Tag Archives: business

Will the internet destroy traditional forms of information gathering?

Some of the biggest names in the world today emerged as a direct result of the Internet. For example, one of the most popular videos on YouTube “Gangnam Style” has been seen 2,092,676,383; the creator, Psy, has travelled the world and been received with lavish praise. The young popstar Justin Bieber emerged as a direct result of the same site. There’s little doubt it’s aided careers of performers all over the world to break into industries and accelerate their popularity.

The internet has of course changed various dynamics in how we get careers. Aside from world famous celebrities, many people are taking courses in subjects they either couldn’t or would never have thought of; the barriers to knowledge are mostly dropped as vast swathes of information are freely available for consumption. Everything from WikiPedia to the Guardian is available to read online.

Online learning has also taken off. Of course, many are not legitimate enterprises so it’s necessary to take stock of which ones are real and accredited, and which are not.

Many things can be done online, including various kinds of trading as seen with sites like Mirrovest. We can shop for our groceries and have them delivered to our door from accredited stores. We communicate and debate and laugh, we watch films and play games and investigate foreign countries – all from the comfort of monitors.

Many people might think this is detrimental to experiencing life itself. After all, looking at the sea from a monitor versus being at the beach are two different experiences. Falling to earth from outer space versus watching a Go-Pro of someone doing it are two different things.

The question is whether this is a difference in degree or kind.

Degree and not kind

Before the internet, did there exist a format where we experienced adventures, foreign lands, strange people, without ever leaving? Was there a way for us to communicate our opinions and ideas without engaging with them directly? Of course: that’s what books and letters were for.

Newspapers have been around for hundreds of years, conveying information from foreign places and about distant events. Again: people have not been directly involved in events they knew about and had an opinion about for ages.

The Internet does only one thing differently: it conveys things in real time (and notifies you). But being instant is the only way it is different in kind, rather than degree. Otherwise, the Internet is not particularly unique in how we as a species have engaged in information.

This means any concerns about how we learn and think and market, about how we advertise and distribute knowledge isn’t unique to the Internet. People have always had to think about the medium of communication. The Internet is simply the latest medium in a long, ever-growing list of forms we’ve communicated.

(Image credit: Rock1997 / Wikipedia)

Is franchising really worth the investment?

We’ve all encountered franchising, even if we haven’t realised it. Today, the major focus for nearly all businesses is its identity online and how it exists in the digital sphere.

To be able to assess franchising, however, especially in terms of the digital age, we should know what it is.  Franchising.com notes:

“Franchising is a network of interdependent business relationships that allows a number of people to share:

  • A brand identification

  • A successful method of doing business

  • A proven marketing and distribution system”

Obvious examples of this are usually places like fast food outlets. The actual description is that it is an arrangement, says the Business Dictionary:

“… where one party (the franchiser) grants another party (the franchisee) the right to use its trademark or trade-name as well as certain business systems and processes, to produce and market a good or service according to certain specifications.”

In the case of food outlets, it would be the logo, name, brand, etc., of, say, KFC or Chesanyama.

“The franchisee usually pays a one-time franchise fee plus a percentage of sales revenue as royalty, and gains (1) immediate name recognition, (2) tried and tested products, (3) standard building design and décor, (4) detailed techniques in running and promoting the business, (5) training of employees, and (6) ongoing help in promoting and upgrading of the products.”

This means deals are made between the franchise’s senior people, such as Praxia Nathanael, and the person wanting to use the various techniques, resources, etc. of the business. As a franchisee you benefit by being linked to an established brand, with access to its resources; as the franchise itself you get more visibility, more customers, more sales.

But franchises need not only be, say, another shop or outlet. They can also be digital spaces. For example, if you’re a franchise, how do you manage your digital presence – your, say, website – if you have franchisees.

As MSA Worldwide notes, in an article about the internet and franchising:

“There are … a host of issues that must be addressed, including whether a franchisor’s existing agreements with its franchisees allow them to enter into e-commerce and, once established, how the website will benefit not only the franchisor but its franchisees.”

The internet has been a great equaliser in terms of businesses, and this is perhaps its most important quality. Franchises must keep this in mind when managing their digital presence, before even considering the various policies in regard to what franchisees can and should do with regard to an online presence.

The Entrepreneur’s Mark Siebert writes:

“Two decades ago, if you wanted to compete with “the big boys,” you would need to advertise to get franchise sales leads… That kind of… commitment was simply not economically feasible for most startup franchisors.

Today, while the new franchisor has the same operational and legal costs to get into the marketplace, a college kid with a lemonade stand and a credit card can create a first-rate franchise website over a weekend, run pay-per-click ads on the front page of Google and be talking to prospects by Monday.”

The Internet is one new, major aspect to how businesses should consider themselves – and this will then carry over into their considerations for franchising. Some have made the argument that with the Internet, it’s probably better to consider partnership as opposed to franchising.

“There will be more networking on the Web instead of franchising,  [Vincent Thompson, principal at Middleshift] predicted. ‘In earlier years, Internet franchising may have made more sense, but no longer. The Internet has changed drastically since then. Business[es] online need much more than [what] is available through a franchise,’ he added.”

There is therefore plenty to consider when it comes to franchising, because there is a lot to consider with regard to business and its presence itself.

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

Starting a business while on a budget

The rise of megacorporations seem to happen like magic: one day there exist this number of business, then suddenly a new business emerges with billions in finances and offering services or products we didn’t know we needed. We imagine these spaces to come from some magical land, filled with fortune, where the owners were born into wealth or had wealthy clients and investors willing to support them. But the reality is far more complicated. Indeed there is no reason a powerful business, like powerful people, can’t begin from humble beginnings.

Success of business isn’t tied to any formula, but a number of different properties and factors.

“Success,” says Forbes’ Micha Kaufman, “ is mostly determined by liberal amounts of “sweat and hard” work. It’s why passion is so essential: It sustains us through the hard times, and rewards in ways money never can.”

Importantly, for Kaufman, being connected and engaged is essential – which is why, in this day of online connectivity there is no excuse. Indeed, so important is online presence that it’s almost unheard of to not have a website. But, also, how you respond to social media portrayals. People have lost entire careers after social media faux pas, resulting in businesses themselves suffering.

By being connected, you alert the world to your and your business’ existence. Great marketing like this can do wonders for your business and brand. Considering almost all the big social media brands and apps are free, you don’t need a budget at all for this – except to pay the hours for someone to manage it.

And here you can higher students: not only are younger people more tech-savvy than older, but also they can get the first steps into the world of adult careers. Interns don’t have to earn a salary, though it might be ethical practice to pay them. However, due to their inexperience, this means you never have to pay the same for someone who is an experienced social media manager.

Mark Kingsley-Williams, founder of Trade Mark Direct, told the Guardian there are important first steps that people should consider.

“Starting a business should be all about getting information quickly to prove whether the concept will work, not maximising margins from day one. It is better to start out renting or leasing premises, company vehicles, IT equipment, and so on, rather than buying, and taking on people as contractors rather than employees, which you could consider once the business is more established.”

So whether you take out asset finance or look for used cars for sale, it’s necessary and possible to keep your budget low for the beginning part.

The rest of it should then be a basis on obtaining more clients, improving your business strategy, increasing your workforce, expanding your business. This means more income and therefore a bigger business. And all of that, as we’ve seen can happen on a budget – but what that also means is it can happen because you’ve already demonstrated you can be smart.

Which is something any client or investor is looking for.

What is asset finance and how can it help your SME

The first concern of any business is balancing costs and expenses alongside retention and profit – in actual fact, mere survival. Obviously, the aim is to have more of the latter and less of the former: at the very least, you want them to even out in a way that allows you at least some profit. There are many ways to help achieve this, but one important way is to consider asset finance, due to every business needing assets in the first place to at all survive.

Asset finance

In order for you to even function, a business requires assets. Assets are usually considered to be those things like equipment, cars, etc., that allow you to do the business at all. However, when starting a business, obtaining the best assets – which allows you to do the best business – can be difficult, if not impossible. After all, you’ve put a lot of money down already into the business; now you need even more to merely make it function.

Asset finance is an umbrella term about financial solutions to obtain assets without incurring too much of a penalty, if done and chosen correctly. One financial assistance site notes:

“Many businesses don’t have enough available cash to consider an outright purchase, making asset finance a necessity. Even if you can afford it, you want to put your money to good use and investing cash in assets leaves you with less working capital to finance operations or explore new growth opportunities. The flexibility of asset finance allows you to align repayments to suit your cash flow and you may be able to claim tax deductions.”

Thus, there is a way to work on obtaining the desired assets while also keeping your costs lower.

Options

But, as we noted, asset finance is an umbrella term.

For example, you get the option of leasing the asset. This is, as the name suggests, paying to use the item. At no point, of course, do you own it. There is usually no deposit, but that depends; further you are tied to a certain amount of time, since this means the lender obtains a profit from their leasing service.

The obvious advantage is that you can acquire new items that help your services quickly. You can even sometimes have the option to own the product, if you have enough money – though that’s not the point of leasing itself.

There is also “hire purchase”, which means:

“Giving you a fixed or variable rate, with this option you generally pay the VAT and an initial deposit at the start – followed by a simple, structured repayment profile designed to facilitate cash flow.”

Thus, at the end you own the asset entirely, but manage your payment in a way that makes the least impact on your cashflow.

Impact on business

As a growing business, you need to be doing all you can to keep costs low. And asset finance, and its different options and perspectives, as well as the option to acquire said assets, makes for an important consideration. Of course, if you had the money in the first place, it would be best to purchase – but that can be an option for later, when your business has grown and the assets are in place to secure a financially viable future.

3 must-haves for a small business

The business of being in business is no easy feat. There are so many factors to take into consideration to ensure the profitability of an offering. From attracting customers, retaining them, converting them to purchase goods, to having them return for additional purchases are all the functions a business owner needs to tend to. Not forgetting the all-important after sales service.

When businesses are run alone, business owners often find themselves struggling to tend to these essential business functions optimally. The introduction of business convenience mechanisms is thus vital to the survival of small businesses. These mechanisms, largely electronic based, help business owners to effectively manage and grow their businesses.

Business software

Back in the day, businesses manually recorded all sales and other important business related information. Today, this is no longer necessary and in fact, it is deemed very burdensome to do so. With the introduction of software packages to see to these tasks, business owners are provided with convenient accounting software to record transactions and manage the finances of their businesses easily. In addition, businesses can easily pull reports to gauge the growth of the business.

The core of a business is its customers, and managing customer information is thus vital to the success of a business. Customer relationship software is a must-have for businesses to retain their customer base as it can track customer purchase behavior, the profiling of clientele and also assists in regular engagements with them. There are a number of different software packages available for businesses, but the use of these packages is essential for businesses to run efficiently.

Security

Theft is rife within businesses and proper precautions need to be taken to ensure that no financial losses are sustained as a result. One surefire way to curb theft is the presence of closed circuit cameras. As much as it can help identify perpetrators in the event of theft, it can also act as a deterrent for burglars who are looking to pocket merchandise or equipment. Other deterrents such as alarm systems, security gates and window protection also add to the overall security of a business.

If a business sees a large amount of foot traffic, the installation of turnstiles also adds an element of safety as it gives customers one way to enter and exit. This limits the chances of someone entering and exiting the store without paying as they will need to exit at a designated point. Moreover, intelligent turnstiles can assist the business owner with important customer information through tracking the amount of people who enter the business. For example, if a business sees a certain amount of traffic into the business, but this traffic doesn’t convert into sales, there is likely to be a problem with the price of goods or how appealing the merchandise is to customers. By knowing this information, a business owner can easily adapt his or her strategy to convert these mere feet into once-off or repeat customers.

A website

A website for a small business is essential. However, the development of a website alone is not enough – it needs to be found by those who are looking for it. For this reason, content on the website needs to be optimized for search engines and also be free from any vagueness.  By its very nature, a website exposes a business to prospective customers like no other channel or platform would. It gives visitors an indication of what the business offers and where to find the business. This mechanism, if used properly, can be a major driver for sales and can serve as a means for growth too.

The mistake most small business owners make is to create a website and leave it unchanged forever. A website needs to be updated regularly so that it can be more appealing to its viewers, but more importantly, so that it can rank better when searched for in Google. Lastly, a website should be seen as the windows to a business, if it is covered and the contents of the store is not visible, people are less likely to enter and make a purchase. Should it be clear, with the contents of the store visible, it is more appealing to passersby and would probably result in a sale of some kind.