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Five Great Books for Entrepreneurs

Posted by Ashley Choate on Sep 1, 2015 2:28:29 PM

7753485942_2f07154599_mMany business owners and budding entrepreneurs have heard of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The book experienced such a well-publicized outpouring of support that it’s practically a household name, but there are several other books out there that provide just as much guidance, wisdom, and creative encouragement, though they’re not nearly as well known.

Truly innovative entrepreneurs need as much information as possible to fuel their ingenuity—especially from those who have already found the road to success. Well-written, thoughtful books that explain new perspectives and approaches are effective tools for information-gathering and inspiration-seeking.

Below are five titles with short descriptions and links that might enthuse you or the entrepreneur on your shopping list:

  • Traction, by Gino Wickman – 4.10 rating on Goodreads – This book discusses problem solving within your business and methods for pushing a business into real, focused growth through the use of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). The EOS approach is designed to be a practical method for finding entrepreneurial success.

  • Book Yourself Solid, by Michael Port – 3.95 rating on Goodreads – If your goal is marketing or sales, this book is full of simple, effective techniques for drumming up demand and sales leads in order to attract new clients and build up your business. For less competitive sales environments, this text might not be a good primary reference, but the text has received positive reviews on building up a good sales plan and sales rapport and might be useful for any business in developing creative strategies for expanding and growing a clientele.

  • Platform, by Michael Hyatt – 4.07 rating on Goodreads – Getting your product or your message out there is a huge part of running a successful business. In a world saturated with marketing and media, getting your business noticed is difficult. This book offers a step-by-step guide to successful marketing today, as written by a former CEO and company Chairman.

  • Switch, by Chip and Dan Heath – 4.00 rating on Goodreads – Overcoming change is a challenge everyone struggles with. This book actually covers approaches to both business and personal changes and discusses overcoming challenges to turn change into a benefit instead of a difficulty. Sometimes sweeping changes are necessary to shift personal and professional paths away from bad habits or negative cyclical patterns. This book provides a guide and several examples to how change can be managed for positive results.

  • Necessary Endings, by Henry Cloud – 4.24 rating on Goodreads – Sometimes parts of our business and personal lives must end in order for us to move on. In this book, psychologist and author Dr. Henry Cloud discusses when to end certain relationships, patterns, and projects, how to end them, and how to manage the backlash of those changes in order to step forward into something “better” in both personal and business matters.

Successful entrepreneurs explore many options and creative solutions in order to gain the results they seek. Sometimes, that means looking in the less obvious places. There are many more books like those discussed above and each takes a different approach or presents a different paradigm on how to approach business or business-related problems. Many even offer approaches that can be applied to personal lives and more unique issues. If you’re facing a wall, a change, or a shift in your personal or professional life, take a look at what the professionals have to offer. You might be surprised at what you’ll learn.

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AshleyAbout 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 torbakhopper @ Flickr CC.

Why are Electronic Payments so Important?

Posted by Ashley Choate on Aug 25, 2015 11:58:00 AM

18678799902_bd31b484da_mMost of us, as full-fledged members of a technology-based society, take electronic payments for granted. When was the last time you used cash for all of your purchases in a single day? When was the last time you actually “cashed” a check instead of depositing it? Heck, a large percentage of the U.S. uses direct deposit, so even visiting the bank to deposit funds is unnecessary. There are even banks that exist online only, with few physical locations, because modern technological capabilities allow for virtual deposits and expenditures. Frankly, it’s kind of amazing.

So, is it any wonder that electronic payments have become vital to the U.S. economy?

Obviously, swiping a card to make purchases is incredibly convenient, so Americans—with our dependence on convenience and instant gratification—have taken to credit and debit cards with gusto. Add in direct deposit and mobile depositing applications, and you’ve got a wired world of convenient money access.

To support this, an entire industry has evolved around electronic payments: payment networks, merchant service providers, terminal hardware providers, financial institutions (banks), and other tech moguls such as Apple and Amazon that have created their own secure virtual pay options.

The popularity and variety in this industry has driven electronic payments to huge success. At this point, 70 percent of consumer purchases are made electronically. Since consumer expenditures make up 70 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), you can imagine electronic payments have moved beyond the realm of nicely convenient into very necessary to the U.S. economy.

Consider the following numbers:

  • Global non-cash payments grew by 9.4 percent in 2013 (with developing countries leading at 22 percent growth).
  • In 2013, global mobile payment (from a cell phone or other mobile device) volume reached $235.4 billion.
  • In the U.S. alone, electronic spending is projected to reach $7.3 trillion by 2017.

Another factor that is fueling the growth of the electronic payment industry, beyond convenience and popularity with customers, is that it fits with recent efforts to “Go Green” on a global scale. Elimination of paper usage and waste creation has become a major priority in order to help the environment recover from the excessive waste created by early industrialization efforts.

The use of plastic cards that are replaced only every 3-5 years has reduced the need for checks and money orders, and many card users also elect to receive statements electronically, further eliminating waste.

This movement also benefits businesses, since paper costs money. According to some projections, going completely cashless could amount to a savings of roughly 1 percent of annual GDP. For the U.S., that would amount to $168 billion—a substantial chunk of change that U.S. businesses could reinvest into the economy.

While it’s unlikely that cash will be eliminated completely any time soon, we can clearly expect even more innovations in the world of electronic payments over the next few years. Considering all of the amazing creations of the last decade, many of which have related directly to facilitating mobile or card-based payments, both businesses and consumers have a lot to look forward to.

Checkout this awesome infographic by The Strawhecker Group on this very subject.

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AshleyAbout 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 Perspecsys Photos @ Flickr CC - http://www.perspecsys.com.

Tags: Payments

Three Steps to Making Your Business EMV Compliant

Posted by Ashley Choate on Aug 18, 2015 12:35:00 PM

16845875151_bb5d1313a0_oThe October deadline for EMV compliance is coming up fast and businesses across the U.S. will face worse liabilities for credit card fraud if their systems aren’t up to date soon.

Not sure what EMV is all about? Read about it here

When Europe adopted the Chip and Pin payment technology, the region saw an 80 percent reduction in credit card fraud within the first few years; within the same timeframe, the U.S. experienced a 47 percent increase, according to a 2013 Discover Financial Services report.

With so many high level breaches occurring at retailers across the U.S., consumers would benefit from the increased security EMV can offer. But even after several years of urging by the federal government and the threat of financial penalties from the major credit card networks, many U.S. businesses are still behind the curve on their system upgrade.

If you’re still working to get ready for this shift, don’t wait. Below are 3 important steps that will get you started towards EMV compliance—and you’d better start now.

  • Review and reconsider your payments technology. The modern age has a million new and amazing technology gadgets that you can use for taking payments. You have to upgrade your credit card reader to be EMV compliant (and maybe your Point of Sale software too), but take a moment to consider how you can upgrade other components of your payment processing system in order to maximize convenience for your customers. You might be able to turn this into a positive renovation for your whole business—and maybe gain new business in the process.
  • Communicate with all parties involved in your payment processing. You will need to coordinate your EMV upgrade efforts with your merchant service provider to get started. Most likely, they will have some ideas and options for you regarding your upgrade and compliance requirements. If they don’t, you may want to consider getting a new service provider – because they are waaay behind. It’s past time for all credit card processing organizations to be well on their way to compliance with this requirement or they risk losing money for both themselves and you.

 

  • Think SECURE. While all the shiny new bits of technology out there may be very, very attractive at first, take a moment to research security measures that will give your business that extra layer of security. Whether you’re small or large, offer retail products or services, you could still be targeted by a hacker or forger looking to get something for nothing. There are firewalls, encryption programs, and other tools specific to security that could be part of your technological renovation that is required for EMV. Take the time to get ahead of the game now and your customers will thank you for it.

The switch to EMV is practically a done deal. If you’re business hasn’t clued into this fact, it’s time to get going now so you can avoid liabilities and provide your customers with a more secure way to do business.

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AshleyAbout 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 GotCredit @ Flickr CC.

 

Why Your Business Needs a Customer Loyalty Program

Posted by Ashley Choate on Aug 12, 2015 12:57:00 PM

93268027_99d2d007d8_mOperating a successful small business requires securing customer loyalty—which is no small feat. Consumerism in the U.S. is all about options, so finding a way to keep the customers coming back to your business 9 times out of 10 can pose a pretty serious challenge when there are 10 or more competitors fighting just as hard for their business.

One tried and true method is a Customer Loyalty Program, which can come in many forms. The concept is a simple one: repeat customers receive small bonuses for each purchase, ultimately adding up to a prize or free merchandise.

Starbucks, for instance, uses a card system, where repeat customers have the opportunity to win a free or discounted coffee after a set number of purchases. This system resulted in a 26 percent rise in profits and an 11 percent increase in total revenue during the second quarter of the fiscal year in 2013.

Best Buy, another major retail chain that relies more on physical accessibility than online sales, also experienced an increase in profitability, as the company’s stocks doubled between 2013 and 2014 after the company improved customer loyalty reward points from 4 percent to 5 percent—proving that even small steps can have big results.

Below are 4 major reasons for adopting your own Customer Loyalty Program.

  • Incentives generate customer satisfaction, which in turn generates more business. This works in two ways: happy customers will be returning customers and happy customers will also bring their friends. According to the 2013 Maritz Loyalty Report, 57 percent of customers are likely to modify purchasing behavior in order to maximize loyalty program benefits. And we all know that customers who are happy with their experiences spread the word to their friends, bringing in more potentially loyal customers and more profits to your business.

  • Gain the edge on the competition. According to a Deloitte Retail Study in 2011, 88 percent of retailers with rewards programs are more profitable than competitors without one. Another study conducted by ACI Worldwide in January of 2012 reported that 84 percent of customers are likely to choose a retailer that offers a rewards program over a retailer that does not. Customers love the idea that every purchase may lead them closer to free merchandise or a special discount, especially for purchases they would likely make anyway.

  • It doesn’t have to be expensive. Most incentives programs utilize small benefits, such as a small percentage of the customer’s purchase towards a future benefit. Or it can be if they purchase 10 drinks or meals, then they get the 11th for free. By the time they have purchased those 10 of whatever items, or with only a small percentage benefit of the total purchase amount, the customer has already provided a comfortable profit margin, making the cost minimal when compared to the benefit. And if it draws more customers in, then the profit margin increases more than the costs do. The programs balance out more than many business owners might realize. Beyond that, again, they establish customer loyalty and that is priceless.

  • It also doesn’t have to be hard. While the concept of managing an effective Customer Loyalty Program can seem daunting, there are actually options available to make it easy for even the most overworked small business owner. There are different programs available, such as Fanfare, that are actually tailored to the business’s specifications and are mostly managed by secure software with the support of a dedicated service team. Business owners can use the program to view analytics and track users, and customers can also access their information through a secure website. It’s customer loyalty made easy.

Creating an effective, functional customer Loyalty Program is much easier than most business owners think, and—especially for small businesses—much more profitable. If you’re wondering how to increase your profits and secure a dependable customer base, get creative and consider developing or adopting a Customer Loyalty Program that will help your business stand out from the rest.

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AshleyAbout 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 Dan Taylor @ Flickr CC.

If You Aren’t Scared of Darkode, You Should Be

Posted by Ashley Choate on Aug 4, 2015 10:09:00 AM

6818192898_c132e81824_mFor most of us, being on the FBI’s most-wanted list is unthinkable. It’s not even close to a list of possibilities—and it’s definitely not an aspiration. For the admins, customers, and contributors of Darkode, an online hacker black market operation, it’s apparently just a small hiccup in daily life.

Earlier this month, the FBI completed the 18-month operation Shrouded Horizon to bring down the online forum known as Darkode, through the cooperation of law enforcement agencies from 20 different countries. While they did succeed in shutting down the site and arresting 28 people, including 3 men who are suspected of being involved in the creation of some hacking tools traded on the forum, their victory was short-lived. Just two weeks later, the admins of Darkode had set up a new site that appears to be even more secure than before.

The new Darkode site now has a placeholder message that sets forth some strong restrictions and details certain security precautions being taken to prevent another raid and takedown. It also states that those who were busted were actually newer members or those who had been out of the scene for years, neither of whom appear to be much of a loss to the community as far as Darkode admins are concerned.

The Darkode community reportedly contains some of the more infamous and capable hackers alive today. It mainly functions as a forum for information exchange and for making deals on purchasing and selling malware and other attack tools or stolen goods.

Forum admins included the following statement on the site’s new home page: “The forum will be back in onion land, it will be invite only, and members we can confirm are still active will be given an invite (no-one else). Each user will have their own Onion, authentication to the forum will be made via the Blockchain Apl.”

For those who do not know, an “onion” is a technique for encryption or individualization where someone trying to infiltrate would have to penetrate several layers of encryption, similar to peeling back the layers of an onion, in order to enter the final destination. In this case, the site would generate a unique URL for each user and anyone trying to gain access without permission would also have to know the user’s unique ID and URL. Predictably, trying to hack a hacker’s website is proving quite difficult for authorities.

Additionally, the admins of Darkode will not store any personal user information within the site in order to protect the identities of all visitors.

At this point, the admins have become aware of the scrutiny of law enforcement and have taken precautions to avoid any further infiltration.

So why should you be scared? Because the individuals collaborating on sites like Darkode are the same ones responsible for the hacks that have resulted in billions of names, email address, Social Security Numbers, and credit card numbers being stolen and used illegally.

The scary thing too, is that there are others. A site known as Silk Road and another known as Gameover Zeus botnet were both shut down by law enforcement, in 2013 and 2014 respectively, only to be back up and running again within a couple of weeks.

The question now: what can we do about it?

The only answer anyone can give you:

  • Protect your information as best you can

Give out your personally identifiable information (PII) as sparingly as possible and it doesn’t hurt to have an identity protection program in place, such as Lifelock.

  • Learn what you can about hackers and their craft

What tools do they use? What is the lingo? Can you turn some of those tools to your own use? And typically, encryption can definitely be turned against them. Most hackers are like bullies: if you stand up for yourself and make it hard for them, they’ll move on to pick on the weaker guy.

  • Don’t be an easy target

Invest in good equipment, pay attention to your account records, and be aware of suspicious characters in the area. There are different ways to be hacked or to have information stolen. Learn as much of them as you can, and listen to your gut instincts.

Unfortunately, law enforcement has been largely unsuccessful in eliminating the threat of online theft and terrorism.

In the modern age, the internet has become the dark that humanity used to fear and admire so greatly in our intellectual infancy. Hackers, unfortunately, have become the wolves who wait to prey on the unwary.

Your best tools at this point are awareness and knowledge, both of which can also become your greatest weapons against highly skilled hacking. Know your technology, keep up to date on the latest trends, and keep your virtual eyes and ears open to the threat.

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AshleyAbout 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 Flickr CC.

Tags: cybersecurity

5 Ways to Cut Costs When Traveling for Business

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jul 29, 2015 1:14:20 PM

18227917006_a55104f2f3_mTravel is often expensive, even business travel, but it doesn’t have to be. Some costs are impossible to avoid, but others can be whittled down through smart thinking and practical efficiency.

The next time you travel, consider the following questions: Do you really need 5 suitcases for a weekend trip? Do you absolutely have to park your car at the airport? Do you really have to eat at a restaurant for every meal? Generally, you’ll find the answer is “no”.

As tempting as it can be to indulge when you’re traveling the country or the world, cutting costs sometimes means setting aside certain impulses. But, by sticking to the following 5 steps, you can cut enough costs to make space for a few special indulgences without breaking the bank.

Think Flexible. If you don’t have to arrive by any specific dates, you stand a better chance of getting cheap prices on flights and hotels. Every destination has a busy season and an off-season. Predictably, prices are much lower during off-season. If at all possible, planning your trip for the time of year when everyone else will be otherwise engaged is the wisest move. Flights are cheaper, hotels are cheaper, and overall pricing for your destination will likely be cheaper during off-season. If you have to be less flexible, you can at least use a search engine and keep the dates open for that particular month or timeframe. By allowing even that much flexibility, the search engines can find the best possible dates for the lowest possible prices. Additionally, your frequent flyer miles are generally limited by black-out dates for use. Even more, be open-minded about your airline. There are some airlines that others dislike but that offer cheaper rates than your more common airlines. When you’re hoping to cut costs, sometimes you’ve got to be open to less popular options. Be smart with those too though: read the fine print. Cheaper is sometimes a trap for the less savvy.

Be a Bargain Hunter. This means coupons, shopping around, and even starting a bidding war for the best hotel prices. There are several websites where consumers can pull coupons for various items tailored to the location you plan to visit. Travel books and other coupon guides can also be purchased that can reduce costs, little by little, during your journey. Do your homework on your business travel destination and shop around on how to find the best prices possible. Shopping the right hotel is certainly part of that, as well. Starting a bidding war can be pretty smart as well, which you can do by simply finding out pricing at one hotel, then calling another to ask if they can match or beat it. Simple questions can produce awesome results.

Stick with Carry-On Only. Airlines are feeling the effects of the flagging economy as much as the rest of us and one of their money quick fixes is charging for carry-ons beyond a certain weight. If you can’t escape bringing a carry-on, check your airline’s weight limitations and any associated charges before you arrive at the airport so you can plan accordingly. But, best case scenario: keep it to a carry-on. This way, you run no risk of losing your luggage to delays, switch overs, or separate flights. You will have your luggage with you the entire way and can access its contents as needed. A good trick with this too, especially for the ladies, but also for guys who may have shoulder bags, is to carry a very large purse or bag on that day. You can have a personal bag and a carry-on luggage item. Filling both with the essentials—making sure to exclude non-airport friendly items—can save you a bit of money and time on your journey.

Avoid restaurants. As fun as going out to eat can be, reserve it for the very special nights and be practical about filling your belly during the days. Go for the continental breakfast kind of hotel to ensure you have a free healthy, filling breakfast to start your day. From there, find the closest grocery store and stock up on all the basics that you might need for lunches and healthy snacks. Obviously most hotels do not have stoves, but refrigerators are not uncommon. Stock up on lunch meats, veggies, hummus—whatever suits your particular tastes—and feast on those instead of trekking out to a new restaurant every day. Those food bills can add up and even business travel budgets are limited, especially for small businesses. Don’t let food costs take away from your ability to save money or set money aside for special experiences while you’re away.

Rent Smart. If you want to cut costs for business travel, one easy way is being smart about your rental plan. If you can, try to bundle your rental car into an airfare or hotel package. This isn’t always the cheapest option, but often, you can get a pretty good deal. If you’re a frequent business traveler, then you probably have a credit card that provides rental car insurance. If you don’t have one of these, consider getting one. You can use it to pay for the rental car and decline the collision damage waiver coverage, which can save you about $20 per day. But, if you can avoid renting altogether, that would certainly be ideal. Booking a hotel with an airport shuttle and looking into Uber for taxis is one way. Carpooling or getting a hotel within walking distance to your final destination is also an option.

Business travel, pleasure travel, or a combination of the two—all can break the bank if you’re not savvy about your day to day costs. The Starbucks coffee in the airport, the quick meals when traveling around your destination spot, etc., they all add up. But you can cut overall travel and living costs significantly if you’re careful, patient, and prepared.

Take a moment to apply the concepts above to your next business travel or vacation plan and you’ll see the difference a few extra minutes of planning and preparation can make.

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AshleyAbout 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 Bernal Saborio @ Flickr CC.

5 Gadgets to Keep You Active in the Office

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jul 21, 2015 11:21:00 AM

6923140300_9aba737726_o_dStaying active is essential to maintaining overall wellness. Physical activity promotes a high level of self-esteem, a more positive outlook, and, of course, a more toned physique. Most Americans are aware of the benefits of being active and agree that maintaining an active lifestyle is ideal—they just can’t figure out how to make it happen.

We have jobs, kids, homes, pets, sports, volunteering, etc. The list could go on and on, it seems. Fitting a regular workout into an already insanely busy schedule is a daunting task.

The solution: staying fit at work.

Yes, I know it sounds crazy, but with the majority of companies today developing wellness programs and weight loss competitions in order to increase overall employee productivity and personal satisfaction, the idea of bringing fitness in to the workplace just makes sense. Even better, with some of the gadgets available today, you can actually work out while you work.

Below are 5 of the coolest gadgets on the market that will help you stay fit at work—in a way that lets you work out while you work. Trust me, your boss will love them—and so will you!

Balance ball chair – This awesome little gadget is actually a balance ball built into a chair frame. By balancing yourself in this chair as you work, you can build up your core strength and also improve your posture. The chair has low back support so those with back problems would likely find it difficult to use for extended periods, but those same individuals would definitely benefit from the muscle that would be built up around normally sore areas if this device is used for at least a few hours a day. The cost is under $100 and would be a pretty healthy addition to your regular office furniture. It even comes in several different colors!

Springflex UBThis product is actually two products—two arms that attach to your desktop and allow you to perform a range of upper body exercises. Obviously, these would need to be used judiciously, such as during teleconferences or longer phone calls, as typing wouldn’t be an option. But for those bits of downtime, these nifty devices allow for 120 different exercises that work the upper chest, lower chest, back, and arms. A good 20 minutes a day during your most dull phone calls and you’ll see and feel a difference quickly. This device runs close to $60-70, but seems to range a bit depending on the seller, so shop around.

Gamercise PC-Sport StepperReally, you could use just about any brand of small stair stepper, but this is one example of a very cool gadget that actually forces you to work out. In order to use your keyboard and mouse you have to be stepping. Of course, there’s an option you can switch it to in order to avoid the workout, but what a cool idea! The height is adjustable for comfort, and just one hour of use at a brisk pace can burn up to 400 calories. This gadget runs a little more on the pricey side (closer to $200) and also allows the option for personal trainer software, so the cost can add up. But if you need to lose weight and need motivation to do it, this might be a great option to make your workday work for you.

GymGym chair This lovely little gadget has to be one of the coolest I’ve ever seen. It’s a chair that is outfitted with several resistance bands. Each is adjustable and several have velcro bands that can be wrapped around your ankles, for instance, so they can be secured; by lifting them away from the chair, against the resistance of the bands located in that area, you are essentially completing the equivalent of weight training. The bands are located in areas where you can exercise your arms in various ways and your legs. The price is much steeper for this product (around $600) but the awesomeness of it is undeniable.

WalkstationThe proverbial hotrod of workout-while-you-work gadgets is none other than: the Walkstation. This machine allows you to actually walk on a regularly-sized treadmill while you work on your computer. Essentially, it’s a treadmill with a desk positioned at the right level for accessing everything you need to do your job. Several components are also adjustable, and since it’s not designed to go over 2.0 mph, it can also bear up to 360 lb. for those individuals who have struggled to find a higher weight-bearing machine. This gadget, of course, runs closer to $1500, but if you’re a home-based worker or have a very cool boss and really feel the need to lose some weight in a practical, everyday kind of way, this will certainly help you do it.

While some of these gadgets can be an investment, those who have struggled with weight or health issues might find one or more of these gadgets to be worth the time and money. A busy schedule doesn’t need to be a reason for an unhealthy lifestyle any longer, especially when staying fit at work is now a realistic option.

 

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AshleyAbout 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 Daniel Rothamel @ Flickr CC.

Businesses Feel the Pressure from Chip Cards

Posted by Rachida Essadiq on Jul 15, 2015 1:42:00 PM

images-7So many businesses, so little time… As U.S. businesses stare down the barrel of the EMV deadline (October 1st), it is safe to say, many will not make the transition to accepting chip cards in time to avoid liability for credit card fraud.

Liability?! Yes, liability. If you hadn’t already heard, come October – any business accepting credit cards using a non EMV (read about EMV here) enabled credit card reader will be liable for any fraud that occurs during that transaction. Here are a few scenarios:

1) If fraud occurs during a transaction where the business is using an EMV enabled credit card reader, but the customer is not using a chip card – the liability falls on the customer’s card issuing bank (for not using the most secure technology).

2)  If fraud occurs during a transaction where a business is not using an EMV enabled credit card reader and the customer is using a chip card – the liability falls entirely on to the business.

According to a recent report from Javelin Strategy Research, almost 75% of businesses are not prepared for this shift – now only 80 days out.

“The majority of small merchants are not only not ready for EMV, they are not even aware of EMV,” said Javelin Payments representative Nick Holland. Holland expects that the majority of preparations will happen under large retailers.

Educating Businesses

It’s pretty clear that the widespread unpreparedness is a direct result of an overwhelming unawareness amongst small to midsize businesses about the implications of EMV. A few organizations have launched educational initiatives in an effort to promote adoption of the technology and help business owners stay up to date on their liabilities.

  • The Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) announced the creation of EMV Central – a website designed to provide educational resources to retailers on the topic of EMV.
  • Visa is providing a webinar series in conjunction with a 20 city US tour to educate small business owners on chip card technology and the EMV migration. Learn more here at http://usa.visa.com/personal/security/chip-technology/index.jsp.

Will Online Fraud Explode With Rollout of EMV?

A major debate, currently taking place in the world of “payment geeks”: Once EMV technology is active and thriving in the U.S., will card present fraudsters turn to the internet to launch a virtual card fraud offensive?

An absolutely relevant question, particularly to business owners and retailers selling products online -Holland, openly participates in this debate – chiming in with a brief, yet bold response to the question (or myth as he defines it) saying, “Pile of @ss.”

Holland debunks this myth in his blog on the subject with three different explanations. The surge of online fraud in Europe during it’s time of EMV adoption was a result of the “newness” of e-commerce at the time (2004-2005). Holland claims that e-commerce practitioners today are much more savvy and better aware of the types of fraud to look for.

Secondly, card present fraud is a global operation – not just limited to the US. Holland cites the idea of a U.S. shift in technology restricting the entire global operation as “ludicrous” at best. Finally, U.S. EMV adoption will not happen with the flip of a switch, causing some kind of drastic shock to the fraudster system. As EMV adoption gradually increases, so will the transition to different types of credit card crimes.

One thing is for sure. Whether you like it or not, it’s coming – EMV or fraud. If you are a business accepting credit cards in person – do yourself a favor and get educated, develop a plan, and get moving on updating your equipment to the most secure technology. For more information on secure EMV technology, CLICK HERE

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About the Author - Rachida Arteaga, Director of Marketing at NTC Texas is a successful five year marketing veteran, running events and campaigns for large to small enterprises and non-profits.  She specializes in blogging, social media, branding/ identity and search engine optimization, striving to provide NTC Texas customers and fans with entertaining and valuable educational resources to find success in all areas of their businesses. 

Top Photo Courtesy of Ben Watts @ Flickr CC.

Tags: EMV

NFIB Reports: 2015 High Growth Industries

Posted by Megan Flanagan on Jul 8, 2015 12:47:00 PM

11286659155_bf61ce1e8f_mWe are within a modern day, bright, spankin’ new industrial revolution. And it’s super shiny. History often repeats itself. We’re about 200 years from the first noted industrial revolution where folks were introduced to wonders like the steam engine, cement, water wheels, and gas lighting. We’re right up there with our ancestors as we marvel over new advances in technology and business. This is indicative in the National Federation of Businesses’ (NFIB) video report on High Growth Industries You Can’t Ignore in 2015.

Let’s take a look at the stats on these dazzling, growing industries…

Software as a Service
Software as a Service, or SaaS, is a way for consumers to, basically, rent programs and online software. The most common example is Microsoft Word. SaaS is used within a larger idea called Cloud Computing. Internet basics expert, Paul Gil, explains it well: Instead of selling you a copy of Microsoft Word for $300, a cloud computing model would "rent" word processing software to you through the Internet for perhaps $5 a month. You would not install any special software, nor would you be confined to your home machine to use this rented online product.” Paying for what you need! People like that. SaaS saw a total revenue increase of over 13% from 2012-2013.

Construction
Construction is a classic, basic, timeless industry that has an incredible impact on those involved. No matter how far we get, no matter how modern and fancy we get, no matter how out of this world we get, we will always need someone to build our “it”. Whatever “it” may be! We will always need someone to finance, and design, and sell, and decorate it. According to the NFIB, construction starts are expected to increase by $48 billion this year. That’s a whopping 15%!  

Online Retail and Mobile Payments
So it’s no secret our friends in the 18th-19th centuries had it rough. Even shopping was a pain in the Quaker. We’ve gone from having to travel miles away from home into town to shop once a week/month, to shopping in bed in our pajamas whilst sipping wine and watching Jimmy Fallon. Online retailing is such an incredible achievement, one that we often overlook and take for granted. This is a huge step in signifying our retail independence. You can (almost) literally shop wherever you want and with smartphones, you don’t even need a computer. Ready for these stats? This is huge. Online retail sales are expected to increase by over 40% from 2014 to 2018! Even larger is comparing the volume of mobile payment transactions. We’re looking at an increase of just under 350% from 2012 to 2017. Why? Because sometimes you need to buy a ukulele at 1 am.

Does your business intersect with any of these industries? If so, this is all great news for you! The great news is, regardless of your business type or industry, most any business can break into some form of either online retail or mobile payments. Whether you host a shopping cart on your website to sell a product, or accept mobile payments for a particular service – this piece of the pie is applicable across the board.

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MeganMegan Flanagan has been in the customer service business for over ten years hand in hand with several companies, large and local. She is a native of Syracuse, New York where she lives with her fiancé, step daughter, and new addition, baby Eloise. New to the business blogging world, she has always had a passion for writing, communications, and the art of entertainment.

 Top photo courtesy of AK Rockefeller @ Flickr CC.

Three Reasons to Implement Automated Sales Reporting

Posted by Megan Flanagan on Jul 1, 2015 9:06:29 AM

home_ipad_3Running a business without the ability to conduct sales reporting is like driving a car with no gas gauge. Exciting! Care free! Aaaaand super irresponsible, likely resulting in some kind of misfortune. The presence of automated sales reports are imperative to a smart, successful business. It’s yet, another simple, thing you can do to keep your business on the road for miles and miles without any road blocks.
Here’s why…

Learn As You Grow
A great way for your business to succeed is to learn from past mistakes and successes. Sales reports are a great tool to use to catch trends and see what your customers respond to. Once you hit a full year of reporting, you’ll have an iron grip on your numbers and gain some great control. You can then react, plan, and prep your business for peaks, and get creative during the down times to keep your business plentiful and blooming.

Keep Goals on Track
Setting goals can really drive your team in the right direction. Seeing the direct results of business initiatives is a great motivator for constantly pushing the bar and striving for improvement. Who doesn’t like a little friendly competition now and again, am I right? By tracking sales, promotions and campaigns, managers are able to set goals and keep employees or sales rep on track.  Boosting the bottom line is great for everyone. And… everyone works a little harder when catering is involved.

Budgeting and Planning
How can a business set up and forecast budgets without an accurate picture of sales? In order for managers to do a good job at budgeting and planning, they need the most accurate sales forecasts that have been well-supported by data to budget appropriately and set realistic goals.

This is huge, right? The ability to set up automated reporting is getting easier and more affordable everyday with apps and iPad POS technology. These new apps allow business owners to combine their front end point of sale systems with marketing and reporting capabilities – kind of a one stop shop – for very little cost. To learn more about automated sales reporting and iPad POS software with talech, Contact Us for more information.

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MeganMegan Flanagan has been in the customer service business for over ten years hand in hand with several companies, large and local. She is a native of Syracuse, New York where she lives with her fiancé, step daughter, and new addition, baby Eloise. New to the business blogging world, she has always had a passion for writing, communications, and the art of entertainment.

 

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