, and accumulating unwarranted debt.

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Keeping Your Eye on the Ball: How to Stay on Top of Your Business Overheads and Taxes

Being self-employed is challenging enough for most people, but trying to keep up with business records while focusing on keeping everything running can be downright difficult. Yet keeping accurate business records is a legal requirement.

Besides, if you can manage to keep track of your bookkeeping, you might also save money. Organized business records make it easier and faster to prepare your end-of-year accounts, so you save money on accounting costs.

Related: Last minute tax tips

When your book-keeping is accurately documented, you also have the advantage of being able to monitor your business’s cash flow at a glance.

Related:

The problem many self-employed people face is knowing exactly what to record. Here are some tips for staying on top of your business records.

  • Invoices: All the invoices you receive need to be tracked accurately. Include information about the amount, the date the amount was paid, the name of the company or customer and what the invoice was for.
  • Receipts: Staying on top of your expenses is the easiest way for your business to remain tax-efficient. Keep track of any receipts that relate to your work in any way.  Your accountant can offer some advice about which expenses you can claim as a self-employed person.
  • Business Expenses: There are some business expenses that may not receive receipts. For example, if you have a credit card for your business, you might use your bank statements to keep track of some expenses instead of recording receipts.
  • Keep Personal Finances Separate: Many self-employed people combine their business and personal finances in the same accounts. However, no matter what size your business might be, it’s important to keep business and personal finances separated. Open a separate bank account to for your business funds and use this account to cover your expenses. You’ll find it much easier to keep track of what’s been spent on business. You also won’t be wasting time trying to break down which expenses related to what entity at tax reporting time. There are plenty of tools to help you with your taxes if you need them, and a lot of them are free too!
  • Use the Right Apps: Self-employed people can make their lives much easier by using the right apps to record and track their accounts on the go. If you enter in one or two items every couple of days, you’re staying on top of your records as you go. You’re also saving plenty of time, as you won’t need to spend long hours at the end of the reporting period trying to catch up with all those entries.
  • Back-up Regularly: No matter how busy you are, make the time to back up your records on a regular basis. There’s nothing worse than suffering a hard-drive failure or technical disaster and losing your business records in the process.

Staying on top of your business records doesn’t have to be a time-consuming chore. The key is to take financial control and be sure your records are up to date on a regular basis. You’ll end up saving a lot of time and hassle in the long run.

Related: How to be a great landlord

 

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7 Steps to Healthy Time-Management

Who among us couldn’t use a little more organization in our lives? Whether you are just discovering the wonders of  planners or you are hyper-organized already, there are a few ways you can work smarter, not harder toward accomplishing this goal. We’ve gathered seven simple tasks that can set you on the path to perfect planning

1. Create Categories

Just about everyone has some basic categories under which all their tasks fall. These are things such as:

  • Home
  • Work
  • Family
  • Personal
  • Money
  • Long-term

Keeping your to-do list and appointments organized based on these headings can make a huge list seem more manageable. Plus, tasks in some categories, such as “home” may only be possible to accomplish on the weekends, which helps you prioritize your weekdays. The opposite could be true for “money,” which mostly must happen between Mondays and Fridays.

Related: Increase productivity with standing desks

2. Consider Color

Once you’ve created your categories, you might want to assign a color to each one. Get yourself a rainbow pack of highlighters or writing pens and then color-code all of the entries in your planner. If you are a visuals-oriented person, this method can help you see what you need to be working on with just a glance. As an added bonus, having a little color on your list makes it seem a bit less intimidating – and all the more rewarding when you cross a task off the list.

3. Brain Dump

When putting together your planner, try to think of every possible thing you want to get done. Be specific, and don’t feel you have to leave things out because they are too big as projects. Include birthdays, appointments, phone calls to make, household chores and goals you want to accomplish. After you’ve written down everything you can think of, then it is time to organize the list according to category and priority.

4. To-Don’t List

Many people struggle to stay organized because they spend time on tasks that are more pleasurable than the harder chores in the planner. But these distractions usually work against you. It is OK to create a to-don’t list, which will include things you want to accomplish someday but not in the immediate future. When you start to feel yourself go on a tangent, remember to stick to the to-do list and not the productivity-sapping to-don’t list.

5. Consolidate Calendars

If you have a anniversary/birthday/holiday calendar, a medical appointment calendar and a work deadline calendar, you are juggling too much. Find one planner format that will accommodate all the different scheduling types that you maintain and fit the important stuff into that. That way, you will have a wide overview in front of you at all times, and you can even color code each type of task (see No. 2, above).

6. Planner Pamper

The only thing that competes with the satisfaction level of crossing something off a to-do list is the handfeel and aesthetic nature of an attractive, well-organized planner. The smell of the pages, the geometric designs of the calendar pages and the heft of the book all add to the appeal. Even if you are more drawn to electronic planning apps or your cell phone calendar, there’s something appealing about choosing the system and look that’s just right for you.

7. Make It a Habit

Finally, take the time to update your chore lists and appointments every day. Not only will you keep on top of your time management, you’ll also be creating a healthy habit after a stretch of time. It doesn’t have to take more than a few minutes to cross things off or add them, and you’ll be glad you made the time.

Getting organized isn’t difficult when you get a planner, make your list and keep it updated. These seven tips should keep you on track.

You might also enjoy: Mini-guide for home business

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What Does it Take to Make a Great Landlord

As someone who has been both tenant and landlord, I wanted to write this piece for anyone who is considering letting out property to ensure that you are doing the best for yourself, your property and ultimately, your tenants. There are a lot of landlords out there who simply don’t do the best by their tenants and this can not only make your and their lives more difficult, but can also prevent you from finding tenants who are happy to stay long term which is the best solution for any landlord. Let’s take a look then at what makes a truly great landlord.

Business First

It is vital to remember that renting out property is a business and should be treated as such, it is not a hobby or something you do in your spare time. Because of this you need to ensure that you are professional at all times, the tenants are your clients and they should be treated as such. Make sure that you have secured both the property and the tenants with great landlord insurance, I like to use homelet.co.uk/landlord-insurance/, the choice is yours but make sure that you have sufficient insurance.

When it comes to payments and information that you need to give your tenants, ensure that they receive them in a timely manner, doing so will make it clear that you expect the same in return when it comes to paying rent.

Be Responsive

You are letting out your property as it has been shown to your tenants and if anything should go wrong with the property then you need to be on hand to find a solution. So many landlords that I have either worked with or that my friends have worked with have been painfully slow when it comes to responding to problems. If you want to be  a great landlord then you need to fix problems as soon as they arise.

Screening Process

The one thing that costs landlords more money than anything else is unpaid rent, trashed properties and midnight disappearing acts. You can never totally avoid the possibility that this could happen but you can reduce the chances by following a thorough screening process and use due diligence. Ensure that your prospective tenant has no recent evictions, no recent felonies and has good references from previous landlords, you should also be asking for 3 months rent up front to give yourself some peace of mind.

Be Respectful

You don’t have to like your tenants, you don’t have to be chummy with them or condone of their decoration choices, you do however have to be respectful. Many landlords see their tenants as though they are some kind of problem, this is not the case and as mentioned before, these are your clients. In order to have the best possible relationship with your tenants, ensure that you give them the respect that they deserve.

Be Ready

As a landlord you are going to need the help of several professional services and it is important that you are ready with contact details when the time comes. An emergency plumber, a heating engineer, steam cleaners or indeed, a letting agent are all numbers that will come in handy and you should try to strike up a bond with them so that they can come to your need when it’s required.

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Planting the Seeds of Success: A Smart Start Miniguide for Home Businesses

It can be exciting and daunting in equal measure when you are setting up a new business but when you are first starting out, any mistakes you make could be costly.

Here is a look at how to try and set out on the right path to success. There is an overview of how e-commerce often needs to be an integral part of your plans, and why financial management is so vital, plus an insight into setting goals for you and your business.

The importance of an internet presence

Even if you are opening a store in your local area you need to support your bricks and mortar persona with a clicks and mortar profile if you want to improve your odds of success.

The vast majority of your potential customers will be just as used to searching out deals and information online as they are walking into your store to browse for what they want. You simply cannot underestimate the importance of having a website and if you don’t take advantage of e-commerce opportunities, it is almost like trying to run your business with one hand tied behind your back.

If you have a seed budget to work with you need to consider allocating some of this cash towards setting up an internet presence, as this will help people to find you and find out about you, plus you can boost sales by setting up an e-commerce store.

Keeping costs under control

On the subject of money and budgets, you will need to make every dollar count when you first start out in business.

It would be a good idea to have a cash flow projection and a business plan to work to and if you need to borrow any money to start the business, you will need to produce some facts and figures to support your request for funding support.

There are also some other strategies and ideas to consider that will help you to keep control over your finances in the early days and moving forward.

A business credit card with low annual fees could help you to keep track of your expenses, and if you pay off the balance by the due date you, it could prove to be a good way of helping your cash flow stay strong.

Dare to dream

Many people start a business with plenty of optimism to fire them up but don’t really have a specific game plan that they are working to.

Setting out in business and taking the view that you will just see how it goes is not recommended. It would be much better to set some clear personal and business goals so that you know where you want to be in near future and even further ahead.

If you have some clearly defined goals and aspirations this will give your business a sense of purpose and direction. It also gives you something to measure your progress against and drive you to reach new heights.

There are a lot of things to sort when you first set out in business but as long as you have a plan and a list of tasks to get through, there is no reason why you can’t turn the seed of an idea into a successful venture.

John Pearce is a business consultant who likes to believe that he keeps his clients on the right track when it comes to growing an maintaining their business. Read his articles online at business blogs.

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Work and Life in Balance: What You Need to Know About Being Your Own Boss

 

With levels of self-employment considerably increasing within recent years, it’s clear to see that becoming your own boss is gaining strong popularity.

Whilst there are many positives in this choosing this career path, there are also plenty of disadvantages too. Estimates suggest a huge 80% of self-employed people are living in poverty, meaning that the dream of earning a high wage whilst working for yourself isn’t a walk in the park. If you’re thinking of branching out on your own, keep reading to discover everything you need to know about being your own boss

Pros and cons

Having total control over your hours, escaping the dreaded early-morning commute and being able to work in your own home environment are a mere snapshot of the pros associated with being self-employed. Especially if you have kids, working from home can be a huge advantage in terms of spending more time with them and fitting work around your children – not the other way around.

However, a lack of routine and financial security are big obstacles of being self-employed. A huge amount of dedication is needed to stay focused, and your income will lack the rigid stability that comes with being employed. If starting your own business is something you want to try, this can prove even more problematic in terms of applying for a business loan especially if you have bad credit. But, as long as you do your research, there are plenty of helpful resources out there.

Getting started

If even after being hit with the self-employment cons, you still want to venture out and become your own boss, you definitely need to take the right approach when starting out. Here are a few simple tips to ensure you get off to the right start and stay as focused and productive as possible!

Plan your week ahead

Structure is key to staying on-track, and if you don’t have a boss to push you to stay focused, you have to do it yourself. Take some time on Sunday evenings to structure your upcoming week day-by-day and stick to it as rigidly as you can. This will give your days purpose and ensure you have a working plan in place.

Stay vigilant

Especially when freelancing, the internet has skyrocketed the availability of online jobs up for grabs. But it’s important you keep mindful of scams, as there are plenty of fake jobs out there that will take your work and run without paying you anything. Stay sensible and perhaps go through a specific freelance site that monitors the payment process to ensure you don’t get scammed.

Take time out

It can be difficult to ‘switch off’ from work when at home all the time. But to keep you sane, take some time out to relax otherwise you could burn yourself out.

Being your own boss certainly comes with its perks, but it’s vital you understand what you’re really getting into before you get started. Utilizing the above tips will not only make you more productive but will also give you a better idea of what to expect!

Harriet Garner took a leap to start her own business after she was made redundant several years ago. Not easy, but always rewarding, Harriet shares her tips with others who want to make the leap.

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Top Tips For Your First Business Trip

Heading out on your first business trip will be an exciting time, meetings to be had, deals to make and a company to represent. Whatever the nature is of your trip, you are going to need to be prepared , both from a business and personal point of view. To help you get prepared in the right way, we’ve put together a list of tips for you and whether you are traveling transatlantic for your business dealing or just a few hours away from home, we’ve got you covered. So before your next business trip, check out these tips and make sure that you are prepared in the right way.

Bought a travel wallet :(

Organization

The first thing to ensure is that you are fully prepared for your business dealings and your itinerary during your time away. Make sure that you have paper and digital versions of all documents that you are going to need and whatever schedule you have whilst you are away. Be sure to secure all of your transportation before you go,it is likely that plane or train tickets will be already sorted out but ensure you have a car waiting for you to take you to a meeting.  The last thing you need is to be searching for taxis in the middle of Bangkok when you have a pressing business lunch, or trying to catch a bus in Edinburgh for a business launch, plan ahead, and book a private car to get you there.

Downtime Planning

When you’re on the road for business you are bound to have a lot of downtime and you need to be sure to use this wisely. It’s important that you plan ahead for this, whether it be in order to relax or in order to brush up on your business dealings. If movies and games are your thing that you need to relax then download some ahead of time, if you like to exercise then check out if your hotel has a gym and if not, look for one nearby. Regarding the business side of things, try to create some one page sheets which will enable you to quickly study some key points about your business or take the opportunity to look for areas of growth. Planning ahead means that when you get that downtime, you are ready to spend it however you see fit.

Staying in Touch

You absolutely want to make sure that you can stay in touch with friends, family and the business itself whilst you are away and it’s important that you know the best ways to do so. If you don’t already use them then you should be utilizing FaceTime, Whatsapp, Skype and even Facebook messenger to stay in touch with people whilst you are away. All of these mediums work so long as you have an internet connection and you should look to buy a local SIM card if you are heading to a foreign country. A local SIM gains you access to mobile data and means that you are never out of reach when people need to get in touch with you.

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