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Archive for the ‘What You Need To Know About Small Business’ Category

Why Load Testing A Website is Important

In What You Need To Know About Small Business on January 19, 2018 at 9:14 am

Building and running a web site is a major undertaking, especially if you plan on using your site as the web presence for a business, a non-profit organization or a busy family event.

Unless you have experience in IT or web development, it’s fairly unlikely you have spent any significant time studying or performing load balancing, load testing or stress testing on a web site. These tasks are most often left to properly equipped and staffed IT departments or specialty companies and rarely find their way into the average webmaster’s affairs.

However, load testing has always been a concern for sites that expect traffic beyond the occasional visit. If you are running an e-commerce site, for example, your business and your income both depend on your site being available when your customers arrive. Imagine your doors locking in your retail store during the holiday rush! If nobody can get in, nobody can buy, and that’s probably not what you had in mind when you started your business.

Some web sites and web hosts simply can’t support heavy traffic. The sooner you know the truth about your site the better. The main thing to remember is sites that haven’t been tested may suffer from slow page loads, downtime or incompatibility with certain clients or device types. This is an important reason why it makes sense to test with comprehensive tools like LoadView in order to find the limits of your website. If you are still on the fence about whether load testing is important, here are some things to consider.

Downtime is Expensive

The example of the e-commerce site having no customers isn’t as uncommon as you might think. Downtime isn’t just limited to those intervals when your network is disconnected or your server is being rebooted. Excessive CPU activity, overloaded RAM, full disks, misconfigured software and malfunctioning hardware can all lead to situations where the site itself is fine, but instead of the door being locked, the road in front of the store is torn up and nobody can get to you.

The problem with an unresponsive site isn’t just the sales you lose on a particular day. It’s the fact that a lot of those customers will never come back. That can cost you both today’s business and tomorrow’s. If it happens often enough, it can raise your advertising costs, reduce your return on investment and damage both sales and revenue. Choosing a good host, that has a high up-time percentage is critical to keeping your business’s reputation in good standing, says Web Hosting Buddy.

Load testing allows you to monitor the performance of your site in all those situations and more. It allows you to and detect and identify possible problems before they cause downtime and added expense.

Downtime isn’t Search-Friendly

If your site is important enough to keep running, it’s important enough to make sure it doesn’t get unfairly penalized by search engines. This is especially true if you have invested any considerable time or resources into search optimization or you’re running a business. A good position in search results for a commercial site is something too important to neglect. There is no faster way to ruin your search optimization than to allow your site to remain unresponsive.

Load testing your site in as many different ways as you possibly can will alert you to problems with certain pages, certain kinds of clients and problems that might take place during certain times of the day. If you identify a problem and a consistent cause, you can not only fix it right away, but you may gain insights on how your organic audience behaves when they visit your domain.

Web sites are no longer simply evaluated based on their content. The responsiveness of your site, the speed with which your pages load, compatibility with both desktop and mobile devices and the reliability of the domain are all factors in determining where your site will land in the search results. A site that hasn’t been properly tested under heavy loads and with many different kinds of clients might not respond properly when indexed, and that could cost you all the work you did optimizing it.

Load testing isn’t as complex a task as it used to be. There are numerous automated tools you can use that are reliable, accurate and cost-effective. It just isn’t worth it to take a chance your site will be slow or unresponsive when you have a chance at a big sale or publicity from a major event.

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How To Expand Your Business Into Foreign Markets

In What You Need To Know About Small Business on January 19, 2018 at 8:59 am

Expanding your business into foreign markets will be a challenge, but one that if the destination of choice is right will bring you many rewards.

Your business is at a stage where it’s ready to venture into new markets. If you would like to grow your customer base and increase revenue and you have already tried the avenues that are available in your country of base, it’s time to look further afield. Expanding into foreign markets will no doubt bring considerable obstacles; from language barriers to transport issues, there will be plenty to talk about at the office during the first few months of your venture going global.

However, in the era of the internet and with the right operations in place, there are no new horizons your business cannot explore. On this guide, we tell you how to expand your business into foreign markets without this posing a significant risk to your venture.

Prepare an international business plan

Just like you did when you first started putting in place what is now your primary source of income in the country where you are based, you will need an excellent international business plan in place if you are about to expand into foreign markets. An international business plan needs to include all the company details you included in the first business plan you wrote for the company, but it also needs to take into account the market into which you will expand. A carefully-planned SWOT analysis that contains specific points will help you identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that you might encounter in the new market and this will give you a good starting point in a venture that will be challenging but exciting nonetheless.

Research the destination you are expanding into

Expanding operations to a foreign country comes with its own hurdles. Cultural, social, legal and economic differences will at times stand in the way of you sealing a deal with a local company and that is why you need to be well prepared and learn as much as there is to learn about the culture, language and political and economic landscape of the country you are about to expand to. You will also need to decide if trading will happen through employees that you will recruit in the area or by initially flying out someone from your team who has been with the company for long enough and knows the ins and outs of this. Making sure they have an executive condo where they can stay will then be the next step for you to consider.

Evaluate how you will distribute your products abroad

Again, this is something that you will need to do at an early stage, as deciding whether you will have company-owned foreign subsidiaries or agents once the company has started its expansion will be crucial. You, as the company director, might want to travel there regularly in the first few months of the process as this will allow you to meet the key players in your industry in the new country and this will be priceless. Doing so will open doors to so many possibilities, including the chance to embark on joint ventures with local partners and of getting to know people who you will be able to hire later on in the process.

Immerse yourself in the new country’s culture

Related to the need for you to be aware of the country’s political and economic landscape is the need for you to learn about the country’s culture and language. Customs are what keep a nation unique and in order for you and your company to be welcome in a new environment it is critical that you learn to communicate in the language and manner of the destination you have chosen for your business. For example, while Americans see tipping as something that is commonplace in their society, Japanese and Koreans see this as extremely rude. Also, while in the US putting your thumbs up means everything is good, and under control, in countries like the Middle East and Greece, this is seen as offensive and it means the same as holding your middle finger up.

Ask for a government loan if applicable

Expanding to a foreign country will be time-consuming and expensive, and that is why you should do some good research into whether there is any government funding you can make use of to complete the process. It is in your country’s government’s interest to support business operations abroad as these often help a state get its name out there and become better known amongst foreigners. For this reason, governments often offer funding to businesses who are expanding their operations to foreign lands, and as a result, you should also look into what financial help is available so that you can make the move easier and more comfortably.

Study ways of branding that will be attractive also abroad

Whilst you won’t want for your brand to change dramatically when you redesign this for foreign markets (unless the intention is for your business abroad not to be connected with the one at home), you will want to work on your brand a little bit so that this is also appealing to customers in the market you are about to penetrate. Bear in mind colors mean different things in different countries and if you are thinking of, for instance, having a website in place for the new country you are expanding to, you should look into which colors are the most favored there. Similarly, you should study the font of the websites of the businesses who already operate in the area in order for you to have something in place that will not be too aggressive to the consumers or too different from the norm.

Throw a launch party in an exotic spot

Your launch party will be the one that people will never forget. This should be the event that signals your arrival to the country, and as a result, it should be luxurious, fun and an opportunity to network with key business players in the country. If you are unsure as to where to hold this, read the country’s local business newspaper daily and get a glimpse into the business life in the area. Where are business people getting together? If the new location is anything like most cities around the world, this will also have a financial district, and this should be one you should explore in order for you to learn the essential places where people in your industry gather. A launch party will tell professionals that you are in business and there isn’t a better way of doing so than by being the host of your own party.

Expanding into foreign markets is not a decision that should be taken lightly, as this will be challenging and costly, but if your business is at a stage where it needs to extend the sales life of its products and services and where it is essential for it to reduce the dependency it has built upon your country’s market, this could be an excellent opportunity to explore new land. Similarly, if your home market is too volatile and this leads to fluctuations, it is a sensible idea to look into growing your business in foreign territories. Ultimately, expanding abroad will give you a unique sense of growing your company in unknown land and equip your business with the experience it needs not only to make it globally but to survive in markets that are sometimes unpredictable, where cultural and language barriers provide great obstacles and where you will need to become the best version of yourself to face unimaginable challenges.

This learning curve will no doubt be hard on you and those around you initially, and it will make you want to give everything up, but don’t give in to the irrational feelings that are created by the sense of failure. It is by persevering and fighting hard that business leaders out there have attained the success they can speak of today. By failing and trying again, the world will open doors for you to new opportunities, and it will be through learning to navigate rough seas that you will become the skilled sailor your company needs for it to survive and become a popular venture. Dare to explore new territories and to become comfortable in the unknown and messy, as it is only by doing this that you will become the company director that you always dreamt of and who is an inspiration to those around you. We live in a problematic world, full of injustice and hardships, but it is up to you to make of your company a failure or a success. Believe in yourself and take one step at a time: victory is measured by how hard you work and this will provide you with an opportunity like no other to prove it to yourself you too can succeed.

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Blurred Lines: How To Separate Business And Personal Finance

In What You Need To Know About Small Business on January 15, 2018 at 10:53 am

When you’re working all hours to set up and run your own business you put your everything into it – and that’s no bad thing to begin with. But as time goes on you can find that the boundaries between your personal and professional lives start to blur. It’s really important to maintain those distinctions though, especially when it comes from to your finances.

Create a Legal Distinction

If you currently operate as a sole trader, you may draw little boundary between your personal operations and those of your business, but setting the company up as its own legal entity protects you more. Your personal assets will them be protected from any debts, lawsuits or losses incurred by the company and protect you from financial mistakes. There are a few different ways to structure the company, so find a business law specialist to advise you.

Keep Business Credit Separate

It’s definitely sound practice to separate out any personal credit arrangements from those your company needs to operate. Knowing how to improve credit score means access to the most favorable rates when it comes time to access some finance. Most business credit transactions will not appear on your personal credit report, although you may appear as a linked account. Building up your company credit establishes the legitimacy of the business and helps you to qualify for business loans.

Make Sure You Draw a Salary

When getting your company off the ground, many small business owners do not pay themselves for a long period of time. But there are good reasons to establish a monthly transfer from your business current account to your personal one. It stops the temptation to have a fluid view of your finances where you draw on company money in hard times. If you run out of cash until payday, you’ll have to behave like any salaried employee and tighten your belt until payday.

Track Your Expenses

A big advantage you will have is that a lot of your expenses are now tax-deductible. So if you’re taking a client to lunch or filling up the car for business mileage, you can claim those costs back. Again, make sure that any personal transactions are kept completely separate, even if it means asking a cashier to ring you up twice. That way you maintain the integrity of your business hygiene, make things a whole lot easier for your accountant and keep a separate financial log that will make things significantly less complicated as your business grows.

Set Your Goals

Just as you should set personal financial goals, so you should set separate business ones. For each category, take a look at your profit and loss/ incomings and outgoings, cash flow statements and balance sheets for several months to get an accurate picture of the situation. Then assess what you need to do in order to get where you want to be in each case. Small steps make the biggest difference in each case, so look at introducing incremental savings at home and in the office to start inching closer to what you’d like to achieve.

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Time To Get Your Finances In Check? Top Tips To Take Back Control

In What You Need To Know About Small Business on January 15, 2018 at 10:50 am

It is so hard to keep track of your financial situation sometimes, wouldn’t you agree? Many of us set up direct debits and let the monthly payments leave our account on that designated day and that is the end of it. What is left is yours to spend for the rest of the month and the cycle continues. However, often this complacency can be our biggest enemy as we lose sight of what situation we are in and whether or not we could be better off. January always presents a good time to really put some focus on your finances, after all, you may have made some resolutions and goals to travel more, buy a house or just generally enjoy like a little more. So I thought I would share with you some of the top tips to help you get back in control of your finances.

Tackle the big spend each week

Let’s face it, one of the biggest outgoings we have after a rent or mortgage payment is food each week. Wouldn’t you agree? However, it is actually one of the bills we have the most control over. We choose what we buy and what we eat, so surely there is a way to reduce this spending? Yes there is. By simply making some changes to your buying habits, you can significantly reduce what you spend on the shopping each week. Meal planning is a great way to reduce the spend, as well as changing where you shop and making conscious choices to use shop own brands instead of brand names. These changes alone could see you raking in big savings each week.

Analyse your bank statement

The only way you will know what you are spending each month is to sit down with your bank statement and analyse the situation. That means scrutinising each debit and deciding whether or not they should be leaving your bank each month. You might be surprised to find things leaving that you thought were cancelled, or even things you totally forgot you were still paying for. It can happen, and doing this regularly will help you stay on track with your finances.

Take control of debt once and for all

Debt can also be a big factor with our finances and sometimes it is a good idea to really analyse your debt situation and workout if there is any way you could be making some savings. Consolidating debts could be the answer as you may see a significant saving on the interest you pay. Looking online at a debt consolidation calculator could help you determine what your options are. It may not be nice to have work through this, but the saving you could make could really help you pay it off faster.

Can you reduce any of those regular payments?

Finally, there are always going to be bills we pay out of necessity. But could you be making savings to these? Energy and insurance products can offer big savings when you consider changing providers. Loyalty sometimes doesn’t mean you are getting the best deal.

I hope that these tips help you get your finances back on track.

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Business Owner Vs. Investor Mentality

In What You Need To Know About Small Business on January 12, 2018 at 12:56 pm

You may have read the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” which presents a profound concept known as the “Cashflow Quadrant” which suggests there are four categories in which people make their income; the employee, small business owner, big business owner, and the investor.  

Whilst each has pros and cons, if you want to generate true financial wealth then you need to be looking more toward the investor and big business owner side of the equation – as both the employee and small business owner are much more limited in their ability to create true financial wealth.

EMPLOYEE

To be an employee is the most common, yet often the most ineffective way to go about making money, because ultimately, as an employee you are trading time for money – and someone else is pulling the strings.  There are a number of tax disadvantages for employees, compared to business owners, who can write off some of their tax liability due to the expense of doing business; as an example, the business owner that commutes to his place of business and spends $20 each day on fuel or transport costs can claim this back as a tax deductible expense.  This equates to $140 per week, or $7,280 per year.  In contrast, the employee that pays the same amount to get to work each day, cannot claim this back against their tax bill – because everything is taken from source.

The lack of control that comes from being an employee is detrimental to your financial and career growth, as you are always having to jump through someone else’s hoops, and at any time the rug could be pulled from under you, in the sense that the company could make you redundant.  Working for a corporation at the higher level does have its perks however, such as the fancy cars, business class travel, and decent remuneration… but being an employee is a little like renting rather than owning a house; you’re not building something that will become an asset (other than a pension) – you are simply trading time for money and when you stop trading time you stop receiving the money.

SMALL BUSINESS OWNER

Many people today are taking the entrepreneurial leap to run their own small business; often they have worked in a particular industry for a long time for someone else, and now decide to go it alone, as they are sick of being a cog in the wheel and making someone else rich.  However, the reality is that what they end up trading is the comfort, stability, and reassurance of having a regular income where they simply turn up to work do their tasks and get paid.  Now, they are likely to have doubled the amount of time they are working and halved their salary.  Whilst previously, as an employee, they could have left their work at the office – a small business owner is constantly thinking about work and is rarely able to fully switch off.  

The financial rewards of having a small business can be substantial, but for most people they are simply trading a job for a job they now own – which comes with a number of financial burdens.

This is often an aspirational leap that is good for the spirit, but can be bad for the wallet, and unfortunately has a remarkably high failure rate.  That’s not to say some won’t be successful – and of course, anyone can make it in life if they work hard and smart enough… but it’s important to understand the reality of the decision to start a small business, as a lot of people migrate from full-time employment thinking the grass will be much greener on the other side, to realize this isn’t always the case.

BIG BUSINESS OWNER

Small Business owners, in this context, relate to people that ‘own their job’ such as a consultancy practice, a florist, a massage therapist or a personal trainer – the common denominator being that they’re all trading their time for money.  The intrinsic limitation however, is that you can be a great massage therapist, charging $100 an hour, yet there are only so many hours in each day you can realistically work; therefore, you are subject to a ceiling with regard to your earning ability using this ‘small business’ model.

The big business, however, leverages systems to create their income.  Let’s imagine an ice cream seller.  This ice cream vendor generates $200 profit from selling ice creams.  He is a small business owner.  The big business owner, goes out and buys five ice cream trucks and employs five people to serve ice cream.  Each ice cream truck generates $200 ($1,000 per day) and each ice cream man makes $100 in salary.  This results in a gross profit of $500 per day – yet the business owner himself, isn’t trading his time for money, in the same way as the ice cream man.  He now has leverage.  He has created a system and a network that is scalable.  There’s nothing stopping him expanding the number of ice cream vans to 100 – meaning he would be making $50,000 per day.  That’s the most important difference – there is leverage and scalability.

“Big Business” doesn’t have to be Coca Cola or Toyota – it’s an approach to business.  The one woman massage therapist that goes around offices is a solo business owner; but there’s nothing stopping her getting a few more clients and working with other freelance massage therapists to facilitate the treatment.  If she received $20 for a massage but pays her therapists $10 – she has a “big business” in this context, because she is leveraging assets and has the scalability to expand if necessary.  The downside, of course, is that there’s often a fair amount of initial capital one requires to create such a business – but with the advent of the internet, the barrier to entry has become much lower.

INVESTOR

The investor has true leverage; rather than work for his or her money, in the conventional sense of swapping time for money – they put their money to work for them.  

Think of it this way, if you have $500,000 in a savings account that is earning interest of 10% each year – then, by doing nothing, that savings account is making $50,000 a year.  Now, the challenge is getting that initial $500k in the first place, but the concept remains – investors create assets that generate income automatically.

Another example is the stock market, there are plenty of applications nowadays such as algorithmic trading software that can help you make money, or perhaps just as important, avoid losing money whilst ‘playing’ the stock market.

One further example, that is accessible for most people, is to purchase a cheap house at auction, renovate it, and then rent it out – either by the room or as an entire home.  If your mortgage were to be $600 a month and you were to rent it out at $1,000 per month – you would be making $400 in monthly passive income.  Then, there’s nothing stopping you doing this with a number of properties.  The point, with being an investor, is that you need to put your money in assets that are going to appreciate and have your money work for you –  rather than you trading your time for money.

In summary, that’s the key difference between being a business owner and an investor – the investor builds assets they then leverage multiple times, whereas the small business owner tends to remain trading their time for money.

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