What a 401K Can Do For You

When you get a job straight out of college it is important to find the right mix of salary, benefits and experience to launch your career. And if you can find a company with a 401K plan, that is even better. You want to make sure that your employer will match your 401K contribution and you want to max out your contribution in order to get to that match. Get as much money from the company as you can. That is free money. You can’t do better than free money.

When you take the match from your 401K, you are growing the base of the account that is going to grow and grow and grow and provide you with real money in your golden years. And when you get enough money in your 401K, you can start trading it on your own. As long as you roll it into your own IRA style account. Or even if you want, you can trade your own stocks in the 401K that you own. You just might lose the match.

So you have to make your own decisions about how you want to manage your 401K. You can take the passive investor approach, where you let your company’s 401K plan administrator manage all the money. And you check it quarterly. Or you can take a more active approach and go on your own.

But the most lucrative and smart approach may be to create your own brokerage account on the side and start day trading. That way you keep your day job, contribute to a 401K and learn how to day trade on the side. If you put in a lot of effort and learn the right strategies and techniques, you can become a profitable day trader. You just have to take the online classes and stuff your head full of the terminology. It is helpful to be able to spend a lot of time in front of screens, learning the trends and patterns.

Day traders are hunters of volatility. You are always on the lookout for more stocks making big moves throughout the day. You need to have the right plan to be able to take advantage of these opportunities. The best way to do that is to learn risk management. Have a plan for each and every trade that you make and make sure that you have a stop-loss on each trade. So that if a trade goes south, you have a built in mechanism to sell the shares before you lose a lot.

The best way to get good is to start paper trading. That means practicing in a simulated trading environment where you are trading virtual currency. That gives you a chance to learn on the job without risking your real money. You can practice trading and learn risk management in a simulator that trades at the speed of the regular market. It is invaluable experience.

So that is your choice. Take the passive approach, get a good job and keep giving to your 401K. Or do that, and get yourself a day trading gig on the side.

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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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It’s Time to Turn Your Business Website into an E-Commerce Powerhouse

The place for business in the 21st century is on the web. More and more businesses are establishing websites in order to do the bulk of their advertising and selling. If you are searching for a way to turn your business website into an e-commerce giant, you’ll need the proper software. There are a number of types of ecommerce shopping cart software to choose from. It only takes the bare minimum of research to enable you to decide which types will work best for the needs of your business. Once you know what you need, it’s easier than ever to go about getting it.

A Shopping Cart Is an Essential Piece of Modern E-Commerce Software

One of the most important pieces of e-commerce software you can order for your business site will be a shopping cart. This is the place where your customers can store items that interest them while they continue to browse around the rest of your site. Giving them a place to store these goods is an excellent way to keep them from forgetting about these items. Once they have completed their visit to your site, they can quickly retrieve their item from the shopping cart and take it to the checkout page to complete their order. Shopping carts save you sales.

Having a Shopping Cart on Your Site Will Save You a Lot of Sales

As noted above, it’s a tried and true proposition that having a shopping cart on your site will save you a great many sales. Even if a customer should forget to take that particular item to checkout, you can still make it the basis of a reminder email that you send to them later on. A quick email with the item and a message along the lines of, “Don’t forget about me!” can save you a lot of sales in the long run. A shopping cart is an e-commerce item that serves many functions and will more than repay the initial investment you make in order to add one to your official business website.

It’s Time For You to Show Your Competitors Who’s the Boss

If your website has been losing ground in favor of your competition, the reason is as clear as it is simple. Your site simply isn’t up to snuff. You’ll need to overhaul it in order to feature all of the latest e-commerce software. Your competitors have already done and are reaping the benefits of their foresight. It’s time for you to make up for lost time so that you can get back to challenging them for the crown.

Order Your Shopping Cart Software From a Professional Provider Today

It’s an excellent idea to order your shopping cart software from a professional provider as soon as possible. The sooner you do so, the more your productivity and profitability will increase. E-commerce software enables your business to interact with your customers in real time so that you can quickly get a reliable feel for what items interest them the most. There are a thousand other benefits that come with these valuable e-commerce software items. A shopping cart and official web store are two of the most important ones that no modern business website can afford to be without.

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DCIM Decisions: Finding the Best Solution for Your Company

It can be difficult to choose the best DCIM solution for your company. There are many to choose from, and many vendors too, all of which offer slightly different products.

Here are some things to keep in mind to find the best solution for your growing company

Decide on the Features You Need

When it comes to finding the right data center monitoring solution for your needs, the first thing to do is look at the features provided by different vendors’ solutions.

You want to make sure that your chosen solution has all of the features you require, so compare products and avoid those that do not have the most important features.

Some of the things you might need include asset management, VM control, IT control, and environmental control. So look at the solution in depth and use this to guide your decision-making process.

Make Sure It Is Scalable to Your Needs

A DCIM solution should be scalable so that it can grow alongside your business. If it is difficult or impossible to scale, it is unlikely to be of much use as your business grows.

Save the hassle and expense of changing solutions later on, and choose one from the start that will grow with you.

Choose a Vendor with Good Support

As well as choosing a solution that has everything your business needs, you will also want to make sure you get the right level of customer support from the vendor.

You don’t want to be left on your own to deal with problems when they arise, so ensure you can always speak to a real person and get answers to your questions as soon as you need them.

Know How Easy It Will Be to Get Up and Running

If you have a small business, you may want to ensure that you choose a solution that is easy to set up and start using rather than a complex solution that takes many months to get up and running.

Also, find out if you will be provided with training. You don’t want your vendor to disappear and leave you without knowing what to do.

Choose a Vendor with Experience

Finally, make sure you choose a vendor that has a lot of experience and a great reputation to match. You don’t want to find out when it’s too late that they have a terrible reputation.

Do your research and find out who their existing customers are and ask them what they think. Read some third-party reviews if you can find any, and look out for any warning signs.

Only choose a vendor when you are happy that they will provide you with the level of service you need.

Find the Right DCIM Solution

These are some of the main factors to keep in mind when you are choosing a DCIM solution for your growing business.

Finding a suitable DCIM product is something you want to get right first time. So look into all of these factors very carefully, then take your time finding a solution that works for your business and provides you with all the benefits you are looking for.

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How to Protect Your Home Business from Financial Ruin

52 percent of all small businesses are operated out of the home. And, this number keeps growing. The best way to protect yourself and your business from unpredictable future events is to have adequate insurance. However, research shows that 40 percent of home businesses are underinsured. Here is why you need home business insurance and what products you should consider.

Why You Need to Protect Your Home Business

A few real-life scenarios will illustrate the reasons why you need extra protection for your home-based business. First, let’s consider the uncertain future. Your digital or printed business data could be compromised if you are the victim of a technology failure or security breach. This could lead to lawsuits or lost income. You can protect yourself from these unforeseen threats with business insurance.

Your reputation and business could be in jeopardy if a customer were to sue you for negligence. But, you can protect your good name and company when you have the right policy in place. Also, most homeowner’s policies will not cover you if a delivery driver were to drop off a package for your business at your front door and injure himself taking a dive off your front steps. Yet, a strong business insurance policy will cover any potential costs associated with this accident.

How Do You Protect Your Home Business

There are almost as many different home business insurance policies as there are home businesses. The key is finding the right policy to manage the potential risks of your enterprise. A few of the most popular types of coverage include:

  • General Liability– This helps out when the delivery guy trips over his feet. Your business and your family are protected from lawsuits due to injuries, accidents, or negligence claims.
  • Interruptions in Business – If your home business’s operations are interrupted by a covered loss, you will still be able to secure some income when you have this product.
  • Workers Compensation – You will need this type of insurance when you have employees working for you. If a worker suffers an illness or injury due to workplace conditions, workers comp insurance will provide a schedule of benefits, regardless of liability.
  • Medical insurance– it is essential that self-employed people take out health insurance to protect you against loss of earnings if you were to fall ill and be unable to work. Independent workers are often under huge amounts of pressure to return to work quickly following illness. This can exacerbate the problem and prevent you from bouncing back to optimum health.
  • Business Property – With this policy, you can protect the merchandise, equipment, computers, tools of the trade, and any other property that is associated with your business.

This is just a sampling of what is available. If you operate a home business, it is just a smart idea to be ready for any obstacles you may face. Insurance could make the difference between a little paperwork and financial ruin.

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Marketing Ideas for your Bootstrap Business

These days, it is easier than ever to set up your own business. While there are a variety of ways to finance your startup, the idea of bootstrapping is often the most attractive. By setting up your business on a miniscule budget, you do not have heavy debts or financial backers to worry about, and whether it succeeds or fails, the business is all yours.

The digital world is perfectly aligned to this kind of business model. In essence, all you need is a laptop, an internet connection, a great idea and a working knowledge of WordPress, and you are good to go. But while it is easy to get started, can the bootstrap philosophy be equally applied to an effective marketing campaign to grow your business? Management consulting firm Global Resources reviews numerous small businesses, and says that the answer is a resounding “yes.” Here’s how.

Use Social Media

Did you know that one in three people on the planet use social media? Chances are, you are one of them, and if you are not, you are missing out on the best digital marketing tool around. Facebook alone has two billion users, and LinkedIn just celebrated passing the 500 million mark.

It is not just cost effective though – it is also something that your customers will expect of you. Facebook and Twitter are great ways of sharing blogs, news and video content, and LinkedIn is the perfect place to build a reputation as an expert in your field, particularly in the B2B world.

Understand your Customers

If you have limited financial resources, then bangs for bucks has to be at the top of the agenda when considering your marketing strategy. To get the best return on your investment, you need to have a clear understanding of who your customers are, and what they want from you.

There is more data like this available today than ever before. Take a look on Google Analytics and you will be presented with a raft of information about who is visiting your site, the search query that is bringing them there, how long they stay and lots more.

Digital Marketing for Less

The real beauty of digital marketing is that there is so much that can be done with a minimal spend. Focus on building the brand through social media and increasing conversions with a better understanding of customer needs, and you can achieve some great results without breaking the bank.

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How to Enhance Workplace Collaboration

Workplace Collaboration is possible using a few key tips and technologies

Entrepreneurs understand the value of a having a team that is highly collaborative. When starting a new business, every employee has to be on the same page — a task that is increasingly difficult if your team works remotely, as many start-ups do. Without the forced face time that comes with a traditional office, how do entrepreneurs promote collaboration among employees? Luckily, as the number of remote workers has risen, over 80 percent between 2005 and 2012, there has also been an increase in helpful collaboration tools for all kinds of workplaces. For truly effective collaboration, though, you not only need to choose the right tool, but you also need the right equipment and a culture that encourages openness and sharing.

Essential Equipment

Start with the basics — the equipment. Even the most amazing collaborative software will be ineffective if it is not paired with good hardware. For remote employees, a smartphone is the most important tool you can provide. Pair a good smartphone with affordable, unlimited coverage that won’t stretch your budget and will allow your team to use the other collaborative tools you decide to employ with no restrictions. In addition to a smartphone, your team will need heavy-duty laptops with video capability and fast and reliable internet access.

Choose a Collaborative Tool

The right tool for your team will depend on the nature of your business and the size of your team. You want whatever system you choose to be able to function fully as an app on a smartphone or on a laptop or desktop. Here are four of the best workplace collaboration tools.

a) Slack – Slack, and its competitor HipChat, are real-time communication apps. The Slack app allows team members to message each other, screen share and video conference. Slack stores and archives conversations so that they can be retrieved later easily with relevant hashtags. For many businesses, Slack is used in place of email.

b) Dropbox – Dropbox is a filing sharing app that allows team members share and edit files and documents in real time from any device.

c) Asana – For a more robust workflow system, Asana is hard to beat. PCMag gave it their Editors’ Choice award, and use Asana as their internal project management system. Among many other customizable functions, Asana allows users to break projects into tasks, assign tasks to the right team members, monitor progress and communicate at every step. Asana also integrates with other platforms like Slack for communication and Dropbox or Google Drive for file sharing.

d) Igloo Software – For an all-in-one collaboration tool suitable for a smaller business, check out Igloo Software. Igloo is a pre-built intranet system with features including real-time communication, forums to discuss specific projects, task management templates and file sharing. While not as slick as other intranet systems, Igloo is intuitive to use and easy to set up.

Create a Collaborative Culture

The truth is that no collaborative software system is going to be effective if you don’t put in the work to create a culture of collaboration. Effective collaboration happens when teams brainstorm openly and feel comfortable discussing and questioning ideas in a non-judgmental way. For this to happen, you need to actively encourage regular interaction with programs like mentorships, staff retreats and regular meetings to share successes and shortfalls.

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Small Business Loans: A Miniguide for First Time Applicants

If you are launching a new business or trying to grow an existing small venture there is a good chance that you will need to apply for some funding to help you fulfill your plans and ambitions.

Applying for a small business loan can be daunting and confusing in equal measure, so here are some pointers to help you negotiate your way through the jargon and the various requirements you will normally be asked to satisfy.

It starts with a business plan

You can check here for some details of the loan options available but before you make any sort of application for a business loan you will need to have a few things ready for when you are asked to provide further information to support your application.

Anticipating the sort of data and details that a lender will want will help speed up the process and will also show that you are organized and on the ball.

The standard procedure for making a business loan application is to provide supporting documentation that demonstrates why you need the money and how you are going to repay the amount borrowed.

Your business plan should include a comprehensive set of projected financial statements, which should include profit and loss figures, a cash flow projection and an up to date balance sheet.

If you are unsure how to put all these figures together or need some help, it would be a good idea to use an accountant so that the data is accurate and credible, which is vital to the success of your application.

Expect a grilling

It would be fair to say that lenders are very thorough and stringent with their loan application checking process so be prepared for plenty of additional questions and requests for further information.

You should not take these higher expectations and additional questions as a negative, in fact, it shows that they are taking your loan application seriously and are trying to tick all the boxes so that they can lend you the money.

Collateral requirements

The strength of your credit profile and your business proposal can influence how much security your lender requires which means they might ask for collateral in return for granting the loan.

Some loan programs do not require any collateral and if you are asking for a smaller amount it might not be considered necessary. If you don’t want to risk your home or business ownership by offering collateral, you might be able to get a business loan for the amount you need but it will probably limit your choice of lenders and options.

Check your credit score

It is always a good idea to keep track of your current credit score and know what existing lenders and finance providers are saying about you and your payment history.

You will need to have a good clean credit file if you are going to get the best loan rates offered to you, as your risk profile is adversely affected by bad credit.

Make sure you check your file before you apply so that you have a good idea of how successful you might be with your loan application.

Lenders are often willing to try and guide you through the process so if there is anything you don’t understand or want to question, don’t feel like you are unable to ask, as it is important to get everything right.

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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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