Category: Business

The Future Is Now: AI to Boost Your Small Business

business setupYou can’t have missed the rumblings in the air. From water-cooler chat to major media focus, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the phrase on every business owner’s lips. A lot of the noise concerns what the shape of society will look like with robots in our midst and whether our skills will become redundant under the slow creep of automation. With estimates from the PEW research centre showing that two-thirds of us in the US expect robots in the workplace to be a common sight within the next 50 years, it’s easy to take a dim view of society’s desire for a walking, talking embodiment of our knowledge. But robots are not exclusively a force of the future – since Victorian times humans have created and refined machines to take on drudge work and liberate them to dream bigger and achieve more. So could the future be brighter for small business owners who embrace AI? And how can you use it now? We take a look…

Customer Care Made Easy

One of the most significant challenges facing a young start-up is manpower. You need staffing to grow, but you need more revenue to employ those people. It’s a chicken and egg situation that’s stifled the development of many promising start-ups. And that’s why AI technology is so promising for entrepreneurs struggling to do it all. The advent of a more transparent, internet-connected customer base means that reputation is a more important sink-or-swim factor than ever in business, and whole sectors are now driven by customer review platforms. This means that excellent customer care is simply a hygiene factor, and customers expect an instant response when something goes wrong. For small businesses without an army of staff, this can be all but impossible – so investing in chatbot technology can be a real breakthrough moment. Thinking through the customer journey and created some scripts is simple and doesn’t require any real programming skill. You will find that a lot of basic enquiries are the usual suspects, so this can be an extremely efficient way of filtering those out to allow you to deal with more complex cases. Chatbots are good at instantly retrieving customer information, which can cut call queuing, and it’s a scalable solution that will grow with your company while helping to reduce barriers to sale with potential customers.

Get Your Accounts on Track

Smart software can make your financial management a smooth process, from solutions that allow you to access business loans and receivables all in one seamless system such as www.octet.com to machine learning that can use big data to predict spending patterns. If the day-to-day functions of finance become fully-automated, the resource can be diverted into strategic, long-term planning rather than the bandwidth-drain of servicing routine processes – returning you to being more of a specialist rather than a jack of all trades.

Your Personal Assistant in the Clouds

Keeping on top of the day-to-day onslaught of a small business involves being on the ball about hundreds of micro-decisions that need attention, but not many entrepreneurs can afford a PA from the get-go. Using a remote virtual assistant to schedule and monitor tasks such as travel arrangements, diary planning and admin support makes perfect sense. Using a virtual assistant can free up time and headspace for more demanding tasks, even if we’re not quite in the era of being followed around by a Jetsons-style sassy robot yet (although those will be on shelves in the very near future).

AI doesn’t have to be scary – in fact, it’s working with us right now, and its influence could future-proof your business.

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Small Business Owners Need To Be All-Rounders, Not Specialists

business ideasThere’s a misconception about entrepreneurs that need to be eradicated. It’s the one of the genius leader, the one who can come up with a genius idea, usually thanks to their one track mind. In reality, small business owners don’t need to be specialists in anything; indeed, it’s probably better if they’re not. What they do need to be are all-rounders, able to do a lot of things well, rather than just one thing like an expert. Below, we take a look at a few of the areas that every small business owner needs to have at least a passing familiarity with, and a willingness to learn about.

Dealing with the Public

Your business depends on the public. Without people buying your products and using your services, there is no business. As such, you need to learn how to handle the complex nature of “the public”; a public that is often demanding, and full complaints; though of course, also filled with happy, pleasant people. If you’ve never had to deal with the public, you’d be well advised to put yourself in front of house – that is, if you’re normally behind the scenes – to see what they can be like first hand.

Being the Boss

If you’ve hired a team of staff, then you’re no longer an entrepreneur: you’re a leader. And as a leader, you need to know how to handle underperforming employees, office complaints and arguments, as well as all the logistical issues that go into staffing, such as rota planning, covering sick days, and managing staff holidays. For the personal skills needed to be the boss of a productive staff, learn from the experts. For the logistical side, you can use rota and holiday management software to make your job easier. If your staff are well-prepared and productive, then your company will have the best chance of being a success.

Marketing and Advertising

Once upon a time, it’s possible that your business may have been able to be successful without much marketing or advertising. Alas, those days have long gone; now, you need to commit considerable resources to your marketing campaign and be advertising in a variety of mediums (print, online, etc). No-one’s expecting you to come up with the world’s greatest advertising campaign, but you should understand what works and what doesn’t.

Inspiring, Productive

The company, especially in the early days, isn’t anything overly abstract: it’s you. The quality and success of your business will rest on your ability to be an inspirational and productive worker. While there are a lot of tasks to take care of, it’s important that you’re always well rested and able to deliver your best work.

What To Outsource

Finally, remember that you don’t need to do everything on your own, and you don’t need always to give your staff tasks. Outsourcing will be an invaluable tool for your business, especially when it comes to repetitive and specialist tasks. Use it wisely, and you’ll be bringing the best on board to your company.

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Are House Prices Likely To Go Down?

balance house pricesWhenever you hear people talk about the housing market it’s all doom and gloom. Prices have been rising consistently for years and there’s a serious fear that a whole generation of young people isn’t ever going to be able to afford a house. Last year was set to be a positive one for housing and an increase in house building was predicted, but the reality is, that didn’t happen. Things did improve a little but not as much as we hoped they would. So, it doesn’t look good at the moment and it feels like it’s never going to get better, but is that really true? Nobody knows for sure but these are some of the major predictions from experts.

Prices Will Rise, But Not As Much

This is good news and bad news. Prices rose by a significant amount every month last year, especially in the latter half of the year. Some people predict that trend will continue, but the increases will slow right down. There are a couple of reasons for this prediction. Firstly, unemployment is going down and people are able to afford houses more easily. Demand is stronger and there will be a slight increase in the number of people that are actually buying houses.

Another factor to consider is the number of people opting for alternative housing situations. More people are opting for prefabricated mobile homes, sometimes called mobile homes. These are far cheaper because the components are made separately, shipped over, and constructed on site. The impact of this is minimal but people choosing to go for alternative housing is going to alleviate some of the strain in terms of housing shortage. It also means that houses can be built far more quickly.

On the other hand, real estate as an investment is on the rise so if all of the houses are being bought up by investors, prices could carry on increasing.

This prediction is good news overall because what they’re essentially saying is that, while there won’t be an immediate turnaround in house prices, we’re coming toward the top of the peak and will soon start to see a downturn in prices.

Affordability Will Go Down

Wages are forecasted to grow in some of the larger cities in America which you would think is good news for buying houses, unfortunately it’s not. The amount of homes that are affordable to somebody on a medium income isn’t growing. That means they are unable to access the cities where wages are growing in the first place, so they can’t get the higher wages they need to buy a house. This disparity is one of the biggest problems in the housing market at the moment. Even if house building does increase this year, they aren’t likely to build the affordable housing that is needed to redress that imbalance.

Credit Availability Could Improve

After the crash of 2008, the availability of credit was regulated more strictly in order to avoid the same thing again. However, the new Trump administration has floated plans to roll back a lot of that regulation so banks will be more free to lend money again. It could go one of two ways; either they’ll start lending more freely and people might be able to afford to buy a house, or they may carry on operating the way that they are at the moment.

There’s no telling exactly what will happen with the housing market but these are three of the best theories so far.

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Is Owning Your Home Worth The Hassle?

home owningA dream for many of us is to eventually own our homes so that we don’t have to worry about things like being kicked out by a landlord, or having to move because of renovations being done to the building. Also, once you have paid off your mortgage you no longer have to worry about paying towards the cost of the property unlike if you were renting. All you have to pay for is your utility bills and other essentials like food and clothing. However, with the rising cost of properties and the difficulty of obtaining one, is it worth owning a property? This article is going to explore why we think that even though it’s a hassle, it’s definitely worth it in the long run.

Cost

It’s a little known fact that when you buy a property, not only do you have to find the money for a deposit (it’s usually 10% but it can be lower depending on your lender), but you also have to find the money for upfront fees. These are usually from your realtor and they are to compensate them for handling your property and your move. These charges aren’t something that many people think about until their realtor puts it in front of them.

While these charges might be more of a hinderance than anything else, it’s definitely worth digging into your pockets to pay for it because when it’s all said and done, you’re officially a homeowner and can begin looking forward to creating memories in your new home.

Location

If you’re looking to buy a home away from where you usually reside, it can be difficult to pick a location for you to settle down in. Competa properties offer people that are looking into becoming a homeowner the chance to own their own property for much cheaper than you would in the USA or UK. So if the prospect of living abroad excites you, it’s definitely worth checking out what they’ve got on offer.

If you’re planning to stay local, then a simple trip to a realtor will help you discover what kind of properties are on offer, and it will even help you plan how much you’re going to need to save to get the property of your dreams.

While choosing a location might be something that blows your mind a little, think about the fact that you’re in a position to live anywhere that you want, whereas people who rent don’t often have a wide choice.

Upkeep

Another thing that puts people off buying their own homes is the upkeep of the property. When something goes wrong, it’s up to you to make the repairs to your home. Unless of course, it’s on the pavement that you don’t own. If for example your boiler breaks, it’s up to you to either replace it yourself, or hire a professional to come and do the work for you. Obviously this can be costly, and if you’re salary is only making enough to pay your mortgage and other bills, this could be a problem.

One way of solving this is to arrange with your bank a saving scheme for when times like these arise. Most banks these days offer something to help you save money, whatever it’s for. Alternatively, you could put as much money as you can afford away each month so that if something does happen, you know that you’ve got some money to dip into for repairs.

Again, while this is something that puts people off, it can also be turned into a good thing. This is because when you do have repairs made, you can ensure that it’s done to the best quality so that you don’t have to pay for it again any time soon. Whereas if you were renting, you’d have to contribute to your landlord who might go cheap on the repairs and keep the extra money for themselves.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many downsides to owning a property but in the long run there are always solutions around it. For example, if you ensure that you have home insurance, some repairs you might be able to claim from that, especially if it’s caused by a natural disaster or robbery. While it might be difficult to begin with, wouldn’t you rather have your home to own when it comes to later on in life too?

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Mortgage Repayments: What to do When You Can’t Pay

payment for home loanStruggling to pay your mortgage can be a scary time. When taking out a mortgage, every person is told that failure to make repayments could result in repossession of the property. For many people with families, this is a terrifying thought. In fact, it’s so terrifying that many people bury their heads in the sand and try to ignore the problem instead of addressing it. However, addressing the problem before it gets out of control is the best way of handling it. So, what do you do if you’re worried about making your mortgage repayments on time?

Talk to Your Mortgage Provider

There are lots of consequences to not paying your mortgage, including bad credit reports. The more you ignore the problem, the worse off your credit score will become, which puts you at risk of not being accepted for future credit. Take a look at some tips from bestcreditrepair.co for restoring your credit ratings. If your lender knows you’re struggling to come up with the repayments for your mortgage there could be something they could do. For instance, many mortgage lenders offer payment holidays if you’re unable to work. You could also ask if it’s possible to extend the term of the mortgage so you’re paying smaller amounts for a longer period.

Get Advice

There are so many agencies out there that are ready and willing to help in a financial crisis. You don’t have to feel like it’s all on your shoulders to get the problem solved. Managing debt well takes a lot of skill, so it’s okay to ask professionals for their help. If your debt problems are making you feel depressed, it’s also worth calling a depression hotline to talk to someone about your worries. Bottling everything up won’t help you find a solution to your problems and won’t help you maintain your health.

Repayment Holiday

There are certain times when a lender may consider giving an account holder a repayment holiday. Often times, many people just need a financial boost to get back on track and a repayment holiday could be the ideal solution. Talk to your lender about a repayment holiday and agree to the terms and conditions. During your repayment holiday, do what you can to save up as much money as possible so you don’t have to face the same struggle again.

Create a Budget

Creating and sticking to a budget is easier said than done, but once you get used to it, you may never have to face financial pressure again. Write down your income and all of your outgoings and stop any unnecessary payments, like TV subscriptions. Limit your spending to things you need, instead of things you want, and use any disposable income to lower your debt. The less you have going out on a monthly basis, the less likely you are to find it difficult to pay your bills when something unexpected occurs.

The most important thing you can do when you can’t make a mortgage repayment is be open about it.

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