Jul 1 2014

Small Investments Any Business Should Make to Encourage Sales

By |July 1st, 2014|General Personal Finance|1 Comment|

Everyone knows the adage that you have to spend money to make money, but when your retail store is losing money, the last thing you want to do is spend more money. The issue is that without spending a little money right away, you could be missing out on some huge revenue. There are a few small investments you can make to encourage sales and recoup your money in a short period of time. Here are just a few of the great ideas you can start using right now to engage more and sell to your enthusiastic customers.

Get Out from Behind the Counter

Customers love it when you’re on the floor offering to help or trying to speed up their shopping experience. The problem many retail store owners encounter is someone needs to be behind the counter ringing people up. In fact, there are new portable, wireless scanners that tie in with an iPad POS system which allow your sales team to be on the floor rather than stuck behind the counter. You can set up the sales floor as a large display rather than one where your customers pick out the items they want. According to Small Business Chronicle, as soon as you scan the barcode with the portable scanner, it will be entered into the system. Once this happens, the item can be pulled and bagged in the back. Everything is handled as the customer is picking out items. This not only makes it more convenient for the customer to walk around without being hindered by their selections. It also makes it possible for your customers to buy more. They will not concentrate on how many items they’re holding in their hands. Rather, they’re going to concentrate on the next item they want.

Manage Your Inventory Better

The POS system that’s tied to your barcode scanner that can be purchased by ecommerce solution provider like Shopify is a necessary tool whether you want to use the barcode scanner or not. You receive so many benefits from the POS system that Business Know How likens it to flying blind in an airplane with no controls if you’re absent of one. Since the iPad you have is a perfect outlet for you to install POS software, you can simply install the software and you’re on your way. Consider how you’re going to use the software. It’s perfect for managing your inventory, because all you have to do is input it all into the system and set it so every time you make a sale, it will draw from the inventory. As you start to develop a sales history, you can plan for slow or busy periods. You’ll never again have to turn customers away from buying what they want because you weren’t prepared for the rush you get every year.

Utilize Displays to Spark Conversations

Displays are a very important part of any successful business. If you take the time to purchase and set up displays which highlight your products, your customers will pay more attention to them. Make sure the display includes information about the product as well as some examples in which the customer can utilize the product in their life to solve a problem. Additionally, sales associates can show customers the product displays to foster sales, according to Transworld Business. Your display should include everything from color photos to graphics and even content centered on the product and its many uses. Remember to think about your customers and what they enjoy. If you know your customers, this should be an easy exercise. Don’t go overboard with your displays though. Setting up too many displays tends to detract from their power, because it is an assault on the senses.

Utilize iPads as Advertising Platforms

Everyone loves to interact with an iPad, or any other tablet for that matter. There’s something thoroughly engaging about being able to touch a screen and look up information. Best of all, the iPad provides the perfect environment to create an interactive environment. With technology being focused on as one of the biggest trends in retail, according to Marketing Week, it’s important to utilize it wherever you can. Rather than investing in major technological displays, you can purchase a few iPads and set them in holders which prevent users from hitting the home button. Set up software on the iPad to show all of your products or just to highlight the ones in front of the user. They can learn all about the products in a fun and entertaining way. Your customers are sure to tell all their friends about how cool it is to shop at your store as a result.

Jul 1 2014

Ensuring Financial Stability and Business Continuity with Reliable Chauffeur Insurance

By |July 1st, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off|

When starting a chauffeur business the glamour and hobnob with celebs is what attracts most amateur businessmen and chauffeurs. Picking important people up and dropping them at their destinations seem like an easy job. And indeed, when it comes to business, chauffeur business does seem like an easy and highly profitable way to earn money and get a slice of the celeb life.

What should make you think again?

What if your vehicle faces an accident with someone “important” on the backseat? What if that person decides to sue your company? You cannot simply wail and pine about the misfortune, but you must be prepared to fight back. There are a number of hurdles that stand in the way of a new business to become successful. Clouds of misfortune may loom over any and every successful business irrespective of current profit margin. One must be prepared to cross these hurdles and always end up on the right side of the profit margin.

Why insure your vehicle or your fleet?

Buying an insurance policy for your vehicle is not an option; in fact not having one is an illegal thing to do. However besides compulsion there are other reasons that should drive you to buy a chauffeur insurance policy. Did you know that insurance assets account for 12% of total global financial assets? This means that, insurance is seen in the light of a good investment by many successful businessmen in this world. Very practically speaking, if an insurance policy pays the damages to the third party as well as you, then it is indeed worth paying for.

Insurance and assurance

insurance

photo credit: flickr

Having an insurance means you are protected against third party damage. In case of a broken down car, you will be given a replacement car that will keep your business going. A chauffeur insurance is like the lifeline for a successful and profitable business. It will save you from paying the exuberant compensations or settlements, the expensive lawyers and other hefty expenses. A good insurance policy is much like an assurance of good business. Insurance is something that shields a budding business from the hard days.

Ensure good financial health of your business with the right policy

The type of vehicle you drive, the number of vehicles and the type of trade will determine the best suited policy for you. Private hire and public hire are the two main categories of insurance policies. Private hire includes all vehicles that ply on a pre-arranged or pre-booked basis. And the public hire deal with minicabs, regular cabs etc. you may own a single luxury car or a fleet of regular cars, you will find a policy that was tailor-made for you. If you are the owner of a fleet, it is better for you to insure all of them together instead of individually.

Annual payment policies, complete compensation options, replacement vehicles, there are hundreds of reasons beside compulsion which should lead you to opt for a chauffeur insurance policy. Having a policy makes sure that your business thrives even when faced with tricky challenges.

Jun 23 2014

5 Degrees That Are Worth The Investment

By |June 23rd, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off|

We’re told at a young age to pursue what we love and that everything will fall into place when we pursue our passions. Millions of people follow this advice when entering college and find themselves studying music, history, philosophy, psychology, sports management, or similar programs. While these all teach valuable life skills that lead to a more fulfilling life, the job market’s demand for these skills is notoriously limited. If you’re looking for a degree that will pay for itself, try one of these five excellent programs.

1. Graphic Design

graphic design

Image via Flickr by University of Salford Press Office

If you’ve got a flair for creativity and like to create something new every day, a degree in graphic design may be right for you. Graphic designers develop every part of a business’ visuals to capture the audience’s attention. Graphic designers might choose color palettes and shapes for user interfaces, develop eye-catching banner photos and flyers, retouch photos, and oversee practically all visual materials that represent the company they work for. Most businesses will need a solid graphic designer at some point, whether it’s just a one-time project or for ongoing long-term needs. Demand will always be high for these clever and talented individuals, and with a median salary of $44,150, the pay isn’t too bad either.

2. Criminal Justice

crime

Image via Flickr by West Midlands Police

criminal justice degree is ideal for people who would like to be a part of the thin blue line that protects honest, law-abiding citizens from those that might want to do them harm. There are many types of occupations that fall under the criminal justice umbrella, including crime scene analysts, game wardens, detectives, attorneys, substance abuse counselors, and many more. What all these individuals share is a desire to uphold the law and help protect the greater good of society. Many of these jobs have great salaries and require a human touch, meaning they won’t be replaced by machines or computers anytime soon (or ever, really).

3. Medicine

nurses

Image via Flickr by Seattle Municipal Archives

A degree in medicine or anything else that falls under the health care industry is a popular choice for people who are blessed with both a sharp mind and compassion for others. However, getting a start in this field requires many years of education and on-the-job training — which makes sense, since you’re literally making the difference between life and death on a fairly regular basis. Physicians and surgeons have a very healthy job outlook and were raking in around $187,200 a year in 2012. Degrees in medicine usually come with a high price tag, but many are willing to take that burden knowing the high reward that awaits them after all those years of school.

4. Accounting

calculator

Image via Flickr by kenteegardin

If you enjoy working with numbers and problem-solving, you’ll feel right at home with an accounting degree. With job openings in virtually every city in the nation, accountants are responsible for tracking and maintaining complex budgets for businesses and government agencies. You’ll gain valuable insight into the dynamics of taxes and economics, all while bringing home a pretty hefty paycheck — in 2012, accounts had a median wage of $63,550, and have the potential to make upwards of six figures as they advance through their careers.

5. Law

law

Image via Flickr by ~ Paige ~

A degree in law opens the door to one of the most lucrative careers out there. In a nutshell, lawyers are responsible for interpreting law and making sure their clients don’t break it. Unlike TV courtroom dramas, lawyers actually spend a majority of their profession reviewing and writing legal texts and navigating a tricky bureaucracy. But with all that hard work comes some great pay — the median salary of a lawyer in 2012 was $113,530. However, it’s very difficult to enter this field without a graduate level degree, so you may want to get your undergrad in something like criminal justice first.

A college education is a big investment, so make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

Jun 23 2014

Myths and Realites About Your Wedding

By |June 23rd, 2014|Blog, Life|6 Comments|

A few weeks ago I got married to the love of my life and it was truly the best day I’ve had in my 29+ years on this Earth. The day honestly went better than I expected and for the most part I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out.

Looking back on the day, I realize that there are a few things things that people say about every wedding. Some of them turned out to be true, and others turned out to be completely false. If anyone out there is engaged or hopes to get married one day, here are some of the things we learned from our wedding day.

“You won’t have time to eat.” – FALSE

Any time we told people about our reception and the food we were serving, people would say “It’s too bad you aren’t going to have time to eat any of it.” There’s this myth that the bride and groom are going to be too busy socializing to be able to enjoy dinner at the reception.

For us, this was completely false. I was paying a crap-ton of money to throw this party, and at the very least I was going to enjoy the food. We talked with the DJ and the venue and made sure that the head table (where we were sitting with our wedding party) was dismissed to the buffet first.

We loaded up our plates and had one of the most delicious meals we’ve eaten in a long time. Our reception food was better than I even thought it would be (we didn’t get to try it beforehand) and we were able to eat and socialize with our friends.

If you make eating a priority like we did, then you’ll have no problem getting food on your wedding day/night.

“10% of people who said they will attend won’t show up.” – TRUE

Every person we invited to the wedding cost us money, so I was trying my best to make sure we had an exact count and that when we paid for 128 people, we had 128 people show up.

We felt really confident that we had the right number, and then things happened. Some people get sick. Some people have family issues that come up. Some people are just so old that after the wedding, they are too tired to make it to the reception. Some people don’t show up and you have no idea why (we still haven’t heard from some people).

I thought we had our number nailed down, and we had at least 10% of people not show up (some told us beforehand, others didn’t).

My suggestion to anyone getting married. Either reduce your number by 10% or have some backups ready to sit in. We had quite a few friends in town that we wanted to invite but didn’t have the money to add them. Looking back, we should have told them they are first on the list if someone doesn’t show. To some people that’s probably an awkward conversation (“We want you to come but can’t afford it, but if someone doesn’t show you can take their spot”) but I wish I had done it so we had more people celebrate with us.

“Nothing will go as planned.” – TRUE

As I said before, this was the best day of our lives and we really had a lot of fun. With that being said, the schedule we laid out for the day of the wedding wasn’t even close. Here are just a few deviations from the schedule:

  • My bride didn’t show up to the church on time for pictures because the hair dresser and makeup took longer than expected.
  • We were told we only had 30 minutes for pictures after the ceremony. We got 45-50 minutes and could have had longer.
  • Basically everything at the reception was played by ear and our entire 5 hour schedule was thrown out the window.

Our plans never really materialized, but honestly that’s okay. It was kind of nice at the reception knowing that everyone was having such a good time that we didn’t have to do any of the “tricks” to get people back on the dance floor. People were dancing all night long so we just kept it going.

Who needs plans anyway?

Readers: Do you have any other wedding day advice to people who might be getting married soon?

Jun 12 2014

Spent: Looking for Change Documentary Review

By |June 12th, 2014|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|2 Comments|

So I came across an interesting documentary the other day called Spent: Looking For Change Sponsored by American Express. It’s a documentary about four families who have fallen on hard financial times and have essentially been booted out of the traditional financial systems that most of us (including me) use every day.

Even though I know a little about having financial trouble (I grew up with a single mom living on disability and social security while we stayed in my grandparents’ basement), I’ve really never been denied access to traditional banking. It’s an interesting video and is only about 40 minutes, so I do recommend watching it if you have time.

I’ll post the video below, and I’ll also give my review of each of the four families and how I can relate to them, as well as what financial options I think they may want to consider.

Debbie – Small Business Owner – Can’t Get Business Funding

As you guys know, I’ve always admired entrepreneurs and would love to be one someday (although I just took a new job and am really focusing on my career for the next few years). Debbie’s story was very interesting to me and I have a feeling it’s going to turn out to have a happy ending.

Debbie makes leather purses, bags, and clutches and sells them to boutique stores and on her website. According to the video, her bags are great and her business would be booming if she could only afford the materials to fill all her orders. Unfortunately she has too much student loan debt ($100k) and not enough credit to get a loan. It sounds like she’s a great investment, but apparently banks don’t see it that way.

Kevin’s Financial Advice: If the story is true then she literally just needs money for materials so she can fill orders and get paid. In that case, I’m actually amazed that she doesn’t have access to loans from a bank. However she can look to private investors and, assuming her business is as strong as the documentary makes it out to be, should have no trouble getting a loan that will help her fulfill orders and grow her company.

Furthermore, I think she should consider a Kickstarter campaign. Here’s just one example of a guy who got over $17k with a Kickstarter campaign for making leather bags, and he probably didn’t have the benefit of a documentary with over 7 million views as free marketing. If I were Debbie, I’d start a kickstarter campaign immediately and hopefully use this publicity to have people to “kickstart” her business.

Alex and Melissa – Health Issues – Stuck in Payday Loan Cycle

This is the other family that really spoke to me in this film. Alex, the father, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and the disability left him unable to work. That’s exactly what happened to my mom when I was very young. My mom was a flight attendant, but was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and couldn’t physically perform the duties of her job.

SpentMy mom was divorced so she didn’t have a 2nd income to fall back on (so we moved in with Grandma and Grandpa). Luckily Alex has Melissa, and her income was able to keep them above water but just barely. They tried to live on only cash because they were afraid of credit card debt, but this left them unable to get a loan when they needed one because they didn’t have any credit.

They eventually turned to a Payday loan to make ends meet and they ended up borrowing $450 and paying $1,700 in fees on that loan. Ouch! They finally got some help from a neighbor to get out of the Payday Loan cycle but it seems like they are still struggling and remain without access to traditional banking.

Kevin’s Financial Advice: It’s good that they got out from under the Payday loan, but they have a ways to go. I would recommend that Alex find a job that he can do with his MS (my mom did and I think he can too, although I don’t know the severity of his disease). It may not be his dream job, but he needs to support his family.

Secondly, they need to build credit. They can’t go back to Payday Loans to get credit when they need it. Start with a secured card, pay the small fees, and work your way up from there.

Justin – Small Business Owner – Can’t Get Approved for a Mortgage

Justin is another entrepreneur and this time his business is really doing well. Unfortunately he had a very difficult childhood, which included him being on his own at 16 years old. He accumulated some debt when he was very young and never paid it off. That bad debt has ruined his credit score and now keeps him from qualifying for a mortgage.

Luckily he hasn’t fallen into any financial traps since then. He does pay fees to get his checks cashed because he can’t get a regular bank account, but other than that he has avoided debt and Payday Loans. He makes good money but just can’t insert himself into the financial system and build credit.

Kevin’s Financial Advice: I would suggest Justin do 2 things. First he should get into the financial system with a secured credit card and start building credit. He’ll end up paying a little bit in fees but it will help in the long run. The second thing he should do is to just keep working and keep saving. It didn’t say if he had a 20% down payment for a house, but my guess is that he doesn’t. If he can get a 20% down payment then I think lenders will be much more wiling to extend him a mortgage.

Tiffany – Nurse/Single Mother – Unemployment / Title Loan

Tiffany is an impressive woman. She got bachelor’s degree in nursing, got a full time job, and worked hard to save over $100,000 in her 401k. She was sending her daughter to private school to make sure got a good education and she had her whole life (including her financial life) completely in order.

Then her mother got sick and she decided to quit her job and take care of her mom. It was a very selfless action and she expected to be able to re-enter the workforce when she was ready. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to find full-time work when she was ready to start making money again.

She used up all the money in her 401k and eventually had to take out a title loan to pay the bills. When she fell behind on those payments they took her car. As a result of her financial situation, she had to take her daughter out of private school.

Kevin’s Financial Advice: The good news is we learn at the end of the film that Tiffany found a full time job. As a nurse, she will be making a good living and should be able to get back on her feet and re-enter the financial system soon. My only advice to her is that she keep her expenses as low as possible as she pays down any debt she may have and starts saving again.

Tiffany has the right attitude and the right job to get back on her feet very quickly. I have a feeling it won’t be long before she’s able to put her daughter back in private school. My only suggestion is that she consider moving to a good school district where her daughter will get a great education and she doesn’t have to pay tuition.

What is the Solution?

The documentary was informative and the stories of these people were very unfortunate. There’s no question that these families are/were struggling.

But what’s the solution?

For Alex/Melissa and Tiffany, their main issue is a lack of income. Tiffany has solved her income issue and I believe will re-enter the financial system soon. Alex and Melissa need to get Alex working again and then they can take steps to solve their financial problems.

Debbie is not being served by the banking system, but in all honesty a small business is a huge risk. That’s why there are a lot of other funding options for small businesses; it’s typically too risky of a bet for a bank to take it on. I believe she could easily be served through investors or other funding options.

Justin has an unfortunate story as well but when you have debt charged off on your credit report it’s going to raise a bunch of red flags. He and his girlfriend need to save, save, save and get enough of a down payment for a house that the bank is finally ready to extend them credit.

I don’t think the system is perfect, but I want to see some concrete suggestions to improve it. Hopefully we see new financial products that are available to people with less than perfect credit, but don’t prey on them. If there is a good solution I expect it to come from the free market.

The only thing I know for sure is that I don’t see this as a problem the government can solve. There is no law that can differentiate between these families and others who are not being served because they are truly bad investments. For these people to get served, we need a private business to recognize that they can lend these people money at reasonable rates and make a profit.

Jun 12 2014

How to Protect your Car from Depreciation

By |June 12th, 2014|General Personal Finance|1 Comment|

The cost of car ownership can be steep, particularly with rising fuel costs and the ever-shifting algorithms of car insurance premiums. Another cost that is just as significant yet easy to forget is that of depreciation. The simple act of driving your shiny, brand-new car out of the showroom can instantly reduce its value, and many cars lose as much as 50% of their value in the first three years of ownership. This can be a real problem if your car is stolen or written off in an accident, because insurers will only pay out the value of your vehicle at the time of the theft of accident. It’s not possible to eliminate depreciation completely, but there are a few ways to slow it down. This way, when the time comes to sell your car in the future you’ll get more of your money back!

car

Image Source: VK35/Wikimedia Commons

Buy a Car Known to Hold its Value

A gas-guzzler in a shade of lime green may take your fancy, but you want to look at the big picture. Cars that are bound to appeal to the widest possible range of buyers will hold their value over time. Choose a reliable brand in a non-offensive colour and ensure that it’s kitted out with all of the trim options that will make it appeal to buyers. As you read auto reviews on sites like Motoring.com.au, take note not only of automotive features and running costs, but also of depreciation value. Take price into consideration as well. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to splash out on a big, fancy car, because this gives you more to lose.

Buy Car Depreciation Insurance

Guaranteed asset protection insurance is designed to help cover the difference between what you paid for your car and what you’ll receive in the event of a theft or write-off. Consider purchasing a GAP policy if you’re worried about losing money due to depreciation from an insurance perspective. This type of policy usually applies to vehicles under seven years old, and under a certain mileage number.

Research Automotive Trends

Although we can’t predict the future, if you stay current with automotive trends you may be able to predict what type of cars are likely to be valuable in the future. For example, eco-friendly cars are always in high demand, and should continue to be valuable in time when fuel prices have gone up even more. Safety technology is also growing in leaps and bounds. Look for cars with automated safety features that will be seen as standard in only a few years.

Keep the Mileage Down

If possible, try to keep the mileage low. This will not only save you money on running costs, but it will also help keep your car’s value high.

Keep Maintenance Records

It’s one thing to choose a car known to hold its value well over time, but if you run it ragged and never take it in for servicing it will plummet in value. Take your car in for regular maintenance visits and service checks to help keep it running in top shape. Be sure to keep detailed records of these visits to show buyers in the future.

Fighting depreciation involves a combination of research and maintenance. You may not be able to stop it in its tracks, but you can certainly help protect your investment with a bit of care.