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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Why the internet has driven retailers online

Wondering Why the internet has driven retailers online?
Photo by CC user techinasia on Flickr

If you are thinking about starting a business, you have to consider where and how you’ll showcase your products to customers. A mere 30 years ago, your options were limited. You could have a brick-and-mortar building, or work out of your home, but you had to attract customers to your store. You had a limited region of coverage for sales, at least until your business expanded into other markets. Advertising was very different. The use of mass mail marketing was common, and you had to rely on word of mouth. Billboards and television commercials caught the eyes of your customers.

Fast forward to 2017, and the options for you as a business owner have expanded exponentially. Your customers can be from anywhere on the entire planet, via the internet. You can still send out mailers and advertise on TV, but if you aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity to develop your business online, you are missing out on your full business potential. Here’s why the internet has driven retailers online.

Potential for profits

It is expected that online sales via computers and mobile devices will be over $500 billion by 2020 in the US alone. E-commerce is growing at a faster rate than retail, with over 224 million shoppers spending more online every year. The bottom line is that there is money to be earned from online selling. To ignore it is to hobble your own business potential.

Online to enhance a physical site

Even if you aren’t ready or able to launch a website, you can still take advantage of the internet to build customers. If you establish a news feed, you will be reminding subscribers of your company every time that you post a new article. Posts on Facebook and Twitter also get your company name in front of subscribers, whose reposts are an open invitation to new customers. You can use online communications to invite customers to events at your store, publicize sales, and announce new products.

Online combined with a physical site

No matter how successful your brick-and-mortar business is, an online presence can help drive new customers to your door. Imagine that you are an artisan who sells handmade pottery and runs a storefront. Your customers are going to consist of the people living in the city where you sell. They may recommend your pots to friends, and eventually you may see customers from around the region, the country, and even the world. However, these people must call or write to you for your pots. Somehow, you must send them photos of your products for them to decide if they want to buy something.

The time invested alone in making a profit on the pots is staggering. With a small investment in a website, where you can showcase your pots, receive payments, and set up shipping, you will save time in customer contact. You will build your customer list by recommendations and search engine optimization (SEO). By using social media, you can update customers on new products. With a customer reward program, you can get positive reviews and return business. These efforts will all convert into sales with little to no work save the initial set-up.

Online presence only

Many stores operate solely online. Businesses that are only online can take advantage of the same networking and marketing opportunities as the potter, but they don’t have to pay for the cost of a building and all its attendant expenses, including employees and utilities. With your online presence, you can offer detailed information and videos on your company’s products and services. Customers can preview products and compare prices before they buy. One company that has made a success of an online-only presence is As Seen On TV. The company offers a variety of great products for the home, cars, pets, and more. It produces videos to show customers how its products are used, and the videos are just one way that the company drives sales.

Online is the future

The technology explosion is having a major impact on retail sales. Robotics can now put together customer orders. Analytics can tell you how to target certain audiences with specific products. Online payment systems are popping up to keep transactions safe and quick. Quick delivery of online products with drones is just around the corner.

Whether you are dipping your toe in the water, or basing your business solely online, there is an advantage to using the internet. Even a small investment can mean great profits. Start looking into how the internet can improve your business.

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Dealing with small business accounting issues

It seems that every entrepreneur has dealt with small business accounting issues before
Photo by CC user PDPics on Pixabay

In a small business it is common for employees to share job roles, including the role of taking responsibility for financial matters and the daily work of keeping business accounts up to date and chasing late payers. Such person(s) often have no training in accountancy and this can lead to issues arising that can be problematic.

Issue number one: collecting payments

Failing to secure payments is the most common and most dangerous issue a small business can deal with when it comes to accounting. The source of the problem can be customers deciding not to pay, but surprisingly often it is simply the inability of a business to reliably send an invoice. If a customer does not get a receipt or invoice they won’t be aware of any payment that is due – having receipt maker software is an efficient way to prevent this happening.

In terms of making sure all payments are made, good record keeping is the most important factor, while being diligent and persistent at following up unpaid accounts is also vital. This does not require any great financial skills – just make sure that a particular staff member is in charge of doing so and importantly, ask them to report on their progress.

Accounting methods and software

Thankfully there is a host of software solutions to make accounting problems less likely to occur. If you automate your accounting processes using software, you can make sure you don’t, for example, send payment to the wrong supplier – which could really harm your cash flow. Software will also make it a lot easier to report your business accounts to the tax authorities, while having a prepared set of accounts that are tidy makes it easier to sell your business or to gain investment.

It can be problematic in some businesses when staff members are used to performing accounting tasks in an old fashioned manner, with pen and paper. Though keeping files and rows of filing cabinets served businesses well over the years, it is not effective these days – your business productivity will be impeded, and you may struggle to effectively connect with some customers and suppliers who would expect electronic record keeping.

Finding professional help

It is unexceptional for businesses to outsource their accounting functions. In fact, almost all businesses outsource at least some element of it – for example, the filing of final accounts with the government. Every accounting process can benefit from professional help – from invoicing, through to debt collection.

A qualified accountant will also introduce you to the more interesting parts of financial reporting, producing tables and charts which would give you an insight into where your business is profitable – and where it is not. Large corporations produce detailed financial reports for a reason: keeping track of the numbers behind your business is an informative exercise that can help you improve business performance.

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How Businesses Can Save Money by Shopping Online for Toner Cartridges

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The paperless office isn’t quite here yet, and many people think it shouldn’t ever happen, because print on paper is a primal thing – we just need a bit less of it! Not everything can be done digitally just yet, which is why you’re probably still looking around for the best deals on toner cartridges for your business.

By using a laser printer you’re already spending less anyway, as toner is typically cheaper than inkjet ink, but if you can find a way to make it cheaper still, you’ll be in the pink (or the magenta).

Going online is your best bet

By shopping online, you’re taking the easiest path to brilliant savings on your toner cartridges. Online retailers like Cartridge People are always offering good discounts and incentives. They also usually have a huge range of brands and products on offer so even if you have one of the lesser-known printers, these retailers will most likely be able to help you.

Why is buying online so cheap?

Quite simply, because online retailers don’t have the same overheads as physical stores – shopfronts, retail rents, shopfront staff as well as backroom and warehouse staff, fancy advertising hoardings and so on. It all costs money and it’s something that online retailers don’t need – they just need a cool, safe warehouse, dedicated staff and a good-looking, easy-to-navigate website!

Buying online also means better bulk deals

Because online cartridge retailers are able to store large amounts of stock cheaply (no shopfront, remember), they are usually more than happy to supply bulk orders, which will save you lots of money per unit. In addition to this, toner stores for much longer than ink, which means you can order enough to last for an entire year! Ordering large quantities of inkjet ink can be a bit risky, because it degrades over time and sometimes you’ll have dried out or useless cartridges, wasting your savings.

Other ways to save money by buying online

Order refilling kits

A lot of online sellers stock refilling kits for the better-known brands of toner cartridges. This solution isn’t for everyone, but if you’re quite handy you could make it work for you. You should read all the instructions properly before you start to make sure you do it properly and don’t end up with a huge mess.

Try recycled cartridges

If the idea of refilling your toner cartridges fills you with horror, then try some recycled ones. Recycled means that they’ve been collected as empties and sent to a company that can check, test, refurbish them and then refill them. This solution isn’t as cheap as doing it yourself, but it’s much cheaper than buying new ones and the print quality is indistinguishable.

Buy compatibles

Buying compatible cartridges is also a great solution, especially if you get them from an established, well-respected retailer as they’ll only stock tested and trusted cartridges. A decent online retailer will also give you a warranty and a guarantee just in case something goes wrong or the cartridges don’t work.

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How to Determine Your Home Business’ Value

Do you know How to Determine Your Home Business’ Value?
Photo by CC user nikcname on Flickr

Determining the value of your business is called valuation. It is an essential number to know if you want to try to expand your business, sell it or get financing. This number can change often, so you will need to do the valuation annually just to keep it up to date. Getting started with your first valuation can seem like a huge undertaking, but it doesn’t have to stress you out. By following some simple steps, you should be able to gather what you need to complete the process.

Gathering Information

You will need a bunch of financial information to get the big picture. This starts with listing each asset of your business and providing a value for each of them. You may need to get some assistance with this or even hire professionals, depending on what your assets are.

Next, you’ll want to list your expenses. Make sure to note the frequency of these expenses. You might have weekly, monthly, and annual, for example. It’s important to note variable and fixed expenses, too. Variable expenses are those that change, while fixed expenses are always the same. For variable expenses, you can come up with an average to list for the amount.

You will also need your income statement. From this, you’ll want to take the profit or loss amount.

You’ll want to subtract the expenses from the assets and then subtract or add the profit or loss from your total. This will give you the approximate monetary value of your business.

Other Factors

However, there are other ways a business can be valued and the monetary method doesn’t take into consideration some other important factors that can add value to a business. Take a look at this infographic to get a better idea about valuation.

When you are coming up with your business value to sell it, using the monetary method may not be the best choice. This method doesn’t take into account assets that aren’t valued using a dollar amount. These are things like loyal customers, brand recognition, and unique aspects of the business, such as a one-of-a-kind product. In addition, your contributions aren’t really considered, like your skills and any business knowledge you have, such as what you gained through a degree at MVU Online. These things can’t really be valued in money, but they are still adding value to the business. For example, a well-known brand could possibly double the monetary value of a business because it helps reduce the need for excessive marketing and customer acquisition.

Another factor to consider is the up and down nature of valuation. Perhaps you have just had a bad year due to economic issues or something else out of your control. If this happens, your valuation that year could be really low and not a real indication of the value of your business, especially if there are indicators that things will bounce back in the future.

When doing a valuation for your business, you have a lot to consider. If you are seeking financial investors, then a strictly monetary valuation can work. However, if you are selling the business or deciding if you want to expand, you may want to consider other factors when making calculations to help you get a better picture of the true value of your business.

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How to choose the right exhibition for your business

Do you know How to choose the right exhibition for your business?
Photo by CC user BrockF5 on Wikimedia Commons

Exhibiting is a great way to grow your business. It gets you in front of your customers and allows you to show off your products or services to a captive audience of potential purchasers.

But how do you know which exhibition is the right one for your business? With a fair upfront investment, you need to be able to justify that you’re giving exhibiting the best chance of success to drive more sales.

Here are three things to consider when figuring out how to choose the right exhibition for your business:

Local vs national shows

Thinking about your target audience, are they likely to live nearby, or could they be anywhere? If you’re a local producer of cheese, you’re more likely to have success at a local show – having the novelty of being a local producer, than at a national show. Especially if you’re starting out.

However, if you’re an online supplier for example where the novelty of being local may not be as strong then your audience could be potentially larger.

There’s also logistics to consider. Getting to a show that’s further away will cost more and may mean an overnight stay. Will your budget stretch that far? How is parking? Although most exhibition display stands are portable, you may live to regret pulling a pop up around in the London Underground on your own.

Target audience

Who is your target audience? What sort of shows would they be interested in? If there’s a high chance that they wouldn’t go to the show you’re looking at, then it may not be the best idea to exhibit there.

What you’ll be looking for is a show where you have a high footfall of people who could be interested in your business. Not everybody in your target audience will be potential purchasers so you want to maximise the chance that they’ll stop!

Most shows that have been running for a few years will have a rundown of audience demographics from previous shows to help you decide whether it’s the right show for you.

Cost

Each exhibition will have a different cost for exhibiting. From a small stall at a craft fair to a large space-only stand in an exhibition hall as you can imagine the costs can start from pounds to a few hundred (if not more for the very large spaces!).

If the show looks like the right sort of environment for you, consider how much you’d have to make to break even from the event in terms of cost. Make sure you add in the hidden costs such as displays and transport in with your total costs. By working backwards, you can work out how much you’d be willing to spend on the stand space. If it seems achievable given the expected number of visitors, then go for it. If it seems completely unrealistic to make that volume of sales, then maybe the show isn’t the right one.

You may however consider having a smaller presence at a more expensive show in order to increase your brand awareness and start to be seen in the right circles with your competitors.

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Are You Ready to Become a Reseller? Important Questions to Ask  

Becoming a technology reseller can prove to be a lucrative business opportunity. However, while it’s a viable business option, it’s not always an easy one — and not every entrepreneur or business is well positioned to offer technology solutions to clients.

As you begin to explore the possibility of becoming a reseller, ask yourself a few important questions to evaluate your business’s readiness to jump into the reselling fray. Your answers to these questions can help you determine if you should pursue opportunities now, or do some work developing your business before you move forward.

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Question #1: Have You Fully Evaluated Potential Vendor Partner Programs?

Every vendor partner offers a different reseller partner program. The key term to remember, though, is partner. Don’t focus exclusively on compensation and reward programs (although they are a concern) but also consider how well the vendor partner works with you to support your business and help you grow while offering the highest possible level of service to your clients.  Your vendor partner should be working side-by-side with you at all times, offering resources and support for training and development as well as assistance closing deals.

When evaluating potential vendor partner programs, you should also consider the advantages of a particular vendor over others. Can you identify the “wow” factor that creates a better experience for your customers? What are the competitive advantages that a vendor offers? Your reseller partner should be able to articulate these advantages, specifically as they relate to your target market. Without the ability to identify these points, you will struggle to build your business, and may not see the success you hope for.

Question #2: Do You Have the Staff and Experience to Successfully Resell Technology?

Growth and change are constants in the tech world, and as a reseller, you need to be able to keep up with those changes. However, on a day-to-day basis, your customers are going to expect assistance and support, from the beginning of the purchase process through maintenance and growth.

The question then becomes one of whether or not you have the expertise and knowledge necessary to provide the services that your customers need, and if you need help, can you get it? Some Cisco distributor partners, for example, offer Cisco tech support to their authorized resellers, helping them as they get client businesses set up. If you don’t have access to resources and support, can you get your own team up to speed yourself? Are you prepared to hire experts who can fulfill those important roles? A successful reseller isn’t just an order taker. You will be a partner to your customers, and you need to be ready to fill that role.

 Question #3: Do You Understand Your Competition?

Competitive analysis is an important part of any business, but it’s perhaps even more important in the realm of reselling. Customers are turning to you for expertise, so what do you have to offer that other resellers don’t? Understanding your competition can help you measure market demand and find ways to better serve your customers. What are people asking for that they can’t find? How can you fill those roles? Remember that it’s better to do a few things exceptionally well than to provide mediocre service in more areas. It’s almost impossible to be an expert in all areas as a reseller, so determine your strengths and use them to determine your business focus and plans.

Question #4: Do You Have a Business Plan?

Working with the right vendor partner can help your business get off the ground and remain profitable, but you need to develop a business plan. Do you have a pricing strategy? Have you considered the effect on non-billable hours and other costs of doing business? Do you know how you will manage your workload and staff? Considering these factors ahead of time can not only help you secure a partnership agreement, but can prevent unpleasant surprises down the road. Unless you have a plan that considers all aspects of your business, you aren’t ready to become a reseller.

Again, reselling technology equipment is a potentially lucrative business. As with any business, though, you need to ask important questions and assess your own readiness to move forward, so you remain profitable and avoid unnecessary challenges.

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Why Hire a Message Taking Service?

A Message Taking Service can save you valuable time

Photo by CC user Vera Kratochvil on http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/

Competition has risen drastically in almost every industry over the past few years. After the market crash of 2008, millions of people found themselves out of a job. In order to get back on their feet, many people instead decided to launch their own businesses. The government began to offer a series of incentives and offers to entrepreneurs in the form of tax incentives and subsidies. As a result, over the past five or six years, hundreds of new businesses have been launched throughout the United Kingdom.

Many markets have already become saturated. There are viable alternatives available for virtually every product you might want. As a result, perhaps the only way by which a small business can distinguish its service is by offering superior customer support. Customers want to feel valued. They want to know that the money they are paying was worth it, which is why it is important for you to provide quality support and after-sales service.

However, setting up a customer support department is not as easy as it looks. Most small business owners do not have the capital or the resources to allocate space in their office to set up a separate customer support department. A vast majority of small businesses only operate with a handful of employees. Your customers will obviously expect support around the clock. You will need to purchase telephones, set up a live chat option on your website and reply to customers’ emails regularly. But it’s unlikely that one of your employees will be available via phone at all times. In many cases, you might end up missing calls just because employees were busy or not in the office.

Hiring a Message Taking Service

There are companies that can take messages on your behalf whilst you are busy working. If you want to offer prompt service to your customers, hiring a message taking service is an excellent idea. A message taking service can ensure that no calls are ever missed. The company will answer all telephone calls and take down any messages from consumers. Obviously, it’s important not to show that the services were outsourced. That’s why the message taking service will make it seem as if the call is being handled by a member of the company only. There are certain customer queries that just can’t wait, which is why the company will deliver all messages to your email, fax or SMS.

The Benefits

Even though you may not realise it at first, hiring a message taking service is an excellent option. For small business owners, the benefits will become clear in the long run. Customers will begin to rely on the after-sales support and service offered by your company. It will also free you from the hassle of having an employee sit by the phone at all times, allowing you to work on improving your services and products to make your company grow.

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Building Productivity in Your Business, Five Steps to Success

If you had to ask people what contributed most to the success of a business, what do you think they would say? People would probably list things like reputation, quality of service, workplace culture, advertising spend and word of mouth referrals as key indicators of a business’ success. If we had to list any one thing that contributes to the success of a business we would say one thing: productivity.

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After all, if you look at traits such as reputation or quality, they all rely on people being productive in order for them to happen.

You don’t get anywhere when you don’t do anything, and so we believe that a huge part of your success comes down to how productive you are. In order to get your business thriving we have outlined three key tips to get your business to a state of higher productivity.

Step One – Get the most important (or nasty) tasks done first

We all know what it feels like when you get to work in the morning, and staring you in the face is that task that you put off yesterday because you really didn’t feel like doing it. Don’t you wish you had just gotten it out of the way?

A key thing to know about getting work done is that if it’s unpleasant or important (or unpleasant AND important) you need to get it done, pronto. That way you will have attacked the task when you’re fresh and ready to go in the morning and you’ll have more time to spend on other tasks during the day. Plus, you won’t have the weight of an important task hanging over you like a guillotine.

Win win, really.

Step Two – Manage time like a boss

When you are a business owner you need to manage your time well, which includes managing the time of your employees as well, so make sure you can prioritise it. Strong time management will trickle down into other areas of your business, which will be sure to help your business and employees to be more productive.

Step Three – Don’t multitask

While you might think you’re working like a pro checking your emails and balancing out a couple of editing documents, all the while chatting online to a prospective client, the fact is that you’re not spending enough time on any of these tasks. An unwavering focus on one task at a time (with proper time management) will be the best way to manage your workload, and make sure that each task is getting the attention it needs..

Step Four – Get it done

Sometimes you won’t want to do certain things, and this is just part of being employed. While procrastination is an easy pitfall and it can be difficult to stay focussed on an unpleasant project, allowing things to build up will be much worse in the long term.

Step Five – Keep your eye on the prize 

Make sure you always having something to work towards. If you are a Melbourne business with the aim to expand into other states or territories, then you need to be looking ahead and investigating your options. Take a look at http://www.servcorp.com.au/en/virtual-offices/prices-locations/brisbane/ to see the various virtual offices on offer. If you become overwhelmed, hiring a business coach who can help you to grow can pay for itself in the long term, so don’t be scared to look for help in boosting your business potential.

Don’t forget to work on building a strong work culture and focus on developing a plan that you can adjust and change to suit your business as it grows. A company’s strength is in the productivity of its employees, and making sure they have the structure and ease to work effectively will quickly boost your business’ potential.

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Color Yourself a Better Business Owner with the Right Software

Using the right software for your enterprise can make you a Better Business Owner
Photo by CC user Joonspoon via Wikimedia Commons

What sets your tanning salon apart from competitors?

In many cases, you have better facilities, top-notch customer service, reasonable prices, and the ability to get customers in-and-out in an orderly manner.

If that last trait mentioned is a bit of an issue for your business, are you doing something about it?

When the assembly line if you will begins to slow down, you will not only get upset customers, but your financial well-being as a business owner can be hampered.

In order to avoid having that happen, having the right technology in place to move things along proves critical.

Keep Your Business Moving Forward

No matter what type of small business you run, production is the name of the game.

For example, if you running a tanning salon, you can’t have customers waiting endless times to use the booths. Customers must not be allowed to paying whenever they get around to it at their convenience. Lastly, you need to make sure all of your equipment is in tip-top shape.

So, how do you go about all these requirements, plus many more that come with being a small business head?

For the tanning salon owner in particular, he or she must make sure that the business is clicking on all cylinders. Disruptions in the normal everyday process can hamper business, perhaps even turn off customers.

If you decide to look into using tanning salon software, you want a program that offers the following:

  1. Scheduling – About as important as anything else you will do in running your salon, keeping clients scheduled on-time is important. As mentioned a moment ago, disruptions in the normal daily slate can lead to a backlog, one that can ultimately end up costing you dollars. With the right software in place, you are able to allow clientele to schedule the best time for them to come in for a session. Your software should also allow you to remind them via text or email of their pending visit, thereby greatly reducing the chances they will miss out on a slated appointment;
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  3. Convenience from afar – The ease with which both you and the clientele can coordinate schedules goes beyond just a regular computer. The right software will give you the ability to use a mobile device to check-in. Whether you are down the street from the salon or miles away, you can know exactly what the daily slate of appointments looks like. This eliminates unnecessary calls and emails going back-and-forth between the different parties;
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  5. Handling payments – The right software also helps you when it comes time for customers to pay their bills. Whether they pay by cash, credit card or check, making the checkout process easy is something every business owner wants for his or her company. When customers have a hard time paying (in terms of delays in sales being brought up etc.) they can be turned off by your business. If it happens one too many times, you may not see them again;
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  7. Overseeing your supply needs – Whether running a tanning salon or any kind of business that involves customers, services and products, ordering supplies on a regular basis is a necessity. As a result, you want to make sure your inventory needs are never cut short. If they are, you could once again have some unhappy clientele on your hands. By having software to automatically place and follow up on supply orders for you, you’ve removed yet one more obstacle to overseeing your business on a daily basis.

 

As you search for the best software out there, remember to review each and every provider, checking to see which one likely best fits your needs and financial means.

While you can do this via Internet searches, also check with those in the business (you may even be friends with some competitors) to see what line of software works best for them in their day-to-day business operations.

Running one’s own business is something countless people dream of over and over again.

When you have the right technology in place for your business dreams, those dreams can soon become a reality.

Is it time to color yourself a better business owner?

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