Posts tagged: capital

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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The Business Costs Startups Should Never Skimp On

invest in start upsAs a startup owner, chances are that you don’t exactly have a huge and unlimited pool of money at your disposal and it’s only natural, and sensible, that you should try to make savings wherever possible if you want to be in the best possible financial situation 12 months from now, but there are some things that startups just should not even think about skimping on.

Here are some examples of the kinds of things you MUST invest in if you want your business to be a success commercially and financially:

Reliable IT Services

So much of what we all do now is done at a computer, tablet or smartphone, and online is the space that modern businesses really need to conquer. What this means for you as a startup owner, is that you really cannot afford to skimp on reliable IT services. If you cut corners in this department, not only could you lose money when your network goes down, but you could actually risk losing sensitive data, and that could get you into a whole lot of trouble, not to mention cost you a whole lot of cash. It really isn’t worth the risk, especially when you can find great IT services which are moderately priced.

Data Backup

It’s also sensible to invest in a good data backup system, preferably in the cloud, so that should your website be hacked and your data lost, you will be able to instantly recover it. You can backup your data securely for as little as $10 per year, so it really would be foolish not to do so, especially when a loss of data really can cripple a small business.

Great Design

A lot of what determines whether or not a business will be successful, rightly or wrongly, is how attractive its brand is. Think of all the massively successful companies out there; your Google’s, Coca-Cola’s and Nikes and you’ll notice they all; have one thing in common – an instantly recognizable brand. If you want to be in their league someday, you need to invest in great design for your website, logo, business cards and, where applicable. Your products.

High-Quality Web Hosting

A lot of small business owners opt for the cheapest web hosting package they can find available to them. This is understandable, after all, hosting is hosting, right? Wrong! Very wrong! You see, a lot of the cheaper hosts go offline a lot, and when your website is down, that means you are losing money. Not only that, but a poor host could mean a slow website which will put customers off and prevent your media from effectively loading. Factor in the time you spend sorting it out, and the losses to your company could be huge.

Web Design

As well as putting a great web hosting package in place, you should also invest some of your startup capital in creating a website that looks beautiful and performs flawlessly. In the 21st Century, your website is often the first thing about you that the consumer will see and if it looks awful, well, they’re hardly going to have much confidence in your products and services are they? Don’t make the mistake of using a basic template when even just a little investment in a custom solution can be all that it takes to make that sale!

Creative Content

Naturally, you’ll want to put some content on your website so that people can actually find your company. If you want that to happen, it pays to invest in high-quality content written by professional copywriters, either on staff or freelance. If you do this, you can bet that you’ll make your money back and then some in the fullness of time.

Customer Service Training

Most startup owners are so focused on the future and how they want their business to be a year, two years or even ten years down the line, that they often lose sight of the things that need to be done now to get them there. One such thing is high-quality customer service training.

You see, although customer service might not seem like your most pressing issue right now, or even something you can justify using the business credit card on, it is actually one of the most vital tools in your arsenal. After all, your customers are the people who will make or break your business, and without them, you won’t even have a business at all. Once you realize this, it’s well-worth taking the time to invest in the right training so that your employees always treat your customers right.

Legal Counsel

We all know that legal fees are expensive, lawyers aren’t exactly known for being poor, after all. However, there is absolutely no way of getting around the fact that, if you want to start a successful business and avoid future financial difficulties and even bankruptcy, you need to invest in good legal counsel when you set up your business. If you don’t do this, you could end up making a mistake somewhere down the line and getting sued and, as I’m sure you will know, the cost of litigation, not to mention the cost of compensation should you lose a case, can be astronomical.

Great People

You can try, but I would bet against you starting a successful new company without a few good people by your side to help you along the way. Every company’s biggest cost is its payroll and hiring more employees than the minimum or those who don’t exactly come cheap might seem like a good way to cut business costs, but if you want your company to grow, you need to invest in the most creative, hardworking qualified people and you need to invest in enough people so that none of you are spread too thin.

As the old cliche says “Sometimes, you have to speculate to accumulate.” This is something that is certainly true in the startup world, and especially when it comes to these particular things.

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A Closer Look At The Steps Of Revenue Can Help You Get A Lot More Of It

measure your revenueAll businesses need to begin with a good idea and a target market that can sustain it. You may very well have those, but you’re still not getting the kind of revenue in return that you hoped for. Was the enterprise just doomed to fail? Most likely not. Instead, you might have to look at the different steps of acquiring revenue a little more closely and make sure you’re maximizing the potential of every one of them.

The source

Your revenue source is going to be the most important part of the question. You might find yourself hitting the cap on the streams you already have and finding you need more. In that event, you must start looking at the opportunities for new business. New product variations, new locations, new additional services. You don’t have to radically change the business to find a source for new business. You can even look into using the brand in new ways, like selling your expertise to other business owners.

The customer

Being competitive with your prices sounds like a realistic tactic for taking on some of your more established competitors. But the truth is that customers are often willing to pay more than we expect them to. They’re willing to pay it when a business truly invests in better customer service and more interactive communication. A study showed that 39% of customers feel that most companies feel to live up to their expectation of customer service and that 73% are willing to pay more for better service.

The payment

As important as the customer service is how the customer actually pays. In many ecommerce platforms, poor user interfaces can confuse the purchasing process, leading to what’s known as shopping cart abandonment. But the actual payment methods can be just as big a sticking point in both ecommerce and brick and mortar business. If you’re not looking at service providers like PayPal and sites like creditcardprocessing.xyz, you might very well be looking at the prospect of losing customers who don’t like having their payment options limited. Make your payment process simpler and more flexible. That’s an easy way to unlock more revenue if you have a happy customer base.

The return

That happy customer base needs a lot more attention, too, not just the new consumers you’re trying to welcome to the business. It takes considerably less investment to retain customers than it does to convert them. Nowadays, services like loyaltylion.com are boasting stats like contributing to 5.3% or 6% of a business’s annual income, which can be a huge boost. A focus on incentivizing customer returns also has the knock-on effect of creating brand fans that then go on to lead to more new customer referrals, too. It can very well hit two birds with one stone.

The more value you provide, the easier it becomes to capitalize on that value, and the more you go on to keep delivering it, the more money the business will make. Keep the tips above in mind the next time you’re thinking of how to start making more money.

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Top 3 Fastest Growing Investments In 2017

investments measureEach year we see certain things come to the forefront of the investment and trading world. These things grow in value quickly and are predicted to keep increasing in value into the near future. As such, they’re perfect investment opportunities for anyone looking to get in early and cash in when the assets peak.

In 2017 many things are catching the eyes of top investors, and we’ve narrowed down the list to these things down below:

Amazon

When it comes to the fastest growing stocks in 2017, Amazon.com is right up there. This has really been the year that Amazon has started to kick start a few new projects. Their video streaming service is improving as they add more exclusive TV shows and movies. Not to mention they’ve also acquired the rights to stream various sporting events live on Prime Video too. Then, there’s their biggest move yet which saw them buy Whole Foods. With so much diversification all in one year, the future looks very bright for Amazon. Experts predict the share prices will rise considerably, so this is the time to get involved and earn a piece of the Amazon pie.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is the world’s most famous crypto currency, and it’s really skyrocketing in 2017. It’s fair to say that the price of bitcoin has risen quite dramatically since it was first around. These days, while it may fluctuate in value during a day, it’s generally predicted to keep going up and up. Plus, with things like Bitcoin IRA, you can now invest using a retirement account or your 401k. As such, it’s become more accessible now than ever before, which opens up your investment opportunities. Other crypto currencies are slowly creeping up on bitcoin, but it may be a year or two before they make a ‘fastest growing investments’ list. If you want to go crypto, bitcoin is the way to go.

Virtual Reality

If you’re looking for an industry to invest in, virtual reality is one of your best bets. It’s an industry that saw sizeable growth throughout 2016 and into 2017. More companies are creating virtual reality software, and we should see a lot come to fruition in the next year or so. Just the other day Apple announced the iPhone X with augmented reality built in. This paves the way for more virtual and augmented reality in the smartphone world too. One thing’s for certain, if you’re looking for a fast-growing industry to invest some money into, virtual reality is at the forefront of things right now.

While these investments differ from one another, they’re all incredibly fast-growing right now. Granted, some may still be expensive to invest in, but the potential rewards outweigh the investment costs. All three of these ideas are set to become even more valuable in the future so you can save money by investing now instead of later. The great thing is, they’re all fairly steady investments too. They’re growing fast now, which means you shouldn’t have to worry about extreme price fluctuations over the course of a year or so. If you want to get involved, there’s no better time than the present.

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