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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Photography and Advertising Advice

 Advertising photography can mean setting up a miniature studio and lighting grid to take spectacular pictures of small diamond jewellery items, or it can mean taking product images for companies manufacturing items quite a lot larger, such as cars. But whilst is often possible for advertising photography studios to take images of items such as beds, motorbikes and three piece suites in a studio, there are times when it just doesn't work. One such examples garden shes and outdoor storage in general.

These days many people purchase garden sheds online and through catalogues rather than going to garden centers. Often purchasing sheds and outdoor garden storage this way can be much quicker, and much cheaper too. But there's a problem with this because if you were to look at the sheds as they are kept in the warehouse all you'd see would be a rather drab flat pack wrapped in plastic.

This clearly won't do, and so for this reason online merchants and retailers as well as high street catalogue stores will ask advertising photography specialists to take photographs of the garden sheds and storage buildings in ways which will make them much more appealing to prospective customers.

This generates a number of problems and challenges which often prevent small businesses  from making any progress. In fact many small businesses either don't sell items like this for the simple reason that they're unable to take good quality images of fully built shes, or they don't include images of the shed at all. Sometimes they'll try to get away with an artist's impression or plain diagram with measurements, but this doesn't really stand out.

Most customers want to be able to see what the shed will look like since it will inevitably become one of the most dominant features in their garden. It's important for advertising photographers to be able to help customers accurately visualise  what the shed is likely to look like in their own garden. So what are the individual challenges which face these photographers when it comes to producing product images of sheds and garden storage units?

The first challenge is of course to build it . This means having a couple of people armed with the right tools an plenty of space to assemble the shed completely. This means getting everything right and making it look strong, sturdy and attractive. It isn't important particularly to make sure it's strong because it won't be up for long, and will usually be disassembled and packed away for sale again afterwards perhaps as an ex display model. But assembling products this size takes time and it has to be done correctly.

Although assembling the shed will make a big difference in helping customers see what it will actually look like it still doesn't really help entirely. A photograph of a shed tacks scale, and it's hard for people to visualise just whether they'll be able  to fit their lawnmower along the back wall or not. You'll often notice that most advertising  images of sheds show them with typical household products them, such as garden tools, children's toys and even ladders. This helps give shed scale and allows customers to see them being  used.

But doing all this in a studio still doesn't  look quite right , which is why the best  advertising photographers will do all this outdoors, on a green lawn so that  the shed looks as though it is in the right place, and being used too. All of this takes time, and requires a number of contacts, such as a supplier of products that can be placed in the shed, and a location for the construction and photographing  of the shed.

This is why small businesses often forget even trying to compete, and why big businesses often gain the monopoly. The reality though is that if small businesses tried, they could actually find that the cost of having a photo shoot like this would be more than paid for through the sales of the shed as result, since there are fewer small businesses competing in this market.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Importance of Media in Business

We've all heard the stories and the guru's ... traditional media dead (or at the very least, dying) But is is it really? Has the digital revolution caused irreversible damage? Are advertisers really wasting their dollars when they place ads on the TV, radio or in a newspaper?

All those traditional mediums advertisers have used in the past are not dead. Many aren't as strong as they once were, but they still occupy an important place in the media landscape. Most important, consumers still spend lots of their time consuming what these mediums have to offer. Here what the numbers look like.

Television : If you need to reach lots of consumers in the shortest period of time, TV is still the big winner.
82% of adults (A18+) watch TV every day
93% of adults (A18+) watch TV throughout the week
61% of adults (A19+) report they trust television advertising
On average, American men (18+) spend 10.7 hours weekly TV vs. 11.2 hours for women (18+)

Radio : It's still portable, informative and entertaining. Here is who is listening now.
71% of adults (A18+) listen to the radio each day (109 minutes daily)
82% of adults (A18+) listen to the radio each week (678 minutes weekly)
55% of radio listeners report they trust radio advertising
on average, American men (18+) spend 4.9 hours listening to radio each week vs. 4.8 for women(18+)

Daily Newspapers : If your preferred customer is 50+, highly educated and is a professional placing ads in the newspaper might be for you.

Depending ads in the market, 50 - 74% of American adults read a newspaper at least once a week, either printed or online.
79% of readers are considered white collar
82% are adults with household income over$100l
84% are university grads
69% of readers report they trust that newspaper articles are verified and exact Internet
64% of adults (A18+) go on-line daily, with 107 minutes spent on-line per day per user
72% of adults (A18+) go on-line weekly, with 543 minutes spent on-line per week
American men (18+) spend an average 10.8 hours online each week vs 11.3 hours for women(18+)
43% of Internet users report that they notice ad banners on websites.
(Sources of Statistics: Scarborough Research, Nelson, Arbitron, Pew Internet Research)

The truth is that none of the "old " mediums have disappeared. People still read books, magazine and newspapers, they still go to the movies, listen to the radio and watch television. Evolution does happened and some mediums have a natural affinity for each other.

While technology still ranks as the most powerful advertising. With all of the customer comments and discussion boards, the Internet  can provide this too. Be advised that customer comments cut both ways. And unlike face-to-face word-of-mouth that tends to be limited to a few people, negative comments posted on-line can reach hundreds if not thousands of potential customers instantly.

While technology changes at a blinding pace, people haven't  changed all that much. Since time began, they've done what pleases them and what they're comfortable with. That doesn't change overnight. If you make your selling proposition easy, comfortable, your marketing efforts will continue to generate positive results.

This brings us to the conclusion that it all works.Used properly and consistently, virtually every medium will generate some type of response for you. Newspaper, radio, TV, bus cards, direct mail, skywriting , and the Internet can deliver potential customers to your door (real or virtual). This is provided that you have something of value. Regardless of he medium used, your must tell your story in a compelling manner that convinces the consumer your are superior choice. Your message  must be relevant, easy to comprehend, and meaningful.

Numbers can be confusing. And sellers of ad space love to throw a lot of numbers around. The bottom line any advertiser is this, focus on creating a message that is relevant and interesting to the consumer. A sound message, with real benefits will have a positive impact regardless of where you place your ads.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Boringest Aspect of Running a Business

Weekends used to be a time for relaxing. After  working a full week. Saturdays become the day for the food shop, cleaning the car, going to the football or maybe a concert. Sundays - the day of rest become just that, even for the non-church attendee, the shops were all closed and there were no football matches to attend or watch on the television, so rest it was!

Over time, Sunday has become "just another day" and for the business owner just another day to receive or send out emails and or messages. Our lives have changed and we are now known as the 24/7 generation. Just as we no longer need to plan ahead so as to not run out of essential groceries, we can buy milk and bread at the 24/7 convenience store. So too in our business life we no longer limit working nine to five.

When we hear the bleep from the iPhone or Blackberry, the flashing light beckons us to read the message or email that has arrived and reply straight away. Despite the introduction of laptops and smartphones and all the available applications  that can help to you save time, the average business owner can still put in over 50 hours a week - and more!

It is no surprise then that when it comes to processing the payroll, it's boring it's not a productive task that secures the next piece of  business or closes that vital deal. No matter how many employees you have in the business, they will not work without receiving a wage want to demotivate your staff big time- miss pay-day. Yes, payroll is boring , but it doesn't  have to be.

Whilst payroll can be the single most boring aspect of running a business, it is nevertheless one of, if not the major contributor of financial outgoing your have to deal with. It can be a burden for the small business owner paying staff and keeping out of trouble with the next man.

So with all this technology at our fingertips it is a relief to know that one of the first business application to become automated, payroll is now available 24/7 using cloud technology.

Even better, with the speed of the internet and user-friendly systems processing the payroll can now be fun. If your  employees are all paid a standard monthly wage and there are no changes from the last pay period to record to record, what could better than one-click and the payroll's done.

Now you can spend that valuable time finishing off that quotation for the next big deal, with one-click, the payroll's done and you can now relax in the garden or read the paper in the local coffee shop. The employees will be paid, the tax man is sorted and you can spend time thinking how to be even more successful.

One Click payroll, ditch the drudge! Payroll is one of those essential tasks that looks easy enough, until you start doing it and get involved in PAYE, National Insurance, pensions, sick pay - and a whole host other adjustments, codes and things you need to understand to get it right.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Good Factoring Work

If you need to improve your business cash flow your first port of call might be a bank increasingly however, banks have strict lending polices that can be that can be difficult to meet. Many businesses are now turning to alternative sources. This rally doesn't mean that the finance isn't as good-factoring for. example is a popular choice.

Factoring is simply selling your invoices to a factoring company, the company buys them from you face value, less their fees. You get the cash quickly and don't have to collect the debt. The trade-off is that you lose a percentage of the value of the invoice, as the factoring company acquires the debt and collects  it, and makes a profit by paying you less than the value of the invoice. This fee may work out to be comparable to an ordinary bank loan, so from a financial of view there is no disadvantage here.

The process starts when you sell your service or product to a customer and raise and invoice. To factor the invoice, you send a copy of the invoice to the factoring company, and the factor then sends you a percentage of the invoice amount, called the advance. The is the first of two payments you receive when factoring am invoice.

The next step the  process is when the customer pays the invoice. The factor then sends you the second payment, called he reserve, after withholding the factoring fee. You don't collect the payment, but the factor can either do this on your behalf so that the client doesn't  know you're using an external, or on own behalf.

If the client does not pay the invoice, normally, the factor does not take on the risk of a bad debt and will be able to reclaim the money from you if the client does not pay the invoice. This is known as recourse factoring.

The alternative is non-recourse factoring, whereby the factor take on the bad debt risk. it is more expensive but means that you never to repay the advance to the factor. You factor will pursues the customer for the debt and take any necessary legal action.

Factoring is a highly flexible service that lets you retain full control over your sales ledger, or hand it over to the finance company. The choice is yours.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Company Formation in Bulgaria

Types of Bulgarian Companies

There are several types of companies appropriate for conducting business in Bulgaria. According to the Commercial Law issued by The Supreme Court of Cessation of the Republic of Bulgaria, entrepreneurs can choose between five main types of business. Article 64, chapter 10, division 3, mentions their general characteristics.

 a) Bulgarian General  Partnership (subirateino druzhestvo)

A general  partnership is a company formed by two or more persons for the purpose of conducting commercial transactions by occupation, under a joint trade name. This kind of enterprise does not require a minimum amount of capital. The partners bear joint and unlimited liability, beyond the amount invested by each one. Profits are shared equally, and each general partner has an equal right to participate in management and control of the business.

b) Bulgarian Limited Partnership (Komanditno druzhestvo)

This organization is established by one or more general partners who manage the project, and limited partners who invest money, but have limited liability in conformity withe the amount of the agreed upon contribution. Usually limited partners receive income, capital gains, and tax benefits, similar to a dividend. The general collects fees and a percentage of the income and benefits, previously  established.

c) Bulgarian  Limited liability company (drujestvo s ogranichena otgovornost)

The limited liability company is a flexible from of business enterprise, blending elements of partnerships and corporate structures. It is founded or owned by one or one or more persons, including foreign or legal persons. The shareholders are liable for the company's obligations with their contributions to the capital of the company. Each partner has to pay up, or contribute its interest, and the failure to do that, constitutes grounds for the expulsion of the partner. Partner share the rights to take part in the management of the  company, in the distribution of profits, to be informed of the company's to review the company's  books and to liquidation procedures. This kind of business entity must have a minimum of 2 BGN (Bulgarian Lev, the currency of Bulgaria) authorized capital.

d) Bulgarian Joint-Stock Company (aktsionerno durzhestvo)

The capital stock of this kind of company is divided into shares, and cannot b less then 50.000 BGN. A share has a minimum nominal value of 1 lev and it is indivisible. The company registered for this kind of business can increase its capital stock by issuing new shares, of reduce it by using shares with a lower nominal value, or by cancellation of the shares. The shareholders are obligated to contribute for the shares subscribed, and in case this stipulation is not respected, the shareholders, owes interest. The company's organs are divided in two the meeting of the shareholders, and the board of directors. The joint-stock company is liable before its creditors withe its assets and has to run full accounting. The annual financial statement is audited by the registered auditors appointed by he General Meeting.
e) Bulgarian Partnership limited by shares (komanditno druzhestvo s aktzii)

This kind of partnership is defined by a transitional entity between a joint-stock company and a limited partnership. The general partners have unlimited liability, while a minimum of there limited partners have liability influenced by their share contribution. The general partners form the company and have the right to select their limited partners from subscribers. The provisions and the organs of the partnership limited by shares are applied as in the join-stock company.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Communicate With An Egomaniac

 Attempting to communicate with an ego maniac is somewhat akin to dealing with a hangover. At time it can be highly unpleasant, it can serve as confirmation that your time was unwisely spent, and at its worst, it can make you feel like either jumping from a cliff or pushing the ego maniac into the path of an oncoming bus (or, with reversing the order, perhaps even both). In any case, it is a challenge that can be successfully met, but not without a bit of deftness.

We are all familiar with the classic ego maniac. They are overstuffed with their own self-important image. They are often ruthless and manipulating, generally have a sense of entitlement, seek and use power for its own sake, and are often intimidating and explosive. They are quite often bullies, either physical, intellectual, or both. Some are brilliantly successful and will sprint unimpeded to the very top, some will self-destruct  in a quick and ugly flash of personal or professional conflagration. Nevertheless, they are out there and we must deal with them. They are our colleagues, our bosses, our family, friends and adversaries, and we will generally find ourselves better off if we can communicate effectively with them.

Easier said than done, right?

Of course. But let's assume that it is indeed in our self-interest to find and effective way to communicate with an ego maniac. How should we proceed?

White it's not an exact science, you might consider the following suggestions?
  • When making a proposal or suggestion, let them think it's their idea. Once they see the logic. allow them to take it and run with it. quietly shift the ownership to them, and add comments that augment the brilliance of what is now proudly their own.
  • Focus on solution, not problems. Nobody wants problems thrown over the wall and dumped into their laps. Bring well-considered recommendation to deal with each of the problems. Always look to solve, not shirk.
  • Provide options. Be prepared to offer your own favored course of action, along with your reasoning, but don't necessarily expect an ego maniac to pay attention to it. However, a vigorous defense of your recommendation is sometimes respected by just such a person Again, don't expect too much.
  • Allow them all the credit . They need it more than you. Don't fight over this, and by all means don't fight their ego with yours.
  • Remember that they have little empathy. Here, with deftness, you can provide an opinion on how a decision may impact others, including yourself. If you don't bring it up, they'll likely never see it. It's a huge blind spot for them which you can turn and then work to your advantage.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Startup Business Plan

 In retirement, I do quite a bit of small business and start up consulting and recently, I was reading yet another business plan from a locally built start up company, and I was preparing them to go meet with the venture capitalists. Well, that is until I read their business plan. You see, too much fluff in a business and marketing plan will not get you your first round of funding.

In other words venture capitalist want you to show them, not tell them. And they are going to ask you the questions point-blank, and quite frankly they will tell you to your face that you are either a BS'er, full of crp, or blowing  smoke.

Now then, as I read this strategic plan, I saw far too many phrases with embellishing adjective, let me give you a few of the examples which made me smile, roll my eyes, and eventually burst into laughter. The company had written such phrases as;

"Our company is poised to make $ 100 million in the next five years."

"Our company has a dynamic team of superstars and experts in the industry"

"Our company will revolutionize the personal tech market and powerfully integrate with the largest social networking companies through our advanced technologies"

Well, you know "I''m poised to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, an Academy award, and my political party's nomination for President of the United States, but that doesn't mean anyone give a darn."

In fact, as I stand here "POISED" in front of my mirror with my three-piece suit, and looking rather debonair, I am "poised" to do all sorts of things, but that doesn't mean it's going to happen. Now there's nothing wrong with dreaming, but that sort of nonsense really doesn't belong in business plan if you are trying to impress a venture capitalists, and get your first round of funding of $10 million.

This other statement "our company has a dynamic tam of superstars and experts in the industry?" What does that mean, and what if the venture capitalists have never heard of these people, then they must not be too dynamic, or notable superstars.

In the last quote, I mention here, well, that was rather interesting too, the company has advanced technologies, and they are going to revolutionize the personal tech market by powerfully integrating with the largest social network companies?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Are Your Advisers Really The Best Fit For You?

You choose the best advisers you can find at the time, but that doesn't mean that you have to stick with the same ones for life .Don't be afraid to make a chant if you outgrow one of your advisers such that someone you are currently using isn't the best fit for your current situation anymore.

I know there is a loyalty factor, but is that really serving you? is sticking with someone you have outgrown serving either of you will?

I you feel you have outgrown a particular adviser, you will no longer be happy with them and their service and thus you won't be referring them, and if it has gotten way past time to replace them, you might actually be bad  mouthing them, so they are losing out as well.

If you have grown beyond you current adviser, then it is time to find a replacement . Even worse if that adviser is holding you back from your potential and where you want to go, then you must make a change.

I know i stayed with a CPA that wasn't the best fit for me for several years beyond what my gut told me, because I felt like I couldn't make a change. Changing to a new adviser is always hard, there is time to do research to find them and/or ask for referrals from colleagues and then interview several to see if they will be better fit than current one.

That isn't how I want to be spending my time, and I'm sure your feel the same, but if you are thinking about it, then it is likely time to make a change and the longer you procrastinate, the worse things will get.

I am a small Independent Contractor, so it had never occurred to me that I needed financial statements. I was putting together a proposal in response to an RFP for a government contract and they wanted financial statements included as part of the response.

I asked my CPA to create those financial statements in support of the proposal, but he wouldn't create them for me. I educated myself and then through something together that was good enough so I could include that in my bid, but it gave me serious doubts if that CPA was really the adviser that I needed for my business.

I have now totally shifted my view and think that financial statements are critical to the ongoing success of your independent Contracting business. The fact that my old CPA wouldn't create them for me should have been a red flag, but change is sometimes hard, and for whatever reasons I justified in my head, and I was unable to make the decision to make the change at the time.

It took me a couple more years of them providing the basics, but nothing more, plus some internal changes at the CPA firm itself before I follows my gut and made the change and moved my business  to new firm.

The change in CPA was something  that I had obviously been considering for a while, but the final straw had been when I found a mentor that explained financial statements in terms I understand, and demonstrated to me their importance even to small business like mine.

The convinced me that if my CPA wouldn't provide that basic service, then I had definitely outgrown their service altogether and needed to make the change.