Should I Start a Small Business in 2013 – No Way, I Say

As the coordinator for a think tank which happens to operate online, I seem to be reading more business plans for new start-ups and innovative entrepreneurs than I care to these days. It’s not that I don’t applaud these individuals for going for it, I totally do, and I very much understand where they are coming from. You see, I started my first company when I was 12 years old, and I franchised my company in 23 states before retirement.

With all those franchisees around the country, I’d say I know a thing or two about when the best time in the business cycle might be to start a small company. The other day I was asked by an entrepreneur in Los Angeles if he thought this might be a good time to start his company. There are pluses and minuses to starting a small business at a time when the country’s economy is teetering on recession. But that’s not the only consideration.

There was a troubling article in Manufacturing (dot) Net on December 12, 2012 titled; “Small Businesses Already Slipping Off the Cliff,” by Joyce M. Rosenberg, an AP Business Writer. The article noted a franchise buyer telling the franchisor that they didn’t feel comfortable buying the franchise right now due to the “fiscal cliff” and challenges with the economy moving forward.

What do I think? Well, I agree. You see, I’ve been advising prospective franchisees NOT to buy a franchise, we cannot trust regulators to put forth new onerous regulations, congress to pass omnibus bills which contain things we cannot foresee or they haven’t read, and the uncertainty of socialist leadership running amuck – these folks in DC are destroying opportunity and our economy, there is NO trust left.

More or less, I’d say one of the biggest challenges is not only the government’s spending of money, but it is how they are managing, or rather mismanaging our economy presently. With all the overregulation, and all the new taxes coming, there is just too much uncertainty for smaller companies. This is really too bad if we expect job growth in 2013. So the answer to the question; “should I start a small business in 2013?” My answer is no, no you should not. Does that mean you should wait? Yes probably you should.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go and get the patents for your new innovation, or try to find buyers for your products and future services, or even start lining up the talent you need for your management team. This might be a good time to hone your business plan, meet the right people, and then if you have everything you need, and you can get funded, then and only then should you go for it. But still realize it will be a bumpy road regardless of what products you offer, or which services you can perform in the free-market. Please consider all this and think on it in 2013.

Top Five Benefits of Using An Online Payment System

The Internet is a huge, open marketplace where businesses and consumers meet. It is a great way for companies to promote their products and services to a wider audience. In order to tap this growing marketplace, you need to set-up an e-commerce website.

Your website should appeal to your target audience. It should have great graphics, informative content and superb customer service. You also need to optimize your website in order to generate traffic.

Let’s say you have done your homework. You created a great website, gained ample web traffic and quality leads. But how do your customers pay for your products or services? You need to have a reliable and secure online payment system to facilitate orders and payments on your website.

Benefits of an Online Payment System

A well-designed online payment system helps maximize the leads you get from your web traffic. A well-designed e-commerce website with a simple and hassle-free payment method will definitely give you an edge over your competitors. It offers an array of benefits:

* Centralized Payment System

Having an online payment gateway allows you to centralize all your business’ payment processes. It gives you a complete overview of your revenue. It also helps determine which payment processes need improvement in order to provide better customer service, and generate more income for the business.

* Availability and Flexibility

Having an online payment gateway guarantees that your website is capable of processing payments at all times. It allows your customers to pay anytime and anywhere. It also provides customers different payment methods aside from PayPal. This makes it convenient for your customers and ensures customer satisfaction.

* Lessened Cost and Time Usage

Having to worry about processing payments and dealing with payment issues can be costly and time-consuming. An online payment system is capable of handling payment processes in real-time. It does not require additional administrative help for it to work. This means less business expense, and more time for you to focus on more important business matters.

However, make sure that your electronic payment system is tailor-fit for your website. You can check online for companies that offer web services like web design, development and even online payment systems.

Choosing the right business website creator to help with your online payment system is very important. Be sure to compare and get as much information as you can about the service to help you make an informed decision.

Shopping Online – Learning the Features of a Secure Payment Gateway

Shopping online is one of the well-acknowledged activities at present. For some, it denotes convenience especially for people who have not much time to rush paying bills and even shopping for useful items like clothes and the likes. However, with all the advantages that it provides also comes its vulnerability for some risks brought about by different fraudulent actions of ill-minded persons. As a matter of fact, many cases of identity theft and account breakages were pointed to online scams usually due to careless online shopping activities. Thus it is extremely vital that you make sure that you are buying only from trusted websites with dedicated and honestly secure payment gateway.

In case you are not well-informed yet about the term, payment gateway is a channel wherein customers can buy products or services online serving as the crossing point between the buyer and the seller. Merchants have the option to choose either a secure order form wherein the client is redirected to a 3rd party payment service provider usually a credit card processing company or an application established by merchants for processing payments that is integrated within their website. Usually customers prefer the first option since they believe that they can trust the popular players in the market. Thus, they consider the third party payment service when shopping online.

Customers need to be wise and smart as well as cautious enough to make sure that their online shopping experience is convenient and pleasant minus the trouble of facing problems due to problems with the payment gateway. To ensure that there will be no hassles along and after the process, it is important that he learns what features should a payment gateway interface need to have.

1. Secure server ensures that the payment gateway is reliable and not scrupulous. To make sure that the personal and financial information including credit or debit card details, addresses, names, and other contact details that the client provides is kept confidential, it should be using a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption.

2. Utilities that can ensure fraud prevention should always be present. Address Verification System and CVV2 are two elements that should not be omitted because these are the proper tools that can ensure fraud-free online transactions.

3. Efficiently fast loading is also another feature of a good and reliable payment gateway. You see, if your page takes a long time to load, the customer might be annoyed and bored prompting them to transfer to another online shop. They are likely not to return anymore and might even relay the message to their friends which would put your business success in jeopardy. Thus, it is important that you make sure that the speed of payment processing is quick and fast so as not to lose any customers.

4. User-friendly interface is another aspect that you have to make certain of. You have to ensure that the customer will not find your system complicated to understand. Additionally, you should always make it a point that your system is automated to provide real-time information in confirming the progress of the process. And also, do not forget that the website shopping cart is compatible with the payment gateway; you need to discuss this matter clearly with the web developer so as to prevent any problem during use.

Many people are completely relying on shopping online, this paved the way for the emergence of many online shops that ensures they have the most secure payment gateway; something that all keen shoppers are very particular about. If you want to gain more customers and not lose any of those you have at present, make sure that you provide them the assurance that confidentiality of their personal and financial information are intact each time they shop in your online shop.

Why 2013 Will Be the Year of the Smartphone

The Smartphone industry has been growing rapidly since the inception of the iPhone in 2007. What we could see in 2013 however is a complete explosion in the ownership and usage rates of these devices worldwide. This article will point out 3 factors that support the idea that 2013 will the biggest year for smartphones to date. It will also touch on how businesses can capitalize on this growth.

Factor One:

Global smartphone device shipments set to top 1 billion this year for the first time.

This is huge that’s nearly 3x the number of PCs that were sold in 2011.

What this means for business:

This means that more consumers will be accessing online information through smartphones and not pc’s. Businesses have to take into account the smaller screen size and have their websites optimized for mobile, With large number of consumers say they will not return to a website that is not easy to use on their phone you will lose business if your website is not optimized.

Factor two:

Apple App store recently surpassed 40 Billion Downloads with 50% of those coming in the last 12 months.

What this means for business:

The global demand for mobile applications is astounding and does not look like slowing down. With such a large appetite for apps businesses can position themselves ahead of the competition by providing something useful to their customers. Applications can help a customer interact with your business from anywhere in the world, whether they want to place an order, check out your latest stock, or redeem a special offer in store applications provide the ultimate user friendly experience. It also helps position a business as a market leader in the eyes of a consumer due to their adoption of the latest technology.

Factor Three:

There is news that apple is in the process of creating a cheaper version of the iPhone.

What this means for business:

Much the same as factor one this will result in more consumers accessing information through smartphones. For those businesses that currently have applications however they will need to ensure that their application is compatible with the firmware of the cheaper iPhone. This product could sell very well and it would be a bad mistake to alienate such a large base of potential clients.

So 2013 is shaping up to be the biggest year for smartphones to date. If your business has not yet taken steps to capitalize on this rapid growth then you should start planning now. Those businesses that have a strategy to deal with the shift away from PCs toward smartphones will outperform those that do not. Whether you opt solely for a mobile optimized site or lean towards an application as well you need to be doing something to stay ahead of the pack.

Some Useful Travel Tips for Bali

The scenic Indonesian island of Bali attracts thousands of visitors to its shores every year. In fact it is fast this island nation of varied landscape, stunning beaches, vibrant culture and warm, hospitable people. A visit to Bali is not just about relaxation and rejuvenation – it is an enlightening experience that is bound to have a deep impact upon your life. This said, some practical information about the Bali can help you plan your trip better. Listed here are some tips that can come in use if you are planning a trip to the island.

Here are some tips for your consideration.

Entering Bali

To enter Bali, make sure that your visa is valid for the next six months. You also need to show a return ticket. Visas, both tourist and business, can be obtained from the Indonesian embassy in your country. Citizens from some Asian countries like Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Philippines, Cambodia, and Laos don’t require a visa; however, valid travel documents need to be in place. For some countries, visitors are issued visa on arrival. For more information, you can check with your airlines or travel agent.

Money

The local currency is rupiah. Facilities for money exchange are available throughout the island, and more specifically in tourist-friendly areas. This said, money is best exchanged at a reputable authorized money changers and major banks. Major hotels, resorts and private Bali villas and shops accept Traveler’s checks. However, passport number would be required and so do not forget to carry a photocopy of your passport. Also keep in mind, while changing large amounts of money it is advisable to check notes carefully as fake bills are in circulation. Credit cards are widely accepted though an extra 3% is added onto your bill.

Insurance

While traveling to Bali make sure you have personal insurance or travel insurance to cover accidents. If you rent a car, then remember to remove all your belongings since thefts are a common occurrence. Also it is advisable to keep all important documents in the safe of your accommodation.

Clothes

Weather in Bali ranges from warm to hot throughout the year so pack light cotton clothes. Also, Bali is a land of temples and ancient monuments and to visit them you need to be conservatively dressed. While visiting temples or religious ceremonies, do not walk in front of people praying.

Accommodation

There are several tourist resorts in Bali all of which offer a range of accommodation types from beachfront luxury Bali villas to resorts and hotels. Bali is a popular tourist destination and attracts visitors the year round so it is advisable to book accommodation well in advance.

HP LaserJet Pro M475 Printer Review

Overview

The HP LaserJet Pro M475 is a multi-function powerhouse that will help you run your small or medium sized office with efficiency and speed. Functions include print, scan, copy and fax; the printing quality is professional grade, so you can be proud to pass along your business documents and reports. Wireless connectivity and mobile printing capability mean that tasks can get done whenever and wherever you need them. With a maximum memory capacity off 448MB, even the largest print jobs won’t be a problem. You can also print from or save to a flash drive for ultra-convenience.

Pros

The laser printer weighs approximately 65 pounds, and has dimensions of 16.5″ x 19.0″ x 19.7″ (width, depth, height). It is too large for a standard sized workstation, but will fit nicely on a sturdy table or shelf.

The main paper tray holds up to 250 sheets of paper; there is also a multi-purpose tray that holds up to 50 sheets of paper. A third tray can be purchased for extra paper storage capacity.

The HP LaserJet Pro M475 comes with a printing speed of 21 pages a minute, for both black & white, and color printouts. While this is certainly the fastest speed available, it should be sufficient for most office environments. The copy speed is also up to 21 pages per minute.

The printer has a resolution of 600 x 600 dpi, giving good quality printouts; the scanner has a resolution of 1200 x 1200 dpi.

The max number of copies is 99, with settings to enlarge or reduce size from 25% to 400%.

The fax speed is 3 seconds per page at 33.6 kbps, and has a memory of 250 pages.

The control panel has a 3.5″ touch screen with a color graphic display. Buttons on the control panel include home, help, cancel, up and down arrows, and back. The LED lights indicate wireless, ready or error.

The HP LaserJet Pro M475 comes standard with automatic duplexing.

Cons

The paper tray capacity is woefully inadequate, considering that most other printers can hold at least 500 sheets. Even smaller offices may have greater printing needs and things slow down when you have to stop to refill the tray several times per day.

While 21 pages per minute is ok, it would be nice to have a greater output capacity. Many printers on the market today can print at least 25 pages, and some can do 30 or more.

How To Acquire A Home Loan

Getting a home loan can seem like a daunting task, but with the proper organization and research it shouldn’t be that difficult. Mortgage lenders are in the business of lending money, and they want to work with qualified buyers to get them into a home that they want and can afford. While it’s more challenging today for some buyers to secure a loan, many others will find that it’s not that difficult at all.

Getting A Pre-Qualification

The first step towards receiving a home loan is getting a pre-qualification. The pre-qualification screening will go through the borrower’s financial information and documents to let the borrower know how much the bank is likely to lend them. A pre-qualification should not be confused with a pre-approval. A pre-approval simply looks at very basic information, and most real estate agents will need the borrower to get a pre-qualification instead to move on with their house hunt. A borrower should always get multiple pre-qualifications from different lenders, because different lenders may be willing to offer higher loan amounts.

Finding The Right Home

The next step after getting a pre-qualification is for the borrower to find the right home. The borrower should keep in mind that a pre-qualification is to allow the borrower to know the largest amount that he or she can borrow from the bank. That means the borrower needs to consider their own finances and what would truly be comfortable to them before making any commitments. Finding the right home may take a lot of time, but it’s important that the borrower gets a good fit, because this home may last them a lifetime.

Getting A Home Loan

Once a borrower has found the home that they want, the serious work begins. The borrower should find all of their pay stub information, their W2 forms, and their tax information for at least the past couple of years. If the borrower works on contract, they should also find all of their 1099s. At times, the borrower may need a letter from their employer or employers stating that their income is either not likely to change or is likely to increase over time. These letters are usually needed when the borrower is not on salary.

Along with income information, the borrower will need all the information on any of their debts, which includes credit cards, personal loans, student loans, and automobile loans. This information should include the minimum payments on these accounts, along with when the repayment begins in the case of student loans. The borrower will also need to collect statements on all of their assets, to include checking and savings accounts, retirement accounts, and stock portfolios. All of this information needs to be provided in a packet to the lending institution, and the lending institution will process this information to approve the borrower for their loan.

Payment Gateway Systems – Which Is Best?

Business on the worldwide web has made online payment gateways a major interest. Gateways for transacting online have essentially made all of this possible. Now these online payment gateways are also the easiest way to electronically transfer money.

Online payment gateways are offered by financial institutions who will act as transfer agents between
merchants and buyers. Online payment gateways allow visitors to make payments and transfer funds worldwide. Many online payment gateways have additional abilities for sending an invoice, making payments online, through emails or cell phones, etc. And on international transactions they provide currency exchange with minimal charges.

The increasing popularity of online payment gateways has occurred for several reasons: 1) transfer or payment is convenient 2) security by encryption provides good security 3) all transactions are guaranteed for customers.

Setting an online payment system onto your website lets your visitors make purchases without problems.The choice of a payment gateway is a very important part of online payment. Another very important factor is gateway compatibility. Any online payment that is compatible with only with a few other gateways automatically narrows its options.

As a customer, you might not want to do business with a merchant or service provider whose online payment gateway is not compatible with the most popular systems. Here are some questions you should answer before choosing a gateway.

1) With which other systems will the gateway operate compatibly: Western Union, banks, credit cards, American Express, other gateways?

2) Is each transaction guaranteed, with reimbursement if there is a problem – or is it a problem to get support on problem transactions?

3) Security measures – Will the system be using the digital signature? – This prevents hacking.

4) Dynamic IP address records – Providing additional security by checking the IP address used in prior
transactions by internet?

5) Does the system have 128-bit security by Secure Socket Layer?- automatically encrypted?

6) How quickly are transactions completed? – checks take several days to clear unless electronically processed, but a credit card transaction or regular electronic money transfer from a funded account should be almost instantaneous.

Payment gateway systems like PayPal, Google’s Checkout, Epay, and MoneyBookers.com have some good features. Sadly as with most internet concerns the larger companies become the targets for hackers. Microsoft Windows is hacked more than Apple and Internet Explore gets hacked more than
Firefox.

Because PayPal is the largest payment gateway it means PayPal has the most hacks. There are thousands of other scams also being conducted against PayPal accounts. PayPal has also been targeted by several class action suits because of problems with customer accounts. PayPal has pushed people to use their system and tried to exclude other systems from Ebay.

One very good gateway payment system that has not suffered the major problems with security, scams, and customer support is MoneyBookers.com. They provide all the basic services quickly easily and safely.

When you compare payment gateway systems you have to remember that no system is perfect. Each system must be user-friendly to successfully serve the merchant and the buyer.