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Tips to protect your home from criminals

Criminals are looking for homes that are easy targets. There are specific ingredients that make a perfect crime. And you might be unknowingly contributing to being a victim.

Surprisingly most burglaries happen between 10am and 3pm. Most people are not at home at these times, making their homes vulnerable to opportunistic thieves. And they usually start in the master bedroom first because it has the most valuables.

There are many ways to protect yourself from criminals by making sure you adequately secure your home.

Join the neighbourhood watch.

When you are a part of the neighbourhood watch you will be more secure. You will be able to find out which areas are crime hotspots and which routes to avoid when going to work or coming home. The neighbours will also let each other know of any suspicious-looking people roaming the area and also any recent criminal activity that has occurred in the neighbourhood.

Cover your garage windows

Protect your cars by ensuring that you have blinds or curtains for the windows in your garage. And always lock the gates and close the garage doors. If you don’t lock the doors and your windows are bare, you make yourself vulnerable to criminals. So put curtains on windows. If you leave your cars and motorbikes visible then criminals are likely to target your house.

Install burglar bars in your home

The harder it is for criminals to get into your house, the more secure it will be. Install them all on your windows and get gates for your  sliding doors.

Install an alarm system

An alarm system is one of the best ways to guard your house. It gives you peace of mind during the day when you are at work, knowing that your house is protected. And if you are present in your house, you are comforted knowing that help is only a press of a button away. Intruders are also usually wary of houses that have alarm system signs on their walls, windows or gates.

Check your house for any hiding places

Trees and shrubs are perfect hiding places for criminals. Prune your trees so that criminals will not be able to use them.

Be wary of what you post on social media

You wouldn’t announce to your whole neighbourhood that your house will be vacant because you are going away. So why do it on social media? When you’re going on vacation, don’t post it on Facebook, Twitter or any social platform. There might be a perpetrator reading and they might take the opportunity to raid your house. You should also avoid posting personal information such as your address.

Be careful where you hide your spare key

There are some instance that require you to leave the spare key at home. Maybe your child comes early from school or you will be away for a weekend. Don’t leave your spare house keys under mats, dustbins and pot plants. Criminals know these hiding spots and they’re  the first places they will look. Rather choose to leave your house keys with neighbours that you trust.

Motion sensor lights

Motion sensor lights will alarm thieves because they’ll be caught off guard.

Passive infrared detector – These type of lights detect heat, such as a human body, when it passes under the light and it sounds the alarm.

Active ultrasonic sensors – They detect moving objects. An intruder will be alarmed and then might take off.

Keep away from exposing your assets

Park your expensive cars and motorbikes in the garage. If you have just bought new appliances, computers, laptops and flat screen TVs, shred the boxes of these appliances and put them in black plastic bags.

Don’t leave your mail lying around

When you go away on vacation for a long time, ask a friend or family member to take collect your mail for you. A mailbox that has letters and bills overflowing from it is a dead giveaway that you are away. Criminals usually monitor a neighbourhood beforehand. And if they can see your house is empty, they will target it.

Protect your business

If you have a home-based business, make sure that it’s secured. Criminals are more likely to target homes that are used for businesses. It could be any business, a hair salon, spa etc. Criminals are more likely to target a house that also has a business in it because sales will be made. And they can steal any money made that day. And they can also take assets such as computers, fax machines, printers and cell phones.

Cameras are always a good idea

If you have the budget, you can splurge on security camera’s and video wall controllers that will help you monitor any activity. This will give you actual footage if a crime had to take place in your home and will show you when there’s an intruder.

Protecting the home is a vital tool for your peace of mind. When you are away for long periods, you will not have to stress. The more secure your home, the more criminals will be deterred.

 

Tips for getting investment capital for startups

Probably one of the greatest challenges for entrepreneurs is cashflow. It’s a surety that many entrepreneurs have spent sleepless nights thinking about the age-old question, ‘How do I find the money to start my business?’. There isn’t any magic to it, and there’s certainly nobody waiting in the wings, ready to throw money at you just because you’ve a new and exciting business idea.

On the flip side of the coin, a new business offers many creative options that simply aren’t available if you were buying a car, home or large consumer item. As an entrepreneur, you’ll need to think long and hard about your options and be tenacious in your approach. If one or two options don’t work for you, there are always other options. So here are a number of ideas that could help you source the money you so desperately crave.

Open your wallet first

Consider using your savings, home equity or retirement accounts. Sure, it’s risky. But if you were risk averse, you probably wouldn’t be an entrepreneur. And if you don’t have the confidence in your own idea, by backing it with some of your own money, then how could you expect investors to? Investors tend to back entrepreneurs with more than just good work ethic.

Seek a loan or line of credit from the bank

Typically speaking, this option won’t be available to new startups unless you’ve got an already established credit history without blemish or existing assets that you’re willing to use as collateral. If, however, you are fortunate enough to have this option open to you, then it’s an incredibly safe and stable form of finance, one that’ll hopefully transfer to your business. This option of corporate finance is, therefore, more attractive for those who already have a relationship with the banks.

Back your bootstraps: Fund yourself

Paying off your business’ financial commitments as you go using the revenue earned from early adopters is certainly one way to balance your business’ resource-finance scale. As a startup entrepreneur, nothing is more scarce (except perhaps sleep). The more you’re able to learn to bootstrap in the beginning, the easier it will be for you to find ways to raise other sources of capital. And the advantage is that you don’t have to relinquish any dividends or control over the idea.

Keep your fixed costs to a minimum: Share office space or equipment as much as possible. Co-locate with another small company, use the computers and servers you have and try and avoid any major capital purchases.

And consider your variable costs as though they were your own money: Seek trade credit agreements with key suppliers, save on travel for business with smart scheduling and teleconferencing – a Skype call is far cheaper than a flight from Cape Town to Joburg, hire interns from local universities or design schools.

Pick those you partner with carefully

As an entrepreneur, there’s nothing quite like finding a supplier, distributor or customer (first prize) who sees your business solution as an absolute necessity and is willing to help foot the bill alongside you. So why not plan for success from the get-go?

It’s far healthier for your business to create relationships and iron out the kinks as you go along, than to try break into already-established relationships once the company is ready to grow.

If your business solution is as critical for the market as you hope it is, then there will be potential early adopters. If they think that you’ve got what they need, they’ll be willing to open their wallets. Early adopters are good in that they provide invaluable perspective on what’s good with the product/service and what needs improving.

Don’t be afraid to try crowdfunding

Exploding Kittens, a simple card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats, became the most backed campaign in the history of Kickstarter. If 219,382 people could back a game with $8,782,571, then why not your idea? Crowdfunding is the newest source of funding, where anyone can participate as exemplified in online sites such as the aforementioned Kickstarter. Here people make online pledges to your startup during a campaign, essentially pre-buying your product for later delivery through donations.

Pitch your financial requirements to friends and family

As a general rule, other potential investors will probably already expect you to have some form of commitment from this source as a sign of your credibility. If your friends and family don’t believe you, how can you expect outsiders to? This is the primary source of non-personal funds for very-early start ups. It also offers you a safer, less risky space to practice your pitch.

Of course every option has its pros and cons, and not every one may be available or even attractive to you. Some are difficult for first-time entrepreneurs to swallow. Others simply don’t work for your circumstance. Thus, it’s always a question of what you qualify for and what you’re willing to give up to turn your dream business opportunity into a viable and stable business. Best of luck to you.

What to do in 2017 to benefit investors

As you begin winding down your business this year, you might think it’s time to switch off all your faculties to prepare for your much needed rest. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. The end of year is a time to reflect on where you did well and where you could’ve improved. Your shareholders still have their interests tied to your company and profits aren’t going to magically come about through sheer force of will. But you may still need more people to invest in your company. As you close 2016, it’s time look at 2017 as a fresh start and a way to begin finding ways to make your company more attractive to investors.

Who needs investors?

As a business owner, you are obviously aware of the need for investors. But it might be wise to take a few minutes to reflect on this. Businesses seek investors for the same reason any person does: money. By acquiring investors, you are able to use funds to deliver on products or services, ideally netting yourself profits. Of course, there are other options, such as corporate finance. Increasingly, you will find more clients and customers, increase your work and income. Also, the ideal model requires fewer liabilities because profits depend on how much you retain (after liabilities), not how much you earn. By making profits, this benefits you and then benefits the investors. It’s important to remember this when considering what kind of investor you want to approach.   

As Entrepreneur magazine notes:

“It helps to understand how the investors you’re pitching will make money for themselves. The formula for paying investors is often not as simple as taking their return on investment and allocating it equally among the key players. For angel funds, venture capital funds and other investment partnerships, there are often complex formulas for how the individuals involved in managing investments make money. You should keep [this] in mind when developing your fundraising approach.”

They then detail what works for different kinds of investors. It’s important to keep this in mind, plotting your business strategy accordingly. But investors seek what anyone would expect them to seek: a business with smart, data-based plans for growth.

But unpacking this is what will lead you to become more attractive to potential investors.

What investors want in a business

You might think it’s easy to outline a plan and deliver it to investors. But, unfortunately, that’s not sufficient. Speaking to Forbes, investor Barbara Corcoran noted how important very human questions were in determining the direction of her investment.

“She gives them what she calls the ‘lifeboat’ test. She asks herself after a few minutes spent with them, ‘Would I want to be in a lifeboat with this person? Do I like them enough to be in a lifeboat with them? Would they go down with me, or throw me overboard to save themselves?’ What is Barbara really saying? She’s saying she better instinctively trust you. She is looking for is an innate sense of trust that she either feels or doesn’t feel by following her instincts. She admits that it’s not an exact science, but she has always regretted not listening to her gut and it’s cost her money.”

The reason for this has to do, says Corcoran, with honesty. While her methodology might seem unscientific, her reasons are sound. No one wants their money going toward individuals who might swindle you. You need to present yourself as trustworthy, able to show facts and be upfront about your issues.

As CEO Ashwin Kamlani notes: “Tell potential investors both sides of the story. While it may be tempting to only focus on the huge potential that your business has in order to generate excitement, it is equally essential to talk about the weaknesses of the business in order to generate confidence. This might sound counter intuitive, but this shows potential investors that you really know your business, you have thought it through and that you are either prepared, or are preparing for potential threats.”

Anyone can find data points and show the growth of their business. You can even hire professionals to do so. Investors know this, so what they seek are those few who are willing to be open and honest about the direction their business could go. No one believes there exists a perfect business. Just as with everything humans do, there will be flaws somewhere. Showing investors you know where these flaws are doesn’t undermine your business – it shows them you are aware of the flaws and you believe things will work regardless. Or, better yet, you’ve shown them how you can work through the flaws (ideally, to solve them).

The other important element investors find attractive are those dynamics that put your business over the edge. That is, what about you or your business gives you a competitive edge? Why you and not your competition? Figuring this out should be key to all your business plans, of course, but it must be given full force when you present it to investors.

In 2017, investors want to see more honesty and, as the market grows, competitive edge that benefits them. Investors don’t necessarily have to understand every aspect of your goals or strategy, but you need to show them why your business and why you, personally, are the right choice for their investment.

Calculators, crowdfunding, content marketing: Business trends for 2017

No one could predict most of the major events of this year. Few, for example, predicted the American election would take the turn it did. Hardly anyone would’ve said that Britain would be leaving the European Union. Yet, these startling events occurred and had – and will continue to have – a massive impact on business around the world. Looking toward 2017, you should seriously consider what possibilities could occur that could have an impact, negative or positive, on your business. As everyone enters the final parts of this year and is winding down to enjoy some much needed rest, it’s also the best time to begin assessing what trends you can expect to see.

Crowdfunding

There’s little doubt that crowdfunding has, in some cases, been an enormous success. Almost all businesses have relied on raising funds from other people in order to cover startup costs. Crowdfunding, however, doesn’t rely on rich investors or public stocks. Instead, it focuses on small amounts from a large number of people using the reach of the internet, without any claim of ownership (as per shareholders) from backers. Kickstarter, for example, is the most well-known crowdfunding platform. Pebble smartwatch broke records twice, as CNN Tech reports:

“It broke its first record on its first day, when it became the fastest project to raise $1 million – in 49 minutes. A week later, it became the most-funded campaign in Kickstarter’s history after receiving more than $13.3 million in pledges.”

Crowdfunding is so popular, even scientists are turning to it as an alternative to the frustration of seeking grants. Businesses must begin taking crowdfunding seriously, both in terms of how they can raise funds when public stock is not an option and in terms of sudden competitors. Apple, a major corporation, for example, had to contend with the crowdfunded Pebble in the smartwatch industry. If crowdfunding can create that kind of dynamic, it is an area well worth watching.

Calculators

Determining a business’ funds is central to keeping it alive. After all, without that knowledge, you could make decisions that end up harming your business. To that end, more and more businesses will use various kinds of calculators to help them make financial decisions. Whether it’s a car repayment calculator or plant and machinery finance calculator, business owners will continue to use online tools to help them determine their financial status. Before, you would have to shell out enormous amounts of money to obtain this kind of data, but these simple programs let anyone do it almost instantly.

Cost-cutting has become priority for businesses all over the world. As Small Business.co.uk notes:

“Some 58 per cent of UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be prioritising reducing costs in the New Year, according to a study by Liberis. Business owners prioritise reducing costs over expanding their business or developing the skills of their staff. Survey respondents also mention Brexit, rising costs and Donald Trump as challenges that their businesses expect to face in 2017, which may explain why business owners and managers plan to reduce costs next year.”

Therefore, anyway you can reduce costs should be investigated. This is particularly the case if it’s a matter merely of knowing where to reduce costs.

Content marketing

One of the most important parts of business is marketing. However, in an increasingly broad environment with many businesses competing for the same audience, this has proved increasingly difficult. One way that businesses have tried to stay ahead is putting themselves on the first results of Google and other search engines. However, there have been constantly evolving strategies to achieve this. One of these has been content marketing.

As one Forbes writer noted, Tesla have become masters at this.

“Tesla provided articles and videos to help educate me as a consumer, and build trust surrounding the purchase. Through its marketing, Tesla established an innovative brand that helped me conclude that they have a long-term vision and position for the company. As Marcus Sheridan teaches, top companies engage their front-line sales teams to identify topics for content marketing, and the content marketing team helps sales professionals to effectively use content in the sales process.”

This helps drive sales from their content and their website. Google is constantly changing how it ranks websites, meaning marketing teams have had to rethink strategies in order to drive pageviews and therefore higher ranking for specific keywords and terms. In this way, their company comes up when people are looking for the relevant topic. 2017 will see this strategy continue, as more people focus on the complexities of searching online.

In these ways, 2017 is an expansion on what’s occurring at the moment. You need to be constantly on your toes as a business person. Here’s hoping 2017 will be a better year for everyone.

How to manage and foster talent in a work environment

Everyone wants to improve their abilities and have those abilities rewarded. Importantly, businesses should be aware of this in terms of staff management. We don’t merely want people who are good at the job they do now – we want those who are capable of learning more and completing more complicated, higher level tasks later. In this way, we help create the very people we need in upper levels of the business.

We should therefore consider the ways we can foster talent.

Talent management matters

Business owners are often more invested in the business’ day-to-day occurrences and sometimes can’t afford to take resources away from investing in the people they employ. However, this is detrimental to the business. Sometimes, they hire talent management professionals to help. They focus on identifying, developing and retaining leadership talent. They work in coordination with a business’ HR department.

However, as the Harvard Business Review points out:     

“A 2012 EY survey of almost 600 global business executives found that talent management functions often measure the easy things (such as employee retention) while overlooking other factors that are important for organizational success (such as whether the right people, with the right skills, are in the right jobs).”

This doesn’t mean we should negate talent management. But, as experts point out, relying on external efforts negates internal processes. This, as a whole, undermines the growth of the business.

How to manage talent

One of the best ways to develop talent is to track it. Regular reviews about job performance helps to show the direction someone is taking. The problem with focusing on external input is that this negates the internal relationships managers form with workers. Knowing them on a personal levels helps managers know what is best for the employee. They can figure out employees’ interests and align business tasks toward such interests, meaning the employee can feel more fulfilled in the job.

Another important way to encourage development of talent is reward. While ideally workers would focus on their own improvement for their own reasons, we should offer rewards. For example, an increased salary if they attend various courses – whether it’s communication or HR management courses – goes a long way to creating the very people we want. They are more skilled and able to deliver on a number of areas – and because they work for us, we don’t need to search for such people since we’ve, essentially, made them ourselves.