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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Merry Christmas to All of Us

As we progress through the holiday season it is so easy to get caught up in our own personal goals: dinner with the family, grab those presents, make sure we have an office party, have the neighbors over for egg nogg. I find myself literally running over people to get to the store and buy all the things that will make a great time for my friends and family.
How many times in life can we have the goal of making people happy only to plow through everyone else that “gets in our way?”
If there is one lesson I can take from this life, let it be the one where I slow down and smell the roses. Let it be where I stop and talk with people in the store instead of charging through the isles to get in line first. Let it be putting my favorite television show (even if it is the Superbowl) on pause when a neighbor needs to talk. Let it be where I listen to my mate with honest appreciation, even though I was in the middle of something else.
Otherwise, life ends up being what passes you by, when you were too busy making plans!

 

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How to Improve your Business Cash Flow

Having a hard time managing your enterprise’s cash flow? Are you tired of having to deal with your customers’ cyclical payment habits and the ups and downs of your business cycles? Have you decided that something must be done, but simply lack the tools to finally do away with cash flow as a going concern? Whilst most enterprises like to think they have a handle on the problem, the reality is far different. These are the enterprises that rationalise their cash flow problems. However, there are others who refuse to accept the status quo and do so by enacting some simple strategies to reduce the impact of a poor cash position. So how can your business improve its cash flow?

The Power of Prepaid Customers!

Whilst most business professionals will agree that prepaid customers aren’t viable options long-term, there is very little to argue as to whether they help reduce the impact of an uneven cash position. Customers that must prepay not only improve your cash position, but they also increase your gross profit on sales transactions. They do this by lowering your enterprise’s financing costs on inventory and receivables. It’s cash upfront so you only purchase what you have to in order to fulfill the customer’s order. Nothing more and nothing less.

Incentivising Prompt Payment Habits

Managing cash flow is also about mitigating risk. That means to incentivize customers to pay early. One possible solution includes providing a 1% to 2% discount on net-10 day terms. However, if you decide to adopt this strategy, make sure you product’s profit margins allow it. Incentivising customers to pay sooner only works if the discount doesn’t erode the margins on sales.

Inventory Management

Having all that money tied up in inventory is extremely expensive. Take the time to define products as fast moving versus those that you need to reduce your inventory levels on. Classify products as essential to hold, versus those products your customers can afford to wait on. This will be much easier once you’ve identified those prepaid customers.

Proactively Manage Vendors

When cash flow isn’t a concern, secure your own prompt payment discounts like the aforementioned net-10 day terms 1% to 2% discount. Take advantage of those instances where cash flow is in your favour. Doing this will ensure you have more money when your enterprise encounters an uneven cash flow period.

Enterprises that adopt these aforementioned strategies are ones that eschew conventional wisdom. They enact simple and effective strategies to reduce the impact of an uneven cash position. Granted, those prepaid customers aren’t viable, long-term pursuits. However, they represent immediate sales and immediate cash!

Guest post provided by Touch Financial one of the leading services for business finance, help, advice and quotes.

 

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The Future of Brands

Until recently, big brands seemed as though they were unshakeable. If a company was known, respected, and popular, you could be confident that it wasn’t going to go anywhere. In the last 10 years, however, that has all changed. Just look at this short list of companies that have failed in the last decade: HomeBase, 3DO, Tiger Electronics, Kwik Save, MFI, Rosebys, Woolworths, Habitat, and the Sun-Times Media Grop.

It seems no industry is safe. Whether you sell furniture, household goods, toys, or newspapers, the name of your brand isn’t enough to keep your company going when you can’t shift stock from your display units because of an ailing economy.

Brand Advocacy

The power of a brand name used to be an important part of a brand’s appeal when it came to attracting investors. This is still true to some extent, but the draw of a brand name is not as big, or as important, as it once was.

Today, the focus is on brand advocacy. Investors are looking for brands that have loyal customers. They want to see consumers voluntarily doing word of mouth marketing. Campaign agencies such as Buzz-Agent, and street teams, are one thing, but a brand that has people going around and evangelizing without that sort of incentive is even better, and that’s what investors are looking for. Consumers are increasingly starting to shape brands, rather than simply accepting that they should buy whatever brand it is that is designed for them.

Creating Advocates

Building a brand takes a lot of effort. Many brands engage in huge publicity stunts in the early days of their existence, enlisting trailer manufacturers to create special promotional vehicles and display units designed around their brand. The brand truck might travel the country, attracting attention everywhere it goes, and drawing crowds when it stops to do product demos in big cities.

Some brands simply hand out product samples. Others get the trailer manufacturers to make mobile computer labs, with everything from PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS stations in them, to fully featured PCs demonstrating the latest and greatest hardware and software.

Of course, the passing crowd can only generate buzz for so long. For your brand to survive in the long term, you will need to create a group of loyal users that will advocate your product without you having to spend a fortune on PR.

One good example of an advocacy program is the Intel Partner Program. This program is free to join, and offers support, documentation, and promotion to software developers that target the Intel platform. The benefit of this program, to Intel, is that it encourages developers to optimise the applications they write for Intel’s hardware. Developers join the program for the information it provides, get discounts on products that they probably plan on buying, and get a little free advertising. The people who buy the software that those developers write will see that it was designed for Intel based hardware, and will hopefully choose to buy Intel in the future. It’s a long term investment, but a good one for all of the companies involved.

This article was written by Amy Fowler on behalf of Vipex: trailer manufacturers who also offer branded display units.

Amy is extrememly interested in how the recession is affecting businesses of all sizes.

 

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Cultivating Compassion by Gil Fronsdal

Compassion is inextricably linked to the Buddhist practice of liberation. It can be the motivation for this practice as well as the result.  As one’s inner freedom grows, one’s capacity for compassion increases; as one’s compassion increases, so does the importance of freedom. Liberation supports compassion and compassion supports liberation. They both benefit when they go hand in hand.

Compassion is a form of empathy and care that wishes for the alleviation of someone’s suffering. Known as karuna in Buddhism, this compassion is sometimes referred to as the “jewel in the lotus.” The lotus symbolizes the heart or mind that, with practice, blossoms into freedom, and the jewel represents the compassion appearing in the center of this blossom. The feeling of unfettered compassion is one of the most beautiful feelings a person can experience, providing valuable meaning and purpose to any human life.  Its presence is sometimes celebrated in Buddhism as an inner wealth and source of happiness.

Given its importance, Buddhism doesn’t leave the manifestation of compassion to chance. We don’t have to passively accept how often and how strongly we happen to experience it. Instead, it’s possible to actively develop our feelings of compassion and remove the obstacles for our feeling compassionate.

Because people sometimes confuse compassion with feelings of distress, it is helpful to clearly distinguish these two. Compassion doesn’t make us victims of suffering, whereas feeling distress on another’s behalf often does.  Learning how to see the suffering in the world without taking it on personally is very important; when we take it personally it is easy to become depressed or burdened.  We can avoid taking it as a personal burden or obligation if we learn to feel empathy without it touching our own fears, attachments, and perhaps unresolved grief.

This means that to feel greater compassion for others we need to understand our own suffering. Mindfulness practice is a great help in this.  With mindfulness, we can better see our suffering, its roots within us and the way to freedom from suffering; we can begin to cultivate both equanimity toward our suffering and release from its causes.

In this regard, it’s helpful to appreciate the great value in staying present, open, and mindful of suffering, both our own and that of others. We often need to give ourselves time to process difficult events and experiences and to let difficult emotions move through us.  When immediate action is not required, staying mindful of suffering doesn’t necessarily require a lot of wisdom or special techniques. It mostly takes patience and perseverance.  Relaxed mindfulness of our own suffering increases our ability to feel empathy for others’ difficulty and pain. It gives time for understanding and letting go to occur.  By practicing to be free of habitual reactivity, we take the time to see and feel more deeply what is happening.  This allows empathy to operate and for deeper responses to arise from within.  In this way, compassion is evoked rather than intentionally created.

Some people are reluctant to actively cultivate compassion because they worry that it will be insincerely or artificially contrived. Others fear that it will make them sentimentally naive or prevent them from seeing others clearly or realistically—perhaps out of concern they will be taken advantage of if they are compassionate to others.  Because efforts to be compassionate can be misguided, these concerns are worth keeping in mind.  However, as there are healthy ways to increase our compassion, the concerns don’t have to inhibit our efforts to do so.

One effective way of developing compassion is creating conditions that make it more likely to occur. That is, rather than directly making ourselves more compassionate, we can engage in activities that make it more likely to appear naturally.

A condition for compassion is a sense of safety.  It is easier to feel compassionate if we feel safe and very difficult when we don’t.  Therefore, to develop a confident and compassionate life, it can be helpful to find appropriate ways to feel safe.  Locking ourselves in our home may feel secure, but it’s not conducive to caring more about others. Learning how to be safe while in the world is more useful.  So is using mindfulness practice to address some of the anxieties and self-preoccupations that make us more likely to feel threatened.

It is important not to feel obligated to be compassionate as this often leads to self-criticism and stress that interferes with the arising of a natural compassion. Buddhism doesn’t require us to feel empathy and care for others. It does say, however, that we have the capacity to be compassionate and that doing so is a wonderful asset to ourselves, to others, and to the practice of freedom. The focus can be on how compassion enriches us, not depletes us.

Some people are hesitant to cultivate compassion because they worry they will have to give up too much of themselves as they help others.  Or they fear they will have to spend time with people they feel uncomfortable with. By knowing we are not obligated to be compassionate it may be easier for us to use our best wisdom and common sense to understand when acting on compassion is appropriate and when it is not.

Having confidence in our skill to respond to others’ suffering can also make it easier to feel compassion.  If we feel helpless, too uncomfortable, or even threatened by the troubles others are facing, awareness of their suffering may add to a sense of personal threat.  Developing skill has a lot to do with slow and patient training in such things as mindfulness, concentration, and letting go.

A way of strengthening compassion is to understand and then release what prevents it from arising.  For example, tension and stress limit compassion. When we’re stressed, we’re usually too preoccupied for empathy to operate. However, when we’re relaxed, our capacity for empathy increases. People who cultivate deep states of calm often find it naturally opens their hearts to great capacities of compassion and love.

Selfishness and self-preoccupation also obstruct compassion by blocking the attention and sensitivity that is needed for compassion to arise.  One benefit of letting go of selfishness is that compassion arises more easily.

We can also increase the amount of compassion we feel in our lives by setting the intention to do so. This can be quite specific, such as intending to be compassionate in a particular situation or toward a particular person—or it can be more general, as intending to be compassionate for this day or this week. When we consciously set this intention, we’re more likely to be reminded of and to think in terms of compassion. We will also notice compassionate thoughts and impulses that occur but which may otherwise be overshadowed by different desires and concerns.

Valuing compassion when it does appear can also strengthen it and make it more apt to arise in the future. We might consider and appreciate the benefits it can bring others as well as ourselves. Knowing the benefits can bring a sense happiness that in turn can make compassion more appealing.  Compassion can be more appealing when we have seen how it can be a source of happiness and how it can be intimately connected with our inner freedom.  Compassion for others can be a relief when we have spent too long pre-occupied with ourselves.

Another supportive condition is to deliberately reflect on compassion, perhaps stimulated by regularly reading and talking to others about it.  Whatever we think about regularly can become an inclination.  If we repeatedly think about love, kindness and caring for others, thoughts related to compassion are likely to appear more often.

Spending time with people who are compassionate can also help us.  The people we see frequently often have an influence on us. Seeing compassion in others can inspire it in ourselves.

Finally, understanding how compassion is a form of love helps us recognize what a jewel it truly is. When it arises from inner freedom it is then connected to other beautiful capacities of our hearts. It can appear together with well-being, calm, clarity, and peace.

There is, in fact, a great deal we can do to make compassion a more central part of our lives. As compassion grows, our self-centeredness and clinging decrease, and liberation becomes easier. As we become freer, compassion becomes more readily available.  To let compassion and liberation support each other is one of the most beautiful ways of training in the Buddhist path.  It can be our gift to the world.

—Gil Fronsdal

 

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Does your Small Business need a Fleet?

Small businesses need things like ingenuity, hard work, and drive. Sometimes, they also need drive in a literal sense. Cars, utes and other vehicles are the lifeblood of a lot of small businesses, from plumbing and electrical contractors to private IT and customer service consultants. And if you don’t have access to those vehicles, you may be doing your business a disservice – either in the short or long term.

When we talk about a fleet for small businesses, we mean a set of cars which you and your employees can use to get around and get things done. Of course, not every business needs a fleet, so ask yourself the following questions first:

  • Do I do a lot of driving as part of my business?
  • Do I need specific things from my vehicle, other than just getting me from A to B?
  • Am I thinking of hiring more people to help me do my job in the future?

If you’ve answered yes to those three questions, you should consider the benefits of a fleet. Motor dealers offer significant discounts on fleet car purchases (it’s like buying in bulk at your supermarket) and you’ll also get a fair number of other perks including tax deductions for repairs and fuel. Having a fleet also acts as an incentive for new employees, since they won’t have to use their own car to do their job. And it means you can standardise what model your employees use, which not only helps the professional image but also cuts back on management and maintenance costs.

If you do need a fleet, what next? First, decide what model you want to go with. That’ll depend on everything from what your business does to where you and your employees live. A business doing consulting in the Melbourne CBD would probably not want a fleet of SUVs, for example. Things to keep in mind include fuel efficiency, size, and capacity.

Next is financing the fleet. That entails a pretty significant expense, so you may want to consider taking a loan on some or all of the vehicles. You can use the interest on this loan to claim back on your business tax return, so it’s not as risky as taking a loan on your personal vehicle. If you want car loans, WA and NSW are going to be pretty much the same, although interstate businesses may be able to “shop around” for slightly more competitive deals.

Finally, make sure your fleet has a solid insurance policy and maintenance options to back it up. Chances are you’ll need them at some point or another, and you don’t want your fleet going offline due to a lack of paperwork. That way, business as usual can stay on the road.

Sarah Paige is a car enthusiast and a self-proclaimed expert in the motoring field. If you’re in the market for vehicles for your small business, consider shopping around for car loans. WA has plenty of experts to help finance your new vehicle.

 

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A Good Filing System Is Imperative In Every Business

When running your own business, no matter the size or how many clients you have, it is essential to have a good filing system on hand. This makes your entire business life easier, and allows you to be more productive throughout the day.

Advantages
There are many advantages of using a solid filing system, and you are bound to see the advantage of the equipment as soon as you implement the system. Once you have the new filing system in place and functioning, you are going to wonder why it took you so long in the first place to initiate the filing system, and what you ever did before, without it!

Organisation
A good filing system is going to allow you to bring up previous customers and orders in the blink of an eye. The faster you are able to bring this information up, the less time you spend digging through a drawer or file on your computer. This is especially important if the individual is on the phone. Neither one of you most likely wants to be on hold for this long, so the faster you are able to bring up this information the better.

Easy Access
If you have a large listing of clients, it is often difficult to locate one individual in particular. Even if you have the names alphabetised, it is going to take you some time to flip through all the files you have, just to find the information you desire. And this only brings out their folder. You still have to look through the folder in order to find the correct order number, or date, or any other bit of information. With a good filing system, such as one that is installed on your computer, you are able to simply type in the individuals name, and all their information appears on the screen. From here, you just need to type in the desired information and this is shown on the clients account. The entire process goes from several minutes (if not longer), to just a few seconds. If you have someone performing this task all day, they are going to significantly improve on the amount of work they can produce,

Having a good filing system is important in every business, as it is going to make every task you perform faster, so you no longer need to thumb through drawer after drawer of folders, just to find one individual. Once you implement the new filing system, you are going to be extremely happy you do, especially when you see the amount of time you are saving.

Find out how basic organisation and admin jobs can benefit your business at Adecco

 

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Top 5 Must-Have Resources For Your Next Corporate Event

Planning your next corporate event? It’s important that you have a few key resources on hand. These resources will help you stay focused and organized while you pull off a successful corporate event that will have your industry talking for years to come.

Timeline: Your timeline is the starting point for successful corporate event planning. Select a date for your event and be sure it’s on a date that is convenient to your attendees and conducive to a complete planning process. Most professional event planners suggest that you should start planning 18 to 12 months before the date of the event.

Budget: Before making any concrete plans, get your event budget prepared and cleared by upper management. This will affect a lot of the future decisions about the event, so it’s important to get this settled as soon as possible up front. If you’re exploring new corporate event entertainment options or are considering a new venue, get a quote first so you can include this in your budget.

A corporate event planner or event-planning expert: A corporate event planner can be an invaluable resource when it comes to creating a memorable event. They’ll be able to suggest reliable vendors that they’ve worked with before, have insider knowledge of the best way to create an event schedule and give you extra support on the day of the event. Hiring an outside planner can help ensure that your event goes off just as planned.

Event entertainment: “Exciting” and “corporate event” aren’t always used in the same sentence, but that can change when you hire professional event entertainment. Corporate entertainers can take your event to the next level and make it an exciting and memorable experience. Look for entertainers that have experience with a corporate audience so you won’t have any embarrassing surprises on the day of your event.

Plans for following up with attendees: You can make your corporate event planning better and better each year when you get feedback from the attendees. Surveying your participants will help you and the planning team see opportunities to make things even better next year. You can distribute survey cards during the event, have team members follow up via phone or send out an email survey a few weeks after the event.

These five must-have resources will keep your corporate event on track and set your organization up for success.

David Thomas has over 30 years of event entertainment and planning expertise. As the Owner of Shows In A Box he has overseen thousands of shows, events and corporate functions for charity and fortune 500 companies around the world.

 

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