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3 Great Summer Vacation Books for Entrepreneurs

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jul 20, 2016 2:31:25 PM

books for entrepreneursSummer is in full swing and kicking. The sun is burning hot, the days are extra-long, and you’re probably stuck in an office somewhere wishing you were beachside sipping a cold drink. You’re definitely not alone.

Or maybe a beachside vacation isn’t what you’re thinking of at all. Maybe you’re dreaming of a way to make bigger changes in your life than a temporary adjustment of scenery. If you’re an aspiring or budding entrepreneur, changes and opportunities probably rule your mental landscape throughout most of the day—and it never hurts to get a bit more inspiration.

Whether you’re a successful entrepreneur already or you would like to dip your toes into some new waters, grabbing a few books on the topic is never a bad idea. In fact, more than one individual has picked up new ideas or renewed passion from the right kind of book at the right time. Maybe that’s just what you need this summer, instead of a sunburn.

Below are 3 great choices for entrepreneurial summer reading—the kind of books that offer a bit of inspiration and a whole lot of guiding wisdom.

For anyone who has tried to go against popular opinion, Grant’s book is destined to be a new favorite. In Originals, Grant discusses the challenges of improving the world and the risks inherent in completely supporting ideas in a bid for progress. More, Grant offers real advice for novel thinkers who have a goal but can’t find the right way to make their ideas heard and seriously considered. The books includes real stories of change and innovation across multiple industries, and the deeper insights on how more than one underdog found a way to challenge the status quo. Amazon reviewers gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

  • Grit, Angela Duckworth

From the outside, many successful people appear to have it easy. Or, perhaps they make it look easy. In reality, the path to achieving larger, greater goals is hell, and those who survive the trek, according to Duckworth, tend to have one thing in common: grit. Duckworth defines “grit” as a combination of passion and perseverance that can shape your life more than any other quality, circumstance, or characteristic you possess. As a respected psychologist, Duckworth offers an in-depth and personal analysis of the qualities required for success and the concept of “genius.” Amazon reviewers gave this book 4.4 out of 5 stars.

At our cores, human beings are creatures of habit. In his book, Roth argues that “design thinking,” a process developed by Roth and other Stanford innovators, could be used by everyday individuals to reach their goals and improve general living habits. Design thinking embraces certain patterns of thought that can become habits if reinforced regularly, such as an inclination for action and tracing problems to their root cause, etc. Once they become habit, these approaches can help men and women in many areas of their lives, from weight loss to job productivity—and once achievement becomes habit, success is likely to follow. Amazon reviewers gave this book 4.3 out of 5 stars.

If you’re craving growth and change, either personally or professionally, the books above are right for you—and there are plenty of other options to choose from as well. Don’t let a lack of inspiration or a momentary lapse in direction knock you off course from achieving your goals. Instead, seek the advice of other innovators and forward thinkers by reading about their own challenges, misdirections, and rerouting adventures. You might find just what you need to get back on track and avoid any further delays to achieving your goals.

Six Business Functions on an iPad

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of  Darkangels @ Flickr CC.

Tags: Books for entrepreneurs

Things to Look for in Coworking Spaces

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jul 13, 2016 9:16:22 AM

Dallas Coworking SpacesWorking independently or from home has grown in popularity and feasibility within the last decade. According to the New York Times, the number of telecommuters in the U.S. rose by 79 percent between 2005 and 2012, and grew to include roughly 3.2 million workers by 2014.

These changes can easily be attributed to cost-cutting efforts by many businesses and the development of new technology, which has allowed for the reinvention of workplace standards and greater opportunities for those who don’t fit the traditional 9-to-5 model—or who don’t wish to.

Still, there’s something to be said about office culture and having a reserved working space outside of your home. Still, while that sounds nice, when you’re a sole proprietorship, an employee, or a tiny company with very limited office needs, the realities of cost and availability can shut down those thoughts real quick. Or, at least, they once could.

Now you have the option of leasing a coworking space—a desk or office in a larger building where other small business owners, telecommuters, or freelancers are likewise renting out shared office spaces for reasonable prices. Particularly in larger cities like Dallas, there are actually several of these organizations with a variety of coworking spaces available, at different sizes and prices to suit your needs.

If a shared office space is something you’d consider, start looking into your options. The big five in Dallas are:

  • WELD
  • Dallas Cowork
  • The Grove
  • Common Desk
  • Dallas Fort Work

Each offers a different environment, different coworking space options, and different amenities, depending on your needs.  The key, of course, is choosing the right one.

Whether you’re in Dallas, another city, or another state entirely, the following are the key characteristics you should consider when selecting a coworking space that suits your needs.

  • The right vibe. Each space has it’s own feel. "Given the fact that different people show up to different spaces means every space has its own personality," said Jeremy Neuner, CEO of NextSpace (operator of nine different coworking spaces in California), in a recent article. On a purely surface level, some spaces cater to a more posh look while others stick with the coffee house feel, but, more importantly, each space has its own unique dynamic. Depending on your business’s needs, you’ll want to select the space that feels the best for the work you do. And you can even take a test run, since most coworking spaces offer daily, weekly, or monthly leasing options. If you don’t feel right, you’re not locked in or cornered—a feature that surely appeals to most independent business owners, freelancers, and telecommuters, considering they tend to like their freedom and options.
  • The right people. While each space has a different feel overall, the more important differences will be in the people who coexist in each shared office space. You may prefer to work in a space with others who do the same kind of work you do. Or, you may prefer a coworking environment with an entirely different population—which might reduce direct networking opportunities, but open you up to a culture with less politics and more outside-the-box solutions. A point made in a recent Harvard Business Review article was that the greater variety of workers sharing a space, the more opportunities for creative thinking available, a fact that reportedly increased working satisfaction in those interviewed by the article’s authors.
  • The right amenities. Maybe you absolutely need a coffee shop within your shared office space. Perhaps a desk near a window, or a private office, or the availability of conference room spaces are necessary for your work. With the rate of coworking spaces popping up in major cities, there’s a good chance you can find a space that works for all your needs. Make sure you’re clear on what those needs are, though, before making any larger commitments. Some locations do offer year contracts for a private office space. Make sure the space meets all your needs before signing on.
  • The right price. Do your pricing research. Just because one location sounds like a good deal doesn’t mean there aren’t other options out there that might be better. Dallas Cowork, for instance, offers $298 a month rates for 24/7 access to all shared office space facilities, such as team rooms, conference rooms, and private offices, which can be booked based on availability. On the other hand, The Grove gives you the option of a $375 monthly cost for a dedicated desk that is guaranteed to be available for you. Or, Dallas Fort Work offers a $99 ten-day punch card or $199 per month for full access to the available facilities, though dedicated offices run for $600 per month. As you can see, the prices vary greatly, as do the locations and general atmospheres for each coworking space. Pricing is important, but making sure you’re paying for exactly what you need, no more and no less, is even more vital.

If you’re currently working from home for whatever reason and productivity, distractions, and refrigerator temptations are becoming too much of a problem, consider looking into a shared office space or coworking opportunity nearby. It might be just what you need to maintain the freedom of a non-traditional working environment while still benefitting from the routine and work-focused feel of a true office space.

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About the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Kris Krug @ Flickr CC.

Tags: telecommute, Coworking spaces

How to Open a Business in Texas

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jul 6, 2016 12:21:31 PM

190423890_238a7456e8_m.jpgOpening up your own business is a little like having your first child—you have almost no idea what you’re doing, you’re about to sink a lot of money into it, and you’ll probably be losing a lot of sleep for a good long while in the near future.

But hey, it’s your baby, right?

And just like with your children, location is vital—and Texas is an ideal place to open up a business. Texas’s top four metropolitan cities—Austin, Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, and San Antonio—have all experienced double-digit job growth from 2010 to 2014, which is well above the 8.1 percent national average, and have all been named by Forbes as “cities most likely to boom” within the next decade. Texas was also named 2nd in CNBC’s rankings of America’s Top States for Business in 2015. The state has held a top spot in several different rankings for its pro-small business policies for more than a decade.

Even with the right location, starting a new business is a long process, one often surrounded by a great sense of hope and potential, but also a lot of fear if you’re not certain how to get started. Those first few years are important and meeting all the legal requirements are only part of the process—but a very, very important part.

So, to make sure you don’t stress too much, below are basics for starting your new Texas business. Certainly, there’s a lot more to it in the long run, but these are the initial steps that every business owner must follow to get his/her business off the ground the right way:

  • Select the right structure for your Texas business

The stucture of your business is selected for tax purposes and to determine the general size and liability of your business. You could choose to open any one of the following, but need to make sure you have a business plan in place to support it, as sizes vary.

  • Sole Proprietorship – this is the simplest form where one individual runs the business and controls all assets.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – this is a smaller, unincorporated business structure and is designed to give its “members” some liability protection in the business, meaning that their financial liability is limited to the amount they’ve invested in the business.
  • Corporations – this is a larger structure where more than one individual or groups comes together to create a business that has its own separate legal identity from its owners. There are C Corporations and S Corporations and you’d need to research both to determine what’s best for your business.
  • Partnerships – in this structure you look to build a business with a specific partner. These can be general partnerships, limited partnerships, and registered limited liability partnerships depending on your needs.

Keep in mind that most of these structures are selected based on how big you want your business to be, how involved others might want to be in helping you grow your business, etc. There are several variables with each structure, so do your research and choose carefully.

  • Pick and register a business name

Once you’ve gotten the structuring down, pick your business’s name—and make sure there are no other businesses out there like it, and not just Texas businesses or local startups. You don’t want to get sued by anyone, Texas local or otherwise. Keep in mind, as well, that this is your business’s identity. Make it something you can live with and that your business can thrive on. Think image. Think brand, logo, and growth potential.

  • Request an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

From there, you’ll need to set up a tax indentity with the IRS. The process is, unfortunately, a lot of paperwork, but that’s the IRS for you and pretty much everything can be completed online these days.

  • Freshen up on tax laws and determine your responsibilities on local, state, and federal levels

Even before you receive you EIN, you’ll want to get started researching your tax laws. Texas states laws are actually much simpler than most other states, but there are still tax laws you’ll need to understand. The Small Business Administration also has a great deal of resources available for understanding state tax laws, as well as setting up your business plan, and other tools.

  • Create a business account

By the time you hit this step, the fun is starting. From here, you select the bank you want to work with for your business’s accounts. Many banks offer different incentives for businesses to stick with them. Look around carefully to select the account type and banking location that will best benefit your Texas business or startup.

  • Make it official with licensing, permitting, and registration

Depending on your startup or business type, there may be special permits involved. Make sure your Texas business is setup right by ensuring all licensing requirements meet local, state, and federal regulations and that your building permits and registrations with any local regulatory bodies are handled straight away. Fines and other financial penalties could result from failing to meet regulatory standards.

  • Research and understand employee requirements

Finally, if you plan to have employees and more than a sole proprietorship, know the laws. This includes tax law, workers compensation law, health insurance laws, etc. The state laws for Texas businesses will have their own standards for employee treatment and management practices. Know your obligations and your employees’ rights up front, so you can avoid any misunderstandings or conflicts later down the road.

Creating a Texas startup or business is actually relatively easy compared to several other states, so don’t let the anticipation or fear of the unknown get to you. If you’re ready to get your own business off the ground, then get started by getting your ideas together and knowing all the facts. From there, listen to the consumers, since they rule the market, and don’t be afraid to get creative and have fun.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Tags: Texas Small Businesses, New Texas Business

5 Ways to Overcome Mental Barriers to Success

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jun 29, 2016 11:25:37 AM

27648314436_28920795be_m.jpgIf it were easy, everyone would do it, right? I’m sure your mom told you that at some point too—and what do you know, she was right.

Still, the concepts involved with achieving success in both personal and professional pursuits appear, on the surface, to be laughably simple. Child’s play, even.

The reality, of course, is much different.

Whether we realize it or not, many of us set up a thousand different roadblocks along the way, causing us to limit our own potential for success. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Once we realize the habits we are indulging that might be limiting our abilities, we can take steps to eliminate the problems and overcome any mental barriers we might unconsciously be placing in our own way.

  • Have a vision. To achieve success, we have to have a clear idea of what success means to us. It’s not going to be the same for everyone, and scrambling about in the dark trying to grab onto some vague notion of success isn’t going to help us achieve anything. We need to establish clear goals and a clear picture in our minds of what we hope to accomplish. The vision, of course, is the bigger picture, but it’s important to establish smaller steps along the way. If the vision is to be financially comfortable and able to retire at 60, we need to take a clear look at savings and spending goals within that time span and do our best to stick to the plan.

  • Don’t give into emotional impulses. As human beings, we are all ruled by emotions. Sometimes they can be overpowering, and it’s important to recognize when those times arise. Challenges in daily life, an argument with a friend or business partner, a death in the family—all of these can have significant impacts on our ability to make sound judgments. Sometimes, we need to step back and divorce ourselves from these strong emotions to make the right choices. If our vision is strong and clear, we can often stay on the right path more easily.

  • Seek perspective. One of the more important aspects of success is having the right perspective. This is easier said than done, I understand. This can be challenging when taking a chance on a risky venture or trying to discern which things take a higher priority over others. Before making any choices, it’s important to gain perspective on what we’re doing and what we hope to accomplish. This means thinking beyond our gut impulse. We need to do research, seek information, discuss the decision with any and all key shareholders—even our teenagers might have some perspective we find useful. We don’t know it all, but neither does anyone else. But we can try to know as much as possible about the challenge at hand, before making any big decisions.
  • Expect failure. As most of us have already discovered, failure is a part of life. Regardless of our vision, sometimes we’re going to experience setbacks. It’s ok. It may not be ideal, but it’s temporary, and we can always learn something. Maybe we’ve set a goal and failed to meet it. This does not mean we give up trying. We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off keep at it until we’ve accomplished what we set out to do. Failure is just one stepping stone along the path. It does not have to be the end, unless we allow it to be.
  • Embrace doubts, but don’t let them rule you. Doubt, like fear, is healthy. It’s designed to be a warning mechanism. Heed it, but only in so much as it pushes us to be cautious. That does not mean that we shouldn’t make that entrepreneurial leap and try something new. It simply means that before we drop the funds or reserve the building, we need to know that we’ve assessed all the possible risks and that we are prepared for both success and failure. Doubts allow us to develop contingency plans and to test the ground we stand on.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood.

Top Photo Courtesy of Abhijit Bhaduri @ Flickr CC.

 

 

Tags: business success, business tips

Government is NOT Laughing at Payment Jokes

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jun 22, 2016 12:22:12 PM

13859755804_3f99bf33c8_z.jpgSo you’re buying that last round of drinks, joking about your plans to take over the world, and you happen to carry over the joke into your payment memo line—and suddenly your payment is flagged and you’re under investigation for possible terrorist connections.

Seem implausible? Well, it’s actually happening. Banks and other financial institutions across the U.S. are taking any possible mentions to terrorism or its affiliations very, very seriously.

According to the Dallas Morning News, one man in San Francisco, Bruce Francis, was flagged by his bank for trying to pay his dog walker. Apparently, the dog’s name appeared in the memo line and was flagged for its similarity to an alternative name for ISIS. The dog, Dash, is not in any way affiliated with Daesh, the ISIS-affiliated term, and, according to his owner, “Seriously, the only thing Dash could terrorize is a roast chicken.”

According to Claes Bell, a mobile editor for bankrate.com, this type of thing is happening constantly. In order to assess industry trends, Bell regularly checks online social media and other commonly available information. According to the research, flagged and blocks payments have surged in recent months.

I went online to Twitter,” says Bell, “and looked at the mentions of customer service problems for financial institutions. More and more complaints started popping up from people saying, I tried to pay my friend back for some Cuban food we bought the other day, and the payment got flagged.’”

One mobile payment app, in particular, seems to be getting hit the hardest, due to a social trend of adding jokes in the memo lines. The Venmo app is best known for allowing customers to make quick and easy payments between individuals. The app is a creation of Paypal and users can link up bank accounts safely in order to quickly transfer $10, $15, or $20 to pay someone back for picking up the bill when cash isn’t easily on hand. It’s a brilliant idea, but the memo lines gets used by customers for all kinds of emojis, inside jokes, and silly slogans.

One of the more controversial situations came from a complaint made by Arman Ghorbani, a neuroscience researcher from Los Angeles, CA who used the memo line “Persian New Years Celebration” when paying back a friend using the Venmo app. The payment was rejected, as were any additional attempts that included the words “Iran” or “Iranian”. In an effort to test the boundaries of Venmo monitoring, Ghorbani issued a payment using the words “Hookers & hard drugs”. The payment went through without problems.

While it’s admirable that Venmo and U.S. banks are looking to err on the side of caution, situations like those described above are beginning to interfere with consumer payments and business as usual. The reality is that references to ISIS or any of it’s associated names are unlikely to be linked to actual payments for terrorist activities.

For consumers and business owners moving forward, the best steps to take in avoiding any interference with payments or financial processing is to avoid any and all references to terrorist organizations. In creating memo lines, being general and non-specific is probably for the best. For financial processors and app developers, hopefully we can get a handle on the appropriate triggers and concerns for tracking real terrorist activities.

Until that’s sorted, it’s probably best to keep your sense of humor tucked far away from any financial matters or memo lines—no matter how tempting it might be.

Six Business Functions on an iPad

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Nicolas Raymond @ Flickr CC.

What Credit Card Processing Technology Works Best for Your Business?

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jun 15, 2016 12:01:53 PM

credit card processing technologyAn interesting observation… the terminology and structuring of how we view ecosystems is the same as how we view economics? Environments and money markets. Could two things be more different? And yet, we view them both in terms of resources, demand and supply, and predator and prey.

In a stable and balanced ecosystem, every creature has a place, a role they fit into. While I hate to compare consumers to prey, the concept in business is not so dissimilar. In any particular market, each business is competing for the same resources, and each business must be uniquely suited to the consumers (i.e. prey) it wants to target in order to be successful. This could mean a strong focus on an online presence and online purchasing tools for one business, while another might be better off with a stronger physical presence and in-store purchasing options.

Fortunately, businesses are not subject to the rules of evolution—which are actually kind of morbid. Instead, business owners have the power to make decisions about how they want to make their businesses more unique and more competitive within the industry.

What some business owners might not realize is that their choice of credit card processing services and payment technology might play a big role in how to attract and keep customers. Sometimes, it’s not about the big things, like branding campaigns or website graphics. Sometimes, the smaller things can be more vital, like providing your customers with dependable online purchasing tools. I know more than one customer who has given up on a business when they couldn’t make an online purchase or the system kept booting them out.

If you’re looking to make your business more successful, to find your niche, consider the following steps for evaluating your credit card processing services and payment tools. There might be some technology options you haven’t considered that will help your business find its place for market success.

Evaluate. The first step in improving your business is understanding it. Consider the following questions:

  • Who are your customers? What are their age ranges, general interests, areas of residence, and average incomes?
  • What attracts them to your business? Why are they choosing you over your competitors?
  • How do they make purchases (online, in-store, mobile)?

Once you know the answers to these questions, you can start to evaluate where your business is successful and where you might be lacking. From there, you can choose to focus on strengthening your already strong areas and allocate resources to reinforcing your strengths, or you can begin to repair your weak areas. It is important to evaluate in this way and create priorities for your business to progress and improve. Your fund and time resources are not infinite and must be used wisely to maximize your potential.

Consider your options. After you’ve assessed your strength/weaknesses and your priorities, you can begin to explore your options. Credit card processing service options are abundant with today’s technology, and various simple forms of payment technology are easy to find. Even more, there are tools available to help you create customer loyalty programs, manage inventory, and simplify debt or collections processing. Visit the NTC Texas Customized Payment Solutions page to receive a personalized assessment of your business’s options for improving payment technology, or visit our products and solutions page for more options. Beyond that, do your own research and be open-minded to new and creative solutions. You might be pleasantly surprised at the variety of tools available for businesses today.

Make it happen. Finally, you need to get a real plan of action in place. Don’t try to do too much at once and make sure that you’re prepared to evaluate the success of your plan at each step along the way. Finding your niche is not easy. For plants and animals, it takes lots of death and thousands of years of small mutations. Obviously, you don’t have that kind of time or patience. Instead, use the technological tools at your disposal to monitor changes and tweak your plans along the way.

If your business hasn’t settled into its perfect niche within the market yet, be patient and observe your market and competitors. The most important rule you can adopt for surviving any environment, ecosystem or business market, is being open to changing and being wise enough to adapt to your surroundings as needed. After all, survival of the fittest was never about strength or brute force—the extinction of the dinosaurs proves that. Survival of the fittest is about flexibility and adaptation to one’s surroundings. So evaluate, adapt, survive, and then thrive.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

Tags: Credit Card Processing, payment processing

Get Credit Card Info Embedded, In Your Hand

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jun 8, 2016 8:33:50 AM

118626161_5b4b8a0fa9_m.jpgIt’s now possible to take your credit card info with you anywhere and everywhere you go—literally. Going for a run? Not to worry. Taking a shower? Gotcha covered. A dive in the ocean? Make a purchase on the sea floor if you need to.

Well, that is to say, your credit info will go anywhere your hand goes, since one of the newest developing trends in credit card technology is to embed a small, near-field communication (NFC) payment chip into your hand.

With this new form of biotech, you would simply wave your hand over a digital reader device, not unlike the devices involved with payments using phone technology--and voila! Item purchased. The concept is undeniably cool, and it’s very similar to the radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips used for pet tracking, so the technology has been tested and deemed safe.

“Getting an ear piercing is many times more risky,” says Amal Graafstra, who has spent the last decade working to develop the new payment chip biotech at his company, Dangerous Things.

Another developer, Patric Lanhed, is working with Juanjo Tara, an Arduino developer, to create an implant chip that also uses NFC technology and is specifically keyed to Bitcoin currency. These “bio-payment” chips would also be implanted under the skin in the hand, between the thumb and pointer finger, and would enable consumers to make Bitcoin purchases more easily, since the digital currency is still somewhat elusive and early in its development. The creators hope to expand the payment chip technology to include other card data eventually.

As you can imagine, the technology is highly controversial, and there are some real concerns with its implementation. For the conspiracy theorists among us, this form of biotech obviously opens doors for higher levels of individual monitoring and tracking, and not all those fears are groundless. Already, mobile phone and GPS technology, as well as social media keywords, are being used to target internet marketing to the specific individuals. While using the information about a person’s routines, interests, locations, and shopping patterns to show them better advertising is relatively harmless, certain details in the wrong hands could be more detrimental.

According to Linus Information Security Solutions director Mike Thompson, these payment chips are not impervious to hacking. Just because they are implanted in the skin does not mean that they are impossible to access via the same NFC technology that allows them to function as forms of currency. While the same threat exists for actual payment cards, wearables, and mobile phone technology, the ability to change the hardware or adapt it to new threats is much less invasive with these methods, compared to the trouble of a bodily-inserted payment chip.

Graafstra has plans for this biotech insertion to function in other ways beyond payment chips, including the ability to open doors. Considering the various uses for other types of NFC technology, such as access cards, ID badges, etc., the insertions could be used for almost anything. A passcode or PIN could also be applied, for security purposes.

Just imagine it: in the not-so-distant future, leaving your wallet at home might not be such a dreaded fate. The absentminded among us will be grateful. The paranoid among us will have something new to fear. And those of us who have a tendency to wander around naked will be joyously able to make purchases and open doors with abandon. And who’s to say it has to stop there?

Several sci-fi authors are rolling over in their graves right now, but no matter what, with the development of viable biotechnology, we have an interesting future ahead of us.

Texas Credit Card Processing Services

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Dudley Carr @ Flickr CC.

 

Tags: NFC, biotechnology

Businesses Run Entirely By Computers

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jun 1, 2016 12:01:19 PM

Business TechnologyScience fiction authors have been predicting it for years, and it’s finally coming true—the computers are taking over.

A new startup called DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) has decided to realize some of the sci-fi world’s most intriguing plot lines by orchestrating a business run entirely by computers. There is no CEO, no human staff, and no human management. And still, the company raised over $130 million within its first three weeks.

While DAO is currently very unique in its standing as a completely computer-run business, trends within the business world are slowly shifting towards more and more reliance on machines to make the work cheaper and easier.

Of course, some of these reported shifts in business are hoaxes—no, there is not a McDonald’s restaurant in Phoenix being run entirely by McRobots—we are seeing a definite, gradual development of technologies that could perform similar work to many flesh and blood employees.

The restaurant industry, in particular, seems to be the target for much of this new technology, especially after the minimum wage protests that made headlines periodically throughout 2014 and 2015. In fact, according to research from the University of Oxford, there is an estimated 92 percent chance that fast-food preparation will become automated sometime within the coming decades.

Consider the self-checkout lines in many chain grocery stores and the self-service kiosks popping up in various restaurants, and you can already see how this shift in reliance on technology has begun to infiltrate different aspects of the food industry.

Panera Bread, for instance, announced plans in 2014 to launch mobile order and kiosk options to all its locations within a 3-year timeframe. After a $42 million investment in the system, the technology is hopefully doing all it’s intended (though I haven’t personally seen any in my corner of the country), and while the company denies it will partake in any job elimination as a direct result of this project, the general rules of business would say otherwise.

On a scarier note in connection to this topic, the renowned and well-respected Stephen Hawking has predicted an eventual coup by computer-kind—and has warned against it. During a Zeitgeist conference in London, Hawking stated: "Computers will overtake humans with AI at some point within the next 100 years. When that happens, we need to make sure the computers have goals aligned with ours," according to a report in Geek.

Both Hawking and Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and CEO and co-founder of SpaceX, have indicated in recent interviews that Artificial Intelligence (AI) could pose a real threat to humanity, if developed to its full potential.

With all that, you’re probably feeling a little shaky on the whole computer upgrades and smart computers concepts—as well you should. However, there’s a difference between computer and software programs that help simplify our lives and machines that run everything for us. While the concept of DAO and all it stands for is incredibly intriguing—and possibly very lucrative for its creators—you’ve got to wonder: at what point are we taking our reliance on computers a little too far?

Texas Credit Card Processing Services

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Rog01 @ Flickr CC.

Tags: robots, business technology

5 Reasons Why Texas is a Great Place to Start a Business

Posted by Ashley Choate on May 25, 2016 8:34:30 AM

Starting a Texas BusinessWhile most are familiar with the belief that location means everything when starting a small business, it’s assumed this means picking the right major road, intersection, or side of town. But the concept could also be applied to the state where your business is located—and the great state of Texas has claimed a top spot in polls ranking the best states for doing business.

According to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Thumbtack.com, Texas businesses enjoy an “A+” business environment, along with only 3 other states. Texas is also home to three of the top five cities for small businesses: Austin, Houston and San Antonio.

So what makes Texas so great for running a business?

  • Reasonable tax laws. Compared to other states, Texas businesses and startups benefit from fairly low tax rates, and for small businesses, it’s even better. They sometimes pay almost no taxes at all if profits don’t exceed a certain threshold. Texas law requires businesses and startups to pay a franchise tax that is 1% of their taxable margins, with the exception of sole proprietorships. Taxable amounts for small businesses are figured differently and each business type (LLC, C Corp, S corp, etc.) is subject to certain unique rules, but the fact is that Texas tax laws are much simpler and easier to understand than the tax laws in most other states. Instead of wrapping the business owner up in loopholes and circumstantial requirements, the requirements are simple for Texas businesses, which makes setting up shop in the state much more appealing for most business owners.

  • Low regulation/easy navigation. Another major benefit for Texas businesses is the low regulation, resulting from a state legislature that meets to change business laws less frequently and also supports a more easily navigated system. As businesses operating within any state must abide by state legislature rules, some businesses struggle with the paperwork and costs associated with meeting state requirements. According to a Fraser Survey, satisfaction of business owners correlated strongly with the level of burden placed on them by state regulations—i.e. entrepreneurs rated states with less burdensome systems more highly. Since Texas businesses enjoy a more relaxed environment, satisfaction rates have remained high.

  • Spirit and spark. Another major attraction for business or startup owners in Texas is the general positivity and spark prevalent in Texas culture. The state is Southern in lifestyle and independent by nature. Such cultures tend to support the independent ventures of others. In this case, Texas startups and businesses tend to thrive due to a general atmosphere of pioneering and entrepreneurial nurturing. The people of Texas appreciate smart, independent adventurers, which is reflected in the regulatory environment, the tax environment, and the general success of the overall Texas business climate. According to one article in Investopedia.com, “the business climate in Texas has been so pleasant during the 21st century that the state's former governor Rick Perry, who served from 2000 until January 2015, was known for storming through less business-friendly states, such as New York and California, and giving speeches to companies about why they should relocate to Texas.”

A recent Forbes article made a good point about the state of business in our country. The author reminded readers of the predictions of Alexis de Tocqueville, an early 19th century political theorist (major works published in 1835-1840), who said that a system of “soft despotism” created by “a network of small complicated rules” could be just as dangerous as the more obvious evils of a dictatorship and economic slavery. He was reported to have written that a centralized government “excels in preventing, not doing.”

States like Texas, however, have recognized the dangers in over-regulating and over-complicating business laws. The general atmosphere of daring and independence is perfect for adventurous entrepreneurs and startup owners, while the political climate is in favor of growth for small businesses. So, if it’s a great location you’re looking for, anywhere in Texas will do just fine.

Six Business Functions on an iPad

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of H. Michael Karshis @ Flickr CC.

Is Your Business Adapting To How Customers Want to Pay?

Posted by Ashley Choate on May 18, 2016 2:12:37 PM

7397236064_8c1a15433d_m.jpgThe first rule of business: give the customers what they want, right? While businesses may apply this rule to merchandise, mostly, it can also be applied to the way that customers shop and pay. Lately, changes in payment technology have opened up new options for consumers to pay in ever easier ways—as long as the business offers it.

Is your business current on the newest payment technology?

For smaller businesses, updating technology and keeping up with the newest methods for payment can present a real challenge. Most recently, businesses were required to undergo a major technology upgrade for payment methods when EMV (Europay, Mastercard, Visa) chip cards became the required standard for card payments. The chip cards, a safer way to pay by debit or credit card, require a different type of reader, one that comes with a hefty price tag for both software and hardware.

And now, there’s Apple Pay, Android Pay, and other contactless payment options—where people can make purchases by simply tapping their phones, watches, or cards on a quick, specially designed point-of-sale (POS) reader. These contactless readers can work with EMV chips or with the apps associated with phone-based payment systems (like Apple Pay and Android Pay) to securely read payment card information and deduct funds accordingly.

Admit it: modern payment technology just keeps getting cooler. But what does that mean for your business?

The simple fact is that customers like ease and variety in their methods of payment. Whether your business is small, medium, or large, you may need to consider updating to accommodate this new form of payment sooner rather than later.

Older business owners probably still remember a time when debit cards and credit cards only held marginal sway over payment methods. They might have doubted how quickly cash would become an almost obsolete form of currency. But today, cash makes up the minor portion of most merchants’ sales (less than 50 percent). I mean, who even carries cash these days? Probably 60 percent of any given crowd doesn’t have a single dollar in their wallets.

With its ease of use and backing by major companies like Apple and Google that guarantee security, it’s easy to predict that contactless payment methods will soon become a major trend in payment technology, and the need to be capable of taking those payments will be spreading through every major city and small town retailer.

But would you believe that there are other trends starting to take shape?

  • Purchasing within the aisles – According to one source, Target may be allowing consumers to purchase items on their own right in the aisles of the store via mobile payment system. They scan the item and it is immediately purchased and shipped to them.
  • Untraceable digital currency – In the near future, currencies like bitcoin may take up a bigger portion of the currency market, gaining in popularity for various reasons, chief of which may be that it’s nearly untraceable. This could present major challenges for law enforcement agencies around the world in the coming years, but merchants may also find that accepting bitcoin-like currencies could become a necessity as the market grows.
  • Implanted payment chips – While many dooms-dayers and conspiracy theorists know better than to get anything tucked beneath the skin, considering the viability of tracking that can be placed within any implant, the rest of the world might find it very convenient that technology is currently being developed to implant a chip beneath the skin of your hand that you can simply tap over a contactless pay terminal to make purchases. It’s both brilliant and a little scary.

Technology is growing and changing daily. Things that seem inconceivable today might become the most popular trend within another decade. Business owners should be readying themselves, setting funds aside and keeping an eye on the trends as they roll in, because payment technology promises to get more interesting in the years to come.

  Six Business Functions on an iPad

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Marc Falardeau @ Flickr CC.

Tags: Payments, business tips

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