Posts tagged: 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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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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Big Money Moves And Why You Should Make Them

big money movesThroughout life, there will be loads of points where you have to make decisions about your money. During these times, it will be important that you make calculation moves, choosing the right options at every junction. Thankfully, this isn’t as bad as it sounds. Instead, you have plenty of support, and a lot of it can come from posts just like this one. In fact, this will be going through some of the different moves you can make with your money for the best possible financial future. In a lot of cases, people don’t consider this sort of work. But, it can make a real difference and isn’t too hard to accomplish.

To start, a lot of people begin this process after realizing that they need to make a change in their financial life. It doesn’t matter what your issue, though, as there’s usually a way to solve it. With loans, for example, a lot of people find themselves borrowing too much from a lot of places. Making this easier is just a matter of consolidation, and a company like creditrepairreview.co can help you to find the right people to support you. Most money problems can be solved with a similar approach.

Once you’ve had a bit of time to save, it’s a good idea to think about investments. Most people have a limited amount of time. The time you do have is usually spent working or consuming entertainment. If you want to reach your full financial potential, though, you need to make more money than just your salary. To achieve this, an investment enables you make money without having to put time and effort in. Just make you have at least three months worth of savings before you start thinking about it.

It can feel a little bit wrong to think about the time after you pass, as most people would rather focus on the time they have around. Of course, though, to make sure your family are able to make the best of your departure, most people like the idea of setting up a legacy. A great way to ensure your loved ones get a good amount of money when you pass, life insurance is a great option. It’s best to start with something like this early, though. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay a lot for each installment.

Finally, it’s time to think about the life goals you have for yourself. In most cases, people want to own a house by the time they retire, and you’ll probably want to get the ball rolling on it long before that. A mortgage can take anywhere up to fifty years to pay off. So, it’s important to consider this area while you’re still young. To get started, you just need a reliable job and a little bit of money saved for a deposit.

This post should give you a good dose of inspiration and drive you to start making some changes with your money. A lot of people leave these areas too late and aren’t able to make the most of them. So, instead, it’s much better to get started as early as you can.

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10 Crucial Things To Consider Before You Invest

investment mattersAny smart person who wants to make more money will look into making investments. If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that investing your money in various ways is much smarter than simply putting it into savings.

Investing will make your money grow much faster than a savings account will – especially since interest rates have remained stagnant for quite some time now. Bear in mind that inflation will have an affect on the money you save, meaning that it will be worth much less in the future. Putting your money into the right investments ensures that your money retains it’s value or grows in value.

Here are 10 crucial things you should be considering before you invest:

1. The Best Use Of Your Money

The first thing you need to consider is whether investing is the best use of your money. Of course it is at some point, but right now, you may have other priorities. For example, paying off debts first and foremost is crucial. The longer you’re in debt, the more interest you pay. Paying off your debts ASAP will ensure you have more money freed up for investing in the future.

Health insurance is also a good shout. You never know what the future could hold, and this way, you’ll have peace of mind even though you’re not plowing every cent you have into a savings account.

That being said, you should have a cash cushion of at least 6 months expenses. You never know what could be around the corner. Consider every eventuality. May you need to take a pay cut? Could you lose your job if the company goes bankrupt? Lots of things can happen, so being prepared for them is a must. Just make sure you have your money in an easy access account!

Once you have these things, you can confidently begin investing your money!

2. Goals For Investing

You should know your goals for investing, as this will determine where you put your money. If you’re on the verge of retirement, safer investments are best for you. Bonds are fairly safe so look into those.

You can afford to take a moderate risk if you won’t need the money too soon. In this case, stable companies that pay out dividends are a good option. You can maybe take aggressive risks for higher gains – best for keeping your money in investments for quite some time. Look into companies that are focused on growth and investing money back into the business.

You can even potentially start investing for two different goals. For example, investing for a house downpayment which is short term, and investing to retire which is long term. Having goals like this will make you more financially secure and smart both now and in the future.

Know exactly what the goal of your investing is so you can make the right choices!

3. How Old You Are

Being young has its advantages when it comes to investing, but don’t panic if you’re older. It’s never too late to start, you may just need to alter what you’re doing a little to make it work.

When you’re young, you tend to be more secure, have less responsibilities, and have more disposable income. It’s also easier to pick yourself back up and brush yourself off after making a mistake. In your 20s especially, your biggest asset is time. Make the most of it when you’re young by making riskier investments and taking advantage of the fact you have more time for compound interest.

4. The Time Before You Need The Money

Some investments will have shorter goals, some won’t. Bear in mind that some investments come with charges if surrendered or redeemed before a holding period is up.

We mentioned it earlier, but the sooner you need the money, the less risky your investments should be!

5. Your Risk Tolerance

Not everyone can take risks with their money past a certain level. You may worry as you have responsibilities and dependents, or it can be something simple. The ups and downs of the stock market can make some people uncomfortable.

A higher return may not be worth the stress or losing sleep over, so bear that in mind. Consider your personality and what you expect you can handle in terms of investment risks. Bear in mind that you don’t have to navigate this minefield alone. There are financial planners, wealth advisers, and robo-advisers to guide you through the process.

6. A Diversified Investment Portfolio

A diversified investment portfolio is recommended for anybody and everybody who wants to invest. You can invest in many things, including:

  • Different companies
  • Industry sectors
  • Markets
  • Asset classes

Having all of your money in stocks can’t be considered a diverse portfolio. Having diversity in your portfolio can help protect you from market fluctuations. The more powerful your portfolio will be if you take the time do this, and the more smoothly things will run for you.

7. How Involved You Want To Be In Your Investments

You can be as involved as you like when it comes to your investments. You can work on them everyday, or take a backseat and let a dedicated professional do this for you. If you don’t have the time, you can delegate portfolio management to a financial advisor. You could even hire a property manager if you’ve invested your money in property. There’s barely any need for you to be involved at all, but it’s totally your preference.

8. Is There An Expert You Can Speak To?

If you’re totally confused, there are places you can find experts. There are dedicated people out there that can advise you, and networking on LinkedIn could even be an option. By doing this, you might just come up with questions you didn’t even realize that you should be asking.

Look for a professional investor or an investment banker and see what you can find out.

9. Do You Understand Growth?

To understand growth, an investor has to dig into the key financial statements. The things like balance sheets, income statements, and cash-flow statements. In the consumer sector you can ask for retail level sales too. Understanding growth is key to ensuring you’re putting your money into the right investments.

10. Knowing Your Exit Strategy

Above all else, you need to know exit scenarios for the industry that interests you. Having an exit strategy is crucial if you want to avoid potential disasters. You can take different things into account, such as how big the company is and the margins. Whatever you do, make sure you develop an exit strategy that suits you and makes you feel comfortable.

Now you’ve considered these 10 crucial things, you should have a good idea of what step to take next. Do you need to pay off your debts, save up a cash cushion, or find an expert to guide you? It can all seem complicated at first, but you don’t need to be an expert or even a business person to invest. Everybody should invest, as it can be a very smart way to use your money.

If you don’t think you have the cash to invest right now, take a good look at your budget and spending. Chances are, you’re buying many luxuries that can be cut back and better spent on your investments. If you’re going to experience investment success, you need to get serious about it.

Do you have any tips and thoughts on investing? Leave them below!

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