Category Archives: The Best Of…

8 Online Safety Tips for Small Businesses: eSafely

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and Symantec recently launched a survey of US small businesses which revealed that although most believe they are safe from hackers and malware, their online security policies are extremely weak. As a result, small businesses are especially vulnerable.

The survey offers eight tips for improving online safety and ensuring safe internet use for small businesses:

  • Know what you need to protect.

  • Enforce strong password policies.

  • Map out a disaster preparedness plan today.

  • Encrypt confidential information.

  • Use a reliable security solution.

  • Protect information completely.

  • Stay up to date.

  • Educate employees.

Internet security is an issue wherever a network is open, whether at an office, a home computer or a public network such as those as libraries and coffee shops. Households with children are another easy target for hackers, and keeping personal information private and secure should be a priority. Educate your employees or household members to ensure that they practice safe internet use. Parents with young children may want to install parental controls like eSafely to keep their information safe and secure as well as to protect their children from inappropriate content or bullying.

Keep Your Eyes on These Guys: Financial Leaders Who Will Make a Difference in 2014

Smart investing is often based on a solid knowledge of past trends and educated guesses about the future. Professional financial advisors, therefore, must keep abreast of the influences on the marketplace, in addition to having a thorough understanding of what has come before.

In order to assist professional advisors and investment managers, Rep., an online journal of wealth management written explicitly for advisors, takes a stand each year on who they believe will be the ten most influential personalities in the worlds of economics, finance and investing.

Last summer Rep. published their take on who will “change the world” of financial advisors in 2014. As they worded it in their intro to their article The Ten to Watch in 2014, “given our daily interactions with the most plugged-in individuals in the advisor world—we know a thing or two about where the wealth management industry is headed, and who will blaze the trail.”

Out of the “Ten to Watch” we  introduce you to the three we believe to be the most worthwhile to “watch.”

Deborah Fuhr is a partner and co-founder of ETFGI, based in London. She is one of the world’s top ETF analysts, enabling her to create the independent consulting and research firm of ETFGI. Fuhr earned her wings after three years as the global head of ETF research at a leading provider of ETFs. Previously she did eleven years at Morgan Stanley, where she ran investment strategies.

“We’re still in the early innings in terms of [industry] growth. More people are moving to passive strategies and more people are aware of the impact of costs on their returns. There is still a huge need to be educated with independent, unbiased information on these products,” Fuhr said.

Joe Lonsdale is an up-and-coming star at the age of only 30. He is the co-founder of Addepar Technologies, and has led his company to the head of the class of wealth management in the technology sector. One advantage for Lonsdale is that he lives in Silicon Valley, not on Wall Street. He went to Stanford to study computer engineering, and did a stint as an intern at PayPal.

Lonsdale found his niche when he and his partner Jason Mirra saw a need to organize data in the financial services sector.

“Virtually all of my friends with family offices had complained to me about how bad the software was in this industry and the problems this caused,” Lonsdale wrote in a post on Quora. “Many RIAs, family offices, banks, insurance companies, pension funds, SWFs and others managing trillions of dollars of wealth all have a specific set of issues around aggregation, reporting, billing, liquidity management, document management, all while dealing with difficult issues like multi-currency, partnership accounting, etc…”

Top Technological Developments of the 21st Century

Online shopping has swept people up across the globe, and was recently voted the biggest technological development of the 21st century in Britain. The majority of the world’s retailers offer online shopping opportunities, and other websites such as 6pm.com and overstock.com were created specifically to help people save money while shopping for their favorite brands on the internet.

Another internet-related breakthrough of the 21st century is online banking. Banks such as Doral Bank, which is based in Puerto Rico and New York, understand that providing their customers with online options has many advantages, including the ability to effortlessly verify account balances, transfer money between accounts, make secure payments from the comfort of home and review recent payments and other financial activity. Internet banking also allows people to keep tabs on their finances without too much effort; email alerts, reminders and confirmation requests help customers stay on top of their various accounts, transactions, savings, cashed checks and more.

In Britain, 75% of the population use online banking services. According to the British vote, the top five technological developments of the century include online shopping, internet banking, mobile internet, digital TV recorders and online film streaming services.

Jean Fiddes of E.ON said: “Our research shows consumers are increasingly using technology to make their lives easier and save money on everyday costs… Online shopping and banking and on-the-go entertainment were all at one time considered ‘new’ technologies but are now very much a part of our day-to-day lives. And although we may get nostalgic about the good old days, many of us appreciate the convenience and control technology can offer.”

 

 

Top Ten Largest Economies by PPP GDP

Emerging economies and numerous crises have shaken most, if not all of, the world’s economies today. Evaluation of size and growth varies greatly amongst analysts, while GDP is measured with two different approaches- nominal GDP and purchasing power parity or PPP GDP.

The latter considers the dollar’s buying capabilities in different countries, thereby providing a more accurate analysis of a market’s internal size.

Economy Watch released a list of the top 10 economies in the world based on PPP GDP data from 2010:

  1. United States
  2. China
  3. Japan
  4. India
  5. Germany
  6. Russia
  7. Brazil
  8. United Kingdom
  9. France
  10. Italy

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Companies That Will Not Live Out the Coming Year

Every Year Many Companies Go Belly-Up

If you are old enough to remember companies like TWA, Pan Am, Woolworth’s and lots more, then you know that even the seemingly most stable, powerful and successful companies can go belly-up despite their prestige and branding.

History teaches its students that the future is just a remake of the past, and what we learn from the deceased mega-companies strewn along the economic road to success is that many industries are brutally competitive, embodying without pity the laws of survival of the fittest. Falling behind in efficiency, financing or innovation will leave a company vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the marketplace.

Here are the ten companies which 24/7 Wall Street predicts will disappear in 2013: (Some of these companies may still exist, but in a different form or by virtue of being swallowed by a bigger fish.)

•    American Airlines
•    Research in Motion
•    Pacific Sunwear
•    Suzuki
•    Salon.com
•    Current TV
•    Talbots
•    Avon
•    MetroPCS
•    The Oakland Raiders (Leaving Oakland)
 

Tips to Avoid Overdue Payments: Small Business Advice

One of the most crippling problems amongst small businesses is the excessive number of overdue payments. The average SME receives payments from other businesses two months late, and many suffer greatly from the delay.

The Guardian lists several tips for avoiding such situations:

  • Don’t make credit management subordinate to sales

Make sure the incentives you give o your sales team take credit into account and do not allow sales to overrule the people in charge of credit management. In very small businesses the two roles may not be distinct, but even as a sole trader you should still try to think about each prospective sale: once wearing a ‘sales hat’ and one wearing a ‘credit hat.’

  • Treat credit management as an enabler of sales, not an obstacle

The role of credit management should be to help you figure out a set of conditions under which you can say yes to selling on credit to each individual customer. Knowing as much as possible about the creditworthiness and payment habits of your customers, through a strong relationship and the use of credit information, can even help you win business by rewarding prompt payers.

  • Develop a well-defined credit policy and stick to it

It doesn’t have to be hundreds of pages long, or even a written document. Your policy does, however, have to be clear about when you are willing to give credit, how much and who to, as well as when exactly you would consider a payment to be overdue. Your policy must be known to all of your customer-facing staff and communicated in writing before each sale. When circumstances change, update the policy, don’t overrule it. Most businesses treat big customers differently and that’s fine, as long as you still have policies for those.

  • See the big picture

If you sell on credit, you are someone’s banker, so think like one. Giving credit is as much a part of your business as getting orders; a profit on paper may quickly turn into a loss after you add yo your costs the costs of financing your work capital, chasing up late payments, and absorbing non-payment. Try to have a good idea at all times of what that cost is.

  • Be organized about invoicing and collections-

The invoicing and collections process turns promises into cash; don’t leave it to chance. Set up a routine for invoicing and collections (including polite reminders before the money is due) and stick to it. Some customers look out for signs of disorganization and use them to determine which suppliers they can get away with paying late; individuals may even use them in order to rationalize the fact that they’re paying you late. Make sure you don’t present yourself as the easiest or most deserving target.

  • Know your customer-

Make sure you understand your customers’ payment process and the systems they use, and if possible get to know the individuals dealing with invoices. Ensure your invoices are designed to fit into their way of working. Some customers, especially large ones, will have no incentive to streamline their processes precisely because a convoluted payment process will allow them to pay late.

  • Know your rights

The law gives you, as a supplier, the ability to charge interest on overdue payments; you can calculate this using an online tool hosted on Business Link. This is easier said than done, but it’s still useful to clarify, in writing, that you reserve the right to charge interest. Some suppliers even do this automatically when debts become overdue, and invoice their customers for the additional interest right away. The point of this is rarely to actually receive the extra money, but rather to jolt customers into paying on time.

  • Invest in professional credit management-

With credit management, having good staff really does make a difference. As soon as you are able to, make sure finance of credit staff receive training in credit management, or that you hire staff who already have.

 

The World’s Most Powerful Women

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

According to Forbes, in a world where women are increasingly taking their places among the movers and shakers planning policy and determining destiny, these are the most powerful of the lot.
In order from 1 to 5, the following women have made it to the top of the list of Forbes Most Powerful Women in the World:

1.    Angela Merkel: As the Chancellor of Germany Merkel makes decisions that will affect the almost 82 million German citizens, in addition to the influence she has on the European and world communities.

2.    Hillary Clinton: Successful American politician Clinton is the Secretary of State of the United States, and as such she helps form foreign policy which the US follows.

3.    Dilma Rousseff: The President of Brazil Dilma Rouseff leads this South American country which is populated with over 192 million people, the only Lusophone country in the Americas, and the world’s largest.

4.    Melinda Gates: As the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Melinda controls the “largest transparently operated private foundation” in the world, bestowing on her considerable power to “make a difference.” The foundation has already given away 28 billion dollars making a meaningful and significant difference in the world.

5.    Jill Abramson: On June 2, 2011 Ms. Abramson became the executive editor of the world’s most prestigious newspaper, The New York Times, bringing the most reliable and important news stories to readers all over the globe.
 

Top 5 Business Rewards Credit Cards for Small Businesses

Though not covered by the Credit CARD Act of 2009, business rewards credit cards have a positive reputation amongst small businesses. According to the National Small Business Association, 37% of business owners are relying on credit to cover a portion of their costs.

These credit cards feature expense-tracking tools that help organize and monitor company finances, all while earning rewards for business expenses such as gas, office supplies, transportation and more.

Credit card expert Beverly Harzog shared her opinions regarding the more popular business rewards cards.

First is American Express’s Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card. This card is worthwhile if Starwood hotels are frequented often, says Harzog. These hotels include the Sheraton, Westin and St. Regis as well.

Next is Chase Ink Cash Credit Card, which Harzog approves of for its cash-back bonus. However, the tiered rewards system can be confusing for some.

Capital One Spark Cash Credit Card provides a 2% cash-back with every purchase, and also offers a one-time $100 bonus for $1,000 spending in the first three months.

Fourth is Citi Platinum Select/ AAdvantage Card, which is especially beneficial for those who often fly American Airlines. The card’s current deal offers 50,000 miles on American Airlines if $3,000 is spent in the first four month.

Last is Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, which is the best option for individuals, according to Gerri Detweiler of Credit.com. Up to 8 people can check their first bags for free, while just $500 of spending in the first three months earns a bonus of 30,000 miles.

 

The Future is Now: Five Ideas for Aging Boomers

Here Come the Baby Boomers!

Want to get in on the trend which is coming as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow? The demographics are shifting towards an aging population as all those babies born in the post-World War II years of the late 1940s and early to mid-1950s are now approaching the autumn of their lives, and this population has particular needs that you, as a businessman, can fill. Here are some ideas for business that will most likely be in demand in greater numbers than ever before in US history.

•    Home Care for Seniors-Less Intense: Our amazingly healthy population is not only living longer, but also more independently. But it does not mean that there aren’t services which you can provide which will make life just that much easier for our elders. Providing food shopping, rides to the doctor, or anywhere else, and at home physical therapy or other care, can be a wonderful service for these independent soles that just need some tweaking in their schedules to stay independent.

•    Home Care for Seniors- More Intense: In some cases grandfather and grandmother may need regular care on a daily basis, part-time help may simply not suffice, yet placement in a nursing home or other type of facility may not be absolutely necessary. The trend today is to keep people in their homes if it is possible and if that is the desire, but this can only be accomplished with full-time home care. You can be the one to provide that care.

•    Retirement Homes and Developments: Real estate in areas which the elderly like to live, for instance warmer climates with convenient shopping and other services, will most likely increase in value as more people seek out comfortable retirement residences.

•    Financial Services: Baby boomers collectively accumulated more wealth than any other generation previous to it. How about helping them manage their wealth by providing accounting, investment advice, insurance and other related services so they can better enjoy their wealth and leave more of it to their heirs.

•    Fitness, Cosmetics and other Personal Improvement Services: Boomers not only want to stay healthy for as long as possible, they want to look the part, too. Yoga, healthier food, zumba, Pilates, and beauty treatments should all be in demand now as never before.
 

Top 5 Social Media Management Tools for Small Businesses

In an effort to provide a much-needed service to small businesses, PCWorld.com recently listed the top five social media management tools in the sector. Choosing only those suitable for smaller companies, every social media outlet listed meets criteria such as affordability; scalability; support for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter; and update posting assistance. Each tool is more suitable for specific types of businesses.

The first tool on the list is HootSuite. Calling it the “tool of choice for many social media professionals and small businesses,” PCWorld ranks this tool at the top of the list. However, “the limitations of the free version mean that most businesses will grow to the point where the free version is no longer acceptable. Although HootSuite seems to have dealt with this problem by providing the option to upgrade to HootSuite Pro for unlimited profiles and more features, it’s worthwhile to look around at other alternatives once your business starts demanding too much of HootSuite.”

Next is VerticalResponse. PCWorld explains: “VerticalResponse launched VerticalResponse Social as a complete service for the small-business professional. It marries email and social media campaigns in a way that other tools aimed at small businesses do not. Usually people regard email and social media as separate islands, and bringing them together under the umbrella of one online marketing campaign makes much more sense. VerticalResponse tailors its products to the harried small-business person who knows how to run a company but is far from being a social media expert.”

Third is Sprout Social. “Sprout Social’s major advantages over other social media management tools lie in its user interface and in its detailed but easy-to-understand reports…its ability to assign tasks to team members, as well as its ‘Smart Inbox’, which collects all your social media messages in an organized inbox that you can manage from one dashboard.

Sprout’s feedback is also extremely useful. After you set up your account, it pulls together your follower demographics within 24 hours, and it tells you what you could be doing better.”

Fourth is Sendible. “Sendible drills down on various tasks, giving you the choice of posting to your Facebook personal-page photo album, posting notes to your Facebook page or profile, posting items to a LinkedIn Group or your LinkedIn status, and so on. This attention to specific actions saves you a lot of time, and it makes Sendible’s cost over other tools well worth the investment for businesses that use social media more aggressively.”

Last is Postling. “Postling blends social media monitoring, posting and reporting, but it also incorporates instant notifications for reviews of your business on TripAdvisor and Yelp, the two sites by which hospitality and restaurant businesses live and die. For any companies involved in those industries, Postling is the obvious tool of choice. The inbox is similar to Sprout Social’s in that it allows you to deal with all mentions and messages from one place.”