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How to Finance Your Small Business Start Up

It all starts with a great idea, an idea that has probably been in your mind for a long time. You have the product sorted out, how you are going to deliver your service, where you are going to set up your office and how you are going to market your new business. But the stumbling block always seems to be the finance to get you going.Finding the finance to get a small business off the ground is a major issue for any potential small business. Some new businesses lend themselves to very little start up capital because the main selling point is the owner’s skills and knowledge, for example consultants, web designers, PR specialists. Businesses which require stock holding, plant and equipment and other investment, face the real challenge of getting their start up finance together.So what sources can you tap into to ensure your business gets off to a solid start?Your SavingsThe first port of call! If you have been in employment for some time then before going it alone you should hopefully have some spare cash behind you. Whether this be in the form of cash in a savings account or shares and unit trusts, this is a good start to your fund raising exercise.You can be more focused in saving cash if you have had the goal of setting up your own business for awhile. Knowing you need to save to get your business off the ground will make sure you don’t spend your future nest egg on unnecessary items. Whilst a new Plasma TV or the latest DVD Recorder may seem to be an essential purchase, knowing that you have a business to set up in the future will be sufficient a deterrent to keep the cheque book firmly locked away!Keep Your JobSome business owners are lucky enough that during the early days of the business they can keep the day job while working on the business during the evenings and weekends. This has two benefits. Firstly, they are still earning thereby allowing more time to build up a cash reserve. Secondly, it’s an opportunity to test out the business to make sure there is a market.Make sure that you can realistically keep both balls in the air at the same time otherwise you will end up doing justice to neither your job or your new business. The support of your family is also essential if you are to follow this strategy. They have to accept that what used to be ‘family time’ may have to take a back seat until you decide to concentrate on the business full time.Family and FriendsThese can be a useful source of finance for any start up. If you have harboured ambitions to run your business for some time, then many of your family and friends are already likely to know about your idea. You should therefore have an indication who is for it and who is against it.If you haven’t shared your secret desire then it’s time to be slightly devious! If you are in the early planning stages start drip feeding your ideas to key people whom you think are likely to support you. Tell them your ideas, share your ambitions and goals and on a regular basis update them with your progress. The plan is to get them sold on you and your future business at an early stage.Once you get to the point where you are ready to start asking for contributions hold an Investor Evening. Prepare a presentation outlining your plans, the business, the market etc. Show the potential investors what their return will be in recognition for supporting you.Invite as many people as you can and promise an interesting and fun evening, Be bold at the very start; tell them exactly why they are there, so there are no misunderstandings. After you have done your presentation gather all the names of the people who may want more information or even a one-to-one with you.Whilst this group are people who know you and so are more likely to trust you, don’t forget that you are developing a very different relationship which can quickly turn sour. Be prepared for rocky times!Bank Line of Credit or LoanNow you’re getting into the serious stuff! Getting support from a Bank for a new business is tough, as many entrepreneurs will testify. One sneaky way is to apply for an unsecured loan while you are still in employment. If you have planned things right you will know when you are starting up, so a few months before you pack your job in, apply for a loan based on your salary. However, make sure that you can comfortably meet the repayments. There is no grace period; you will be expected to pay back immediately, so your business will have to start earning very quickly.The alternative is a business line of credit facility. There is no fixed repayment date, although they will be for periods from 6 to 12 months, and all you have to do is ensure that you keep within the overdraft limit. You will have to write a business plan to present to the Bank which outlines your idea and the business.Mortgage or Equity ReleaseWith the way house prices have been increasing over the last few years, the vast majority of people now have substantial equity in their homes. The cheaper alternative to a Bank overdraft or loan is a mortgage. The interest rate is lower and, as the repayments are spread over a longer period, the monthly repayment is less (although you will end up paying more interest in the long run).The disadvantage of raising cash this way is that your home is potentially at risk. If meeting the monthly repayments is dependent on what the business can generate then a slow start could cause cash problems. So be very sure you can meet the repayments even during a lean period.Credit CardsIf you haven’t got any savings, can’t get support from family or friends, or a Bank loan or mortgage, then there are your credit cards! However, whilst it’s easy to draw down on your card, be wary! Credit cards are the most expensive form of debt.They are ideal because all you may have to do is pay the minimum amount but card debt, as most people have found out, can be a long term burden. But, if you need a cash lump sum to kick start the business and you know you can pay it off within a few months, then it’s an alternative source of finance worth considering, if somewhat unorthodox!Business GrantsBusiness grants are available for specific industries, sectors and reasons. Grant providers will usually only give a portion of your requirement, so they cannot be used to totally finance a start up. However, they can be useful in filling a funding gap.Business AngelsA popular way to fund a business are Business Angels. These are people, usually retired or successful business people in their own right, who are looking for opportunities to invest in new businesses.In exchange for an investment they will typically look for a shareholding in the business and some hands-on involvement. They will have a vast business experience and so are useful people to have on board. However, you will have to accept an element of loss of control but that needs to be balanced against your desire for funding.Getting finance for your new business can be a challenge but there are a number of avenues to explore and so with dedication and focus you could soon be on your way to launching your own small business.

Familiarize These Basic Photography Tips For Outstanding Results!

Basic Photography Tip # 1, Visual literacyNow that so many of us are just clicking away with whatever technological piece of equipment we have, we are seldom giving thought to how and why the image is important, or in what way it might influence others.Visual literacy is about seeing instead of looking. When getting ready to take that shot, stop for a second to think about what the picture is saying.Understand that every photograph suggest its own vision and view of the world. When you are getting ready to take that shot, try to pre visualize what is being translated from the three-dimensional reality that is in front of you, onto the two- dimensional space within the frame of the photograph. The camera is only a tool which will help you present your interpretation of what you see to the world.Basic Photography Tip #2, Visual impact and AppealThere are many formal values within a photograph, and they may vary. These values consist of composition, proportion, focus, balance, rhythm, and texture among others. Any of these elements will influence the visual impact and appeal of the photograph. But, the most important basic photography tip is the value of composition, or in other words, the satisfying arrangement of shapes and the space they occupy.Basic Photography Tip #3, Importance of CompositionDetermine who or what the subject is. Decide what might be the best camera position, or point of view. Instead of holding your camera at eye level, try a different angle or point of view. Get down lower or get higher when composing the shot.Think about whether the subject and the surroundings compatible. Look around, make sure don’t see any things such as lamp posts or trees coming out of the back of someone’s head.Always Check the FrameThink about how you will frame the photograph. Select the scene by looking through the viewfinder or digital back. Observe the scene from edge to edge of the frame. Take notice what of what might be left out of the frame to make a better composition. Work on filling the frame with only the necessary elements, instead of depending of cropping later.The Rule of Thirds in PhotographyThe rule of thirds and subject placement in one of those, must know, basic photography tips, that you want to keep in the back of your mind. After using it for a while, you will instinctively know when the shot feels right.Most good photographs have a main subject or event. Think about it, when you are aiming your camera, there is a certain subject or event that you are trying to photograph. Where you place that subject in the frame determines the effectiveness and emphasis of the picture. The rule of thirds is a compositional method which suggest that the points of interest should be positioned at the intersection of two sets of vertical and horizontal lines that divide the image into thirds. Place what is important at one of the four intersecting points for geometric balance in your image.In conclusion, the most important basic photography tip that will make all the difference, is to find yourself and develop your own style.It is O.K. to emulate others, sometimes, but don’t try to imitate others. One way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to try producing a series of images that deal with a particular subject matter. Make sure the subject is of interest to you, other wise you will get bored and give up on the project. This intentional way of shooting photography will help develop your skill and abilities faster and will learn to visualize your ideals sooner than if you rely on what happens when you are randomly shooting.Practicing these basic photography tips will help you to gradually stand out from the crowd of snap shooters while also finding your self and developing your own style.

Creating a Records Management Policy That is Right For Your Business

Establishing a solid records management program is a challenge for any organization. Just like the planning of a new college campus or the revitalization of an existing city center, it has to be planned carefully from start to finish. All organizations benefit from consistent, thorough, and well-maintained records, but records management is rarely given priority status. Most organizations focus on “the next thing” that will take their business forward, without spending enough time on creating, completing, updating, maintaining, protecting, and even purging or destroying their records at the appropriate times.Humans are notorious for being motivated when there is a sense of urgency to act. Many of us can identify with the need to diet or eat properly, but we first take action when we realize in a panic that our clothes no longer fit. We study like we should when there is a fear we might not get into the college of our choice, or might have to repeat a class. Unfortunately, few people do what they should do without an external motivation. Regulatory compliance, and the fear of litigation that accompanies it, have provided the necessity for records management to move up the organizational priority list for many businesses. Factors for establishing a successful policy are outlined below, along with software considerations to make implementation easier.Communicating the Need for A Records Management Policy
The key to a successful records management program is a well thought-out records management policy that is accompanied by consistent records management processes. A clear policy establishes rules that inform staff what to create, manage, purge, and destroy, and helps record managers, as well as the agencies with whose rules they must comply, to know when infringements have occurred.It is imperative to keep in mind, however, that automation is not a substitute for a policy. If you are still working from paper records, automation will not solve your problems, nor will it improve upon the inherent weaknesses in the policy. The need for compliance is true whether records are stored electronically or are still on paper. A sound policy sets clear expectations for records management, and helps staff to follow procedural expectations consistently.As stated by Steve Weissman, Senior Analyst and Director of Marketing from Art Plus Technology, “Simply automating your records management program often results in automating the existing chaos. By failing to set up a plan for the creation, management, and purging of data, companies are at risk of simply getting into trouble more quickly. Although managers may aim to prove compliance, their lack of a policy may actually demonstrate expediently that they have not complied. This spells unwanted trouble for those organizations that could have been avoided if they had established a solid policy from the start.”Even the act of creating a policy can help with legislation, in particular Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, because it demonstrates that an organization has made sincere efforts to ensure compliance and implement internal controls. If your organization has not felt the urgency to create and communicate a clear records management policy, the records manager should elevate the importance of compliance and the undesirable consequences of compliance failure. This can serve as a motivating tool to implement a plan from which your company will benefit on multiple levels. The policy will give management the tools they need to effectively oversee one of the most critical assets a company owns: its collective corporate records.Review: Defining a Record and its Lifecycle
The ISO (International Organization of Standardization) defines records as “information created, received, and maintained as evidence and information by an organization or person, in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business”. The form of a record can vary from a paper document to an email, voicemail, fax, image, or notes about the documents. Each record should have important information, or metadata, about the record that accompanies it. Who created the record? Where will it be stored? Who is allowed to access it? How long must it be stored? When should the record be purged from the files? When should it be disposed of or destroyed?During the first and shortest part of the record cycle, an organization is typically concerned with managing an active document and its contents, including who has accessed, viewed, annotated, or otherwise taken action on the material. The remainder of the lifecycle is focused on record storage (records that are temporarily or permanently inactive), controlled access, maintenance, purging, and disposal.Record Storage: Establishing A Clear Path for Easy Retrieval
The first step in records management is the effective classification of records and a storage system that enables quick, easy, and secure retrieval of information when it is needed. Regardless of whether you employ OCR, ICR, barcodes, or another method of capturing your information, electronic storage of your documents, images, and historical records can make records management easier. However, it only works to its maximum potential if information is classified thoroughly and intelligently.In a digital world, a clear indexing plan takes into consideration the diverse sets of people and departments that need to locate records, and the terms by which they need to search for them. By taking the time to create a solid record classification or indexing plan, your staff, auditors, and regulatory agencies will be better served, and you can reallocate staff skills to more important tasks than searching for records.Recently, e-discovery has made it imperative for companies to be able to provide whatever information is relevant to an issue during investigations and other regulatory response projects that require specific data. Legislation that was revised as recently as 2006, in particular the rules of civil procedure, now give courts of law the power to demand data as evidence, regardless of the cost to the companies that are required to provide it. Emails, text files, data stored on PDAs and other devices, backup tapes, databases, videotapes, voice files, and other materials are all subject to these regulations. A comprehensive and efficient records management system with easy retrieval helps companies avoid the crippling problems that can arise from eDiscovery challenges. Companies with technology that enables electronic searching of e-content and compliance with these demands have a significant advantage over those that do not. Those that have implemented an efficient system to enable easy e-discovery, coupled with a clear policy, have an indisputable edge in a court of law.For the long term, companies should aim to create a corporate file plan, a single hierarchical structure for all corporate records. This lofty objective is difficult to achieve, and can be accomplished more easily if done so gradually. By applying record retention policies at the department level first, the foundation can be laid for enterprise-wide success.Controlling and Auditing Access: Creating Clear Guidelines
The need to control who views, reads, annotates, and acts upon documents during the active portion of a record’s lifecycle was apparent long before regulatory compliance was the buzz. In decades past, organizational hierarchy, trust, and respect provided many of the rules related to who should access materials. In today’s world, those standards put organizations at risk if access is not properly controlled and monitored. With HIPAA, Sarbanes Oxley, SEC and other regulations, it is no longer enough to rely on respect and an arms-length handshake.Easy and effective auditing of the policy is critical. Breaches of security can and do occur, but they can be prevented easily in a digital solution that is configured to control who is authorized to take specific actions. Equally important, the system should be capable of providing thorough audit reports. If certain portions of a form should be accessible to everyone, but specific portions require viewing or annotation restrictions, good document management software programs can address this need. If documents travel through an automated workflow process during the active part of the record lifecycle, reporting tools can provide the information needed to demonstrate compliance with internal policies, as well as external regulations.Record Maintenance
Once a policy for records management is in place, many of the maintenance challenges are eliminated. By establishing a clear plan for storage, indexing, and access, the numerous actions that surround a record during its lifecycle are easier to manage. If your organization has moved beyond basic digital storage to include automated workflow, there are multiple benefits. Changes to documents or record updates to a policy or application can be configured to launch a routine process automatically, delivering a document with instructions for action, generating customized letters or calls based on data stored within a record, and much more. While the cost savings and increases in efficiency are enough to encourage any savvy records manager to consider this carefully, the reporting tools that help to monitor action and maintain compliance make it an important consideration.Record Retention: Knowing When to Purge Records from the System
Since most records gradually lose their relevance to a company’s current business over time, purging helps to reduce the plethora of irrelevant material through which the staff has to search for pertinent data. Just as the Statute of Limitations defines the maximum period that one can wait before filing a lawsuit, record retention schedules guide the user to eliminate information that may no longer be relevant to a business from a legal point of view. Purging appropriately (as soon as it is logical and permitted by law) keeps business data relevant and accessible, and removes what is no longer needed. Workers are no longer distracted by data that is not pertinent to their businesses. Purging promotes efficiency, while simplifying searches for information.Vijay Magon, Technical Director for OITUK, Optical Image Technology’s partner in the United Kingdom, states, “Timely purging of materials in accordance with retention schedules is a vital part of compliance. Companies need to demonstrate that they have a policy and system in place that results in purging the right materials at the right time. Technology makes it much easier to monitor and enforce these policies, while providing a clear audit trail of access and activity. Without this proof, companies place themselves at considerable and unnecessary risk.”Solutions to Document and Record Management Challenges
There are many components to a complete record management solution. Once a solid policy has been established, there are several powerful tools that can make management of the document and record lifecycle considerably easier. Automated workflow (during the business lifecycle of a document), email management, a hierarchical storage management product (to manage document retention and audits), and Web services are important components of a thorough solution. The role of each component in a records management program is explained below.The Role of Automated Workflow during the Record Lifecycle
Digital workflow is the key to effectively managing, monitoring, and auditing each of the steps involved in every business process that is related to a document or record. Automated workflow facilitates a record manager’s need to monitor document access and processes relating to those documents. If a court order arises, a company may be required to provide access to the records or show who viewed, altered, or forwarded a document or any other action related to it. An automated workflow product with robust reporting tools makes this process faster, easier, and considerably less time consuming and less expensive. Electronic workflow can be configured to demand the level of consistency and thoroughness that a recordkeeping department requires, and robust reporting tools to prove that the system and workers are following the expectations and rules set forth in the policy guidelines.Leading electronic workflow products on the market today can integrate thoroughly with diverse line-of-business software applications. This maximizes the value of data that is stored in those applications and enables data to be shared appropriately across the enterprise based on the company’s pre-set rules. Digital workflow pushes the right documents and data to the correct parties for timely action, dramatically improving efficiency. Updates in the database relating to a policy or application can automatically send an alert for action, or generate an appropriate call or letter. Workflow reporting tools enable all transactions to be monitored and analyzed in formats that suit the business and simplify compliance with auditors. These same tools provide managers with productivity analysis, clear audit trails, and information that enables continual quality improvement in the processes that relate to a company’s documents. During the business lifecycle, the value of digital workflow in aiding compliance and assisting organizational efficiency can not be overstated.A solution provider with automated workflow should have a product with tools to customize workflows to the needs of the business, tracking tools to show where documents are within a process, and reporting and auditing tools to help facilitate compliance. The software should be scalable to grow with your organization, and should integrate with other line of business software to provide maximum benefit from the investment. Organizations with limited IT staff and resources should ask their vendor about the availability of professional services to help them design, configure, and make potential changes the system to fit their changing needs.Email Management Tools to Promote Efficiency and Compliance
Emails are similar to other corporate records because they hold content relating to a company’s business. A large majority of companies’ emails have valuable business content, as well as information regarding how decisions were made. Industry statistics suggest that 60 to 70% of corporate communications are housed within emails, and sometimes more.Effective management of email messages is a critical piece of proper records management, since they often store important corporate information and communications. As Steve Weissman states, “A record is a record, regardless of its source or its form. Whether the information is stored in a voicemail, fax, document, image, or email, there is content, and it is a record. Companies are wise to manage all types of records effectively and thoroughly.” Email messages should be stored in the company repository to enable easy searching of their content, including the transmission information in the header and the metadata about the email. Many companies now store their emails in a corporate repository as a step toward compliance. If a court of law requires proof that email messages were sent out or received on a particular topic or in a stated timeframe, the auditors will expect data to prove facts unequivocally. The cost of providing the data an auditor requires may be irrelevant to the governing agency, but disastrous for a business in cases where searching or complying proves to be difficult.While tracing who forwarded specific emails beyond your company’s direct email recipients is an enigmatic challenge, your company needs to be able to prove what was sent out, and to whom, if questions arise. Without a searchable system, the tracking of such data about emails becomes a labor-intensive, time consuming, and expensive process. Establishing clear and consistent rules for autoarchiving of emails promotes greater efficiency and fewer errors, and makes compliance easier.An email management solution provider should include robust search tools that make true management of this critical information easy. The software should be able to monitor email on multiple servers simultaneously, and run on any platform to allow easy integration with other current and future technologies. The solution should be scalable, to enable it to grow with your company. The inclusion of blacklist and whitelist capabilities helps record managers to facilitate management of incoming emails and provides the added benefit of dramatically improving efficiency.Hierarchical Storage Management Tools to Automate Retention and Audits
A strong hierarchical storage management product removes the human component to managing a document and information repository. This makes the system more efficient and less prone to errors. Retention schedules can be automated, with built-in alerts when a record needs to be purged. Vital information can be backed up routinely and automatically based on the rules you set in place.A hierarchical storage management solution addresses the document-centered stipulations set forth in regulations and eliminates the human element in ensuring compliance. It includes retention schedules, audit trails, move and purge requirements, data migration, and various other records management tools. It should allow for automated and regular backups of data within pre-set rules that state the hierarchy of data importance. When paired with other products in an integrated document management suite, your organization will be empowered with a solution that not only addresses regulatory challenges, but also provides the means to increase the control of content, reduce risks, and ensure document integrity.Web Services to Ensure Interoperability
Recently, Web services have gained increasing significance in records management. Since documents and records concerning those documents often are stored in and processed by diverse line of business applications, interoperability of systems is vital. Web services enable the systems to communicate with each other, ensuring that data stored in different applications can be accessed and centralized for easy reporting and analysis. They enable organizations to tap into multiple technologies within their familiar applications. Data can be extracted from those applications behind the scenes, and as an additional benefit, specific operations can be performed by tying Web services into workflow to push work behind the scenes to those who need it. By configuring the system to automatically extract data or perform whatever is needed behind the scenes, efficiency is dramatically improved. In addition, compliance is made much easier by the ability to pull emails from multiple sources and provide data about the emails that is needed for analysis and audits.Summary
Records management is a never ending process. It helps to have a clear policy and effective tools that integrate with each other, both within each department that holds records and even across the enterprise. Consider your existing policies before you begin, and rectify weaknesses or inconsistencies so you understand your needs completely before choosing a solution provider.When evaluating vendors to contribute to a complete records management solution, make sure you also consider a workflow-driven document management solution that will integrate seamlessly and make it easier for you to manage the business lifecycle of your documents while they are still active. Don’t wait for an emergency to give you a sense of urgency to establish a strong records management program. With a solid plan, and tools that take advantage of workflow, reporting, storage management, email management, and Web services interoperability, your business should be able to manage records effectively and you should reap tremendous gains in efficiency. More importantly, you should be able to police your records effectively so the real police don’t have to.