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Selling Ads in the West Point Bugle Notes – How Email Marketing Turned Annual Dread to Delight

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I’ve been selling ads for the famous annual military book, the West Point Bugle Notes, for at least 16 years (that’s since 1995 or before). Selling ads for this publication has been a thorn in my side since I first accepted the job and, until this year, has been a source of annual dread. This is because there are a number of hurdles to overcome which rarely exist for other types of ad sales. First, the book is only 2.5″ wide by 4″ high, a pocket-sized book with a hard cover. Besides being given to the class of cadets entering West Point each year, it is sold in the bookstore to tourists or history buffs for about $40 each. With over 300 pages, it is nicknamed the “Plebe Bible” or “Book of Knowledge” because it contains vital information that cadets must memorize in order to graduate and has been published every year for this purpose for over a century. Only 16 pages are allowed for the sale of advertising on a first-come, first-serve basis, and these are grouped together in the back of the book in black and white, even though there is color used elsewhere in the book. With approximately 4400 cadets within the student body or “Corps of Cadets,” the Bugle Notes has a role of great significance to the success of each future soldier enrolled at West Point; hence its small size and substantial construction. This book is looked at hundreds of times at every opportunity during a cadet’s residence at West Point to allow ample exposure to absorb its content. While most of the information is serious or historical, there are portions which could qualify as entertaining. Advertisers would like to think that their ads provide some “relief” as well.

Unlike ads sold to accompany editorial matter in a consumer magazine, for instance, ads which appear in the Bugle Notes accompany text about West Point’s mission; code of conduct; famous speeches; role of sports; basic, individual and tactical skills and values; buildings; monuments; ranks, medals and badges; academics; history; tradition; songs; cheers; etiquette; and other essential military information. Since its founding in 1802, West Point has been an integral part of American history with famous leaders such as Generals Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, John J. Pershing, Douglas A. MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George S. Patton, Norman Schwarzkopf and David Petraeus among its more than 67,000 graduates. It takes a special kind of person to appreciate the privilege of having one’s ad appear in such company.

According to the United States Military Academy website, “Nearly 3 million people visit West Point each year,” which includes families and friends of West Point cadets, alumni, senior citizen tours, school groups, and American and international tourists from all over the world. This website also states that West Point is one of the top three tourist attractions in the state, according to the New York State Department of Tourism. With those kinds of statistics and interest in West Point, it is no wonder that the Bugle Notes sells out at the bookstore each year.

While the Bugle Notes is thought of as more than an encyclopedia requiring memorization, given the widespread belief among alumni that its wealth of worthwhile information provides a proud heritage with which to confront life in any situation, it is usually not considered a vehicle of clear-cut value to local advertisers. Until I point out that parents and other visitors will be needing lodging, dining, shopping and touring suggestions during their multiple trips to visit for a multitude of annual events, football games, or just a chance to see their children, the revered Bugle Notes suddenly becomes a coveted advertising medium with a clear target and great value. A full page sells for only $350 for the whole year and can communicate an advertiser’s message repeatedly with long-lasting effect.

What I find disturbing is that the local market for advertising potential is one of very small businesses struggling in a depleted economy, eking out a living at best. However, these same businesses express gratitude for the constant stream of patrons who seek their services because of their proximity to West Point and see the merits of advertising in the Bugle Notes, despite its relatively “hefty” cost, as a result.

Years ago, there were advertisers of national stature who also sought to reach this same market with messages of inspirational substance. However, the economic meltdown has affected the availability of funds for such peripheral media and lofty goals. These advertisers were usually representative of national defense or government agencies and looked to shape the psyche of tomorrow’s military leaders through a book so unique and important to a cadet’s future.

That said, I mentioned above that until this year, this annual project was one of yearlong dread. What changed this year? My approach! Sixteen years ago, as well as up until only a few years ago, my market for Bugle Notes ads was reachable only through personal visit, mailed letter or phone calls.

I despised interrupting these business people with phone calls which only served to annoy them. Mailed marketing postcards or letters largely went unanswered except for some renewals, and personal visits were a huge investment of time and travel for me and rarely were more than a source of tedium to those I visited. But those were the ropes and I learned them well.

This annual dread became such an issue for me that I chose to divulge my source of anxiety about doing this job to management at West Point several years ago. Clearly aware that it would be tough for anyone to sell this product in such an economy, they practically begged me to continue temporarily until they could find a replacement. More years passed where they somehow didn’t contact me to perform this task until very late and therefore were more forgiving about my efforts if I were to just keep those who might renew. I aspired to do as good a job as possible under the constraints of limited time and even more limited funds. Until this year!

I had received a West Point contract extension last fall which clearly alerted me to the fact that they expected me to perform the job on time this year which I usually start in January. Rather than dread the job, I decided to prepare an exciting website and equally attractive emailed presentation which I could release to a list of addresses I would research myself and build with personalized marketing messages. If the emails reached anyone capable of making a decision, they could click to visit the website and purchase an ad online without ever needing to speak to me. Of course, I gave them ample contact information as well.

I was understandably trepidatious about going about marketing this opportunity via email since it is a well-known fact that much of email is shunned because of fear of computer virus infection, or worse, because it never reaches a viable candidate as a result of ubiquitous spam filters. And, slow to evolve into the high-tech era, the local market for advertisers had never been reached by computer before. Not to mention that marketing a printed vehicle of advertising through email was a bit unorthodox, no matter how unique the book!

Yet, one evening after having sent out about fifty targeted emails, I received notification of payment from PayPal! Someone had bought a full page ad and notified me that the artwork would follow. I was so excited that everything had worked just as I had intended! Shortly thereafter, another ad came through with payment. Then I received several emails asking me questions which I was able to answer by email which also resulted in more sales. Several people called me with questions or difficulty with payment. All questions were easily answered and all payments were successfully received.

When the selling period was finally over by the first of April, my total number of ads was more than triple what I had managed to sell during each of the past few years through traditional marketing. And this is a bad economy! Ironically, only a couple were renewals with the balance all new advertisers. I considered this a huge success, as did West Point.

What cadets and their families probably don’t realize, however, is that each word within such a small ad has been agonized over to try to deliver an effective message which will entice them to respond in some way. Without that response, advertisers will be discouraged about repeating their participation and support in future years. To my frustration, I have no way to communicate this concern to recipients of the Bugle Notes other than hoping perhaps some may read this article. And, it would be expected that those who read the Bugle Notes may feel no compunction to respond to any advertising, regardless of purity of intention or special efforts to compose appropriate messages.

If only they could appreciate the true spirit with which the advertisers invest in this medium, sympathetic to how congested the West Point region becomes with the constant influx of tourists. Hoping to make out-of-town parents and visitors aware of quality lodging available near West Point, several ads are for lovely bed and breakfasts situated in scenic and historic locations, while a number are for excellent and unique dining choices. With the new world-class sightseeing destination so close to West Point, a number of Poughkeepsie, New York advertisers hoped to present outstanding dinner and entertainment options for those who venture out to enjoy a daytrip to the Walkway Over the Hudson. And, with this Hudson Valley region so rich in history, there are ads promoting riverboat tours and nearby historical sites for interesting outings to delight any visitor.

Since I worked individually with most advertisers to create distinctive ad presentations, I naturally hope each advertiser will experience some success through our efforts. While I am not able to personally distribute each book to its end recipient which occurs when cadets arrive mid-summer, I’ve since decided to try to help these advertisers with one extra effort – by posting the entire group of ads online in book form with links to their websites should anyone discover them through an online search for West Point Bugle Notes advertisers.

Whether next year’s marketing of the West Point Bugle Notes will consist of renewals of this year’s participants, more newly discovered advertisers, or both, is a chapter reserved for a future reading. What I am sure about, however, is that those who own a copy of the Bugle Notes will devour its contents, honor its power, respect its history and cherish its significance for life…a tangible symbol of time spent at West Point, dear to the heart and etched into memory…’til death do us part.

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Same Day Courier Service: How Same Day Courier Technology Can Boost Your Business

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Same day courier service provision in the scheme of things is pretty new. Before the internet spread its net worldwide, back in the days before purchases were instant and electronic, we all accepted that ordering things was something that took time. First you had to order a brochure, then you browsed through it – finally, you rang the company up and waited on the phone for a few frustrating minutes at a time before placing the order.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that we all possessed such a degree of patience. Nowadays, 72 hours is considered too long to wait for many companies, and it is in this respect that same day courier services have satisfied an ever-growing niche – one that has a specific aim: to make the efficiency between you and your customers as streamlined as possible, by using the best in new technology to make everything that much easier.

In the modern age, the variety and number of packages on offer from fast courier services is nothing less than breathtaking. If you want to get goods to your customer at the other end of the country, it can be done in less than a day, in fact in most cases your parcel or packet can be collected within the hour. Equally, if your business is international then it’ll be as easy to arrange shipment to the other side of the world as it would be to transport it just a few hundred miles cross-country.

And when it comes to boosting your business, same day courier services are constantly looking for new ways to make things simpler for you, the client. Many of them offer all the information you could ever need on their websites and it’s also common for them to have other sections of the site devoted to the latest news and goings on. All this means that deciding on the courier company that’s most suitable for you has never been easier.

The biggest way in which a Same day courier can help boost your business is obvious: with so much competition, no company can afford to be late, and this translates to a swift and reliable service that will never let you down. Another great way in which technology assists your business is that companies you are dealing with can look your courier up and see for themselves how they do business. If they’ve had bad experiences in the past then testimonials on the courier’s website will result in solid peace of mind, and even if their last experience was positive then there’s bound to be something on the website to impress them even more.

Twenty-four hour courier services are changing. Once the structure of these websites was designed solely to explain how their business could assist you with transporting goods, but now, with growing competition to create added dimension and interest for customers, many companies offer prize draws and other incentives which are proving invaluable to attracting clients. This, along with tracking technology that enables you to keep an eye on your goods at all times, ensures that at any moment of the day or night, you know as much as the courier does about the status of your order. The end result is that your end customer can sit back and relax and know that if there is a problem with the order, it can be traced immediately, the moment things seem to slow down.

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How To Format Your Resume For Internet Job Searching

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Email resumes…Web resumes…HTML resumes…Scannable resumes… Keyword resumes…Text resumes…ASCII resumes…PDF resumes…Word resumes…Traditional resumes…

A resume is a resume, right? But then, what are all these different types of resumes you keep hearing about? If you are confused and not quite sure what is being referred to when you hear all these different names for resumes, you are certainly not alone!

Over the past decade, the most common resume-related questions asked by job hunters have progressively shifted. While still of major importance, the majority of queries are no longer about functional versus chronological resume styles, whether to keep or remove experience from twenty-five years ago, or whether to include dates of education. With the advent and subsequent explosive increase in the use of the Internet during the job search, questions have turned overwhelmingly to issues of electronic resume creation and transmission.

What are the different types of electronic resumes?

What are the differences between an e-mail resume, a scannable resume, and a web resume?

How do I know which resume format to use?

How do I format my electronic resume to ensure that the recipient can read it?

No wonder there is so much confusion! In just a few short years, there has been a complete revolution in the tools and techniques of job hunting. As applicant tracking technologies have come into common use among headhunter firms, large corporations, and even mid-size and small businesses, recommended resume formats and methods of transmission have rapidly evolved with the advancing technologies. Further complicating things, have been the increasing availability of personal web space for online resume portfolios and biographies.

What does this mean for today’s job hunter? While the Internet has opened unprecedented doors of opportunity in the job search process, for those who have not taken the time to learn and apply the rules it can mean disaster!

While few job hunters have time to spend months studying the most recent technologies and recommendations for the creation of electronic resumes, before venturing onto the Internet with your resume it is critical that you take the time to learn and understand a few simple concepts. Knowing your audience and the formats most acceptable by those audiences are essential pieces of knowledge for the Internet job hunter.

The human reader – The traditional, printed, hard copy resume (yes, it does still have a primary place in job hunting!) is created to attract the human eye and attention. With the advantages of word processing applications, sophisticated formatting is possible and should be applied strategically to create eye-appeal and draw the readers’ attention to key qualifications.

The computer reader – The electronic or computer-optimized resume is designed, first and foremost, to be readable by the computer. There are several types of electronic resumes, but the common element of all is the ability to be searched by keyword. Of course, once your resume has been tagged as matching a keyword search, it will be reviewed by a human. So compelling, easy-to-read content is just as important in the electronic resume as in the traditional resume.

Miss these points and the effects could be devastating…you might send out hundreds of resumes only to sit at home and wonder why nobody, not even one company or headhunter, has called you for an interview. There are fundamental formatting differences between traditional and electronic resumes. If you do not understand these differences, your resume will make it into very few – if any – resume databases.

RESUME FORMATS

What are the differences between keyword, scannable, web, traditional, and text resumes?

Traditional resumes are designed, as already noted, to compel the human reader, through persuasive language and design, to take further action and call you for an interview. Layout and page design are critical and should be planned strategically to draw the eye to areas of emphasis. The most effective traditional resumes are focused on achievements and written in powerful, active language that captures and holds the attention of the reader.

Scannable resumes — also a printed, hardcopy format — are designed primarily for accurate scanning into a computer. Captured as an image, scannable resumes are fed through OCR (optical character recognition) software that reads and extracts the text. The extracted text is databased for storage and later recalled by keyword from an applicant tracking system. Scannable resumes are very rarely requested any more. If you are asked for a scannable resume, the most efficient option is to email the requestor your plain ASCII text resume (described next).

Text resumes (also referred to as ASCII resumes) are just what the name implies, an ASCII-formatted version of either your traditional or scannable resume. Text resumes are universally readable on all computer systems and platforms and are the preferred format when you are emailing your resume. An ASCII resume received in email can be entered directly into an applicant tracking system without the added step of needing to scan it. Entry into the system is fast, easy, and accurate and so many employers and recruiters prefer this format.

The phrase “keyword resume,” as it was first used, referred most often to either a scannable or text resume that incorporated a focus on nouns and phrases that employers were likely to use when searching for an applicant. Sometimes the keyword resume had a section at the beginning or end that listed the keywords separated by commas or periods. Today, there is no need to maintain both a keyword and a non-keyword resume. Keywords have become such an essential element in resumes that you should ensure that every version of your resume, whether meant for the human or the computer reader, incorporates the keywords most important in your field or industry.

Still confused? My recommendation is to simply maintain two separate versions of your resume:

Traditional resume – If you wish to send a hardcopy, paper version of your resume you should send your traditional resume. Traditional resumes are most often stored on your computer as a computer file and printed on an as-needed basis. For example, you will want to print at least several copies of your resume to carry with you and hand out at interviews. You may also be asked to send your traditional resume via email to a recruiter or employer. In these cases, you should have your traditional resume saved in the two most commonly asked for file formats: MS Word and Adobe PDF. You can then attach the requested file or files to an email message and send it to the requestor to be printed on the receiving end.

By far, you’ll find that the most requested format for your traditional resume is MS Word. If you comply with the request, be aware that your formatting may be incompatible with the recipient’s system. While usually still readable, fonts and bullet sizes and styles may be different from what you intended. These problems can be minimized, although not always eliminated, by embedding the fonts into the document. This is a simple process, and the MS Word help files will guide you through it. You should also take care, while writing and designing your resume, to use design elements that are default and standard on most systems. For example, it is not wise to use a fancy, custom font on your resume that you know will be emailed. Default fonts such as Garamond, Helvetica, Book Antiqua, or Verdana are better choices.

To eliminate issues with compatibility, if the recipient has the free Adobe Reader installed, Adobe PDF is the best format in which to send your traditional resume. The PDF version of your resume will appear on the recipient’s system precisely the way it appeared on your system. For this reason, if given the choice of sending an MS Word file and Adobe PDF file, always opt for Adobe PDF. However, many recruiters and employers still prefer the MS Word file format, because this is the format they are most familiar with.

ASCII text resume – If you conduct any portion of your job search on the Internet, ASCII-formatted resumes are critically important tools. Always have an up-to-date ASCII text version of your resume on your computer. This is the fastest way to contact potential employers and to apply for jobs advertised online. You must also have a text version of your resume if you wish to post in online resume databanks.

As previously noted, employers rarely request scannable resumes anymore. If they utilize an applicant tracking system, they will likely request that your resume be e-mailed, either as ASCII text or as an attachment. E-mail allows the recipient to enter your resume directly into the database, eliminating the extra steps of scanning and OCR.

How do you use these file formats and transit them to recipients via email? My recommendation is to actually attach the MS Word or Adobe PDF file to the email in its native file format. Then, ALSO copy and paste the text of your ASCII text resume into the body of your email (where you would normally type a message), along with a letter of introduction or other note explaining why you are sending the resume.

A final type of electronic resume is the web resume, also known as the online resume. Created using HTML, your web resume may be uploaded to space provided by a web-hosting provider. Eliminating the compatibility problems associated with word-processed resumes sent as e-mail attachments, web resumes offer the advantage of maintaining layout and design on the systems of anyone with a web browser. Available for viewing around the clock, conveying a technology-savvy image, and allowing the ability to add supporting content to your resume (effectively creating an online portfolio promoting your qualifications), web resumes are becoming a progressively important tool in the job search. The creation of a web resume or resume portfolio is far beyond the scope of this article, but if web resumes are an electronic format that interest you, be aware that many service providers have begun offering web resume design and hosting at affordable prices.



Preparing Internet Resumes

What do I need to know about writing keyword resumes?

Remember – it is absolutely essential that you create resume content that is keyword rich regardless of the file format. It is not necessary that you maintain a separate keyword version of your resume. ALL resumes must include a heavy emphasis on keywords. Keywords are generally defined as nouns or phrases that an employer will use when searching for an applicant with your skill set. To maximize the recall of your resume in a search, you will want to use as many keywords in your resume as possible.

1. Keywords should focus on technical and professional areas of expertise, industry-related jargon, and your work history. Also, include the names of associations and organizations of which you are a member.

2. Whenever possible, use synonyms of keywords in different parts of your resume and if you use initials for a term in one section, spell the term out in another.

3. Always be specific. For example, while it may be fine to include the phrase “computer literate,” you will also want to list the specific software that you are proficient in using.

This is one of the most common areas of confusion, so I’ll state it once again…the content of a keyword resume does not need to differ from the content of your traditional resume. With careful attention to rhythm and flow, it is possible to prepare a resume that is keyword optimized, but that also includes the powerful, compelling, active language of a traditional resume. Not only will this simplify your resume preparation, but it will ensure that the content of all versions of your resume will be optimized for both the computer and the human reader. Furthermore, if you incorporate a professional summary and bulleted list of qualifications in the text of your resume, there is little if any need to prepare a separate keyword summary.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to recommend a specific list of the best keywords to use in your resume, as the “best” keywords are different for every individual and depend mainly on your unique career objective and background. What is certain, however, is that a well-prepared keyword resume is so critical to your success in a job market that largely relies on electronic applicant tracking systems, if you have any doubts at all you should consult with a professional resume writer.

How do I prepare an ASCII text version of my resume?

Preparing the all-important ASCII text version of your resume is not difficult, but it does require a learning curve. Once converted to ASCII format, you will be able to email your resume in response to an ad or paste it directly into web-based forms and submit it to Internet resume databanks. The specific directions will vary depending on the software you have installed on your computer. But, in general, to prepare your ASCII resumes properly, follow these simple steps:

1. Using your word processing program, open your word-processed resume and use the “Save As” function to save a copy as a “Text Only” or “ASCII (DOS)” document. Title your document with an easily distinguishable name; perhaps “resume_internet.txt”

2. Close your word processing program and re-open the ASCII file. You will not be able to see your changes until you have done this. Note that it has been stripped of virtually all original formatting.

3. Go through your new ASCII document line-by-line. Align all text flush to the left-hand margin.

4. Remove all “centering,” “right hand margin,” and “justification” alignments.

5. Although you should no longer see them, if visible, remove all graphics, artwork, and special character formatting.

6. Remove all tab characters.

7. Remove all columns.

8. Replace bullets with a simple ASCII asterisk (*).

9. Carefully check the spelling and the accuracy of your data.

10. If you wish, use ASCII characters to enhance the appearance of your resume. Asterisks, plus signs, or other keyboard characters can be used to create visual lines that separate sections of your resume and make it easier to read.

The above steps convert your resume to ASCII without line breaks. When pasted into a web-based form or email message, your resume will automatically wrap to the size of the window.

Your new ASCII resume will be universally readable, no matter what computer system the recipient uses. It will also be easy to manipulate for entry into applicant tracking databases, eliminating the inherent difficulties of scanning and converting your paper resume with OCR systems.

There is no denying that the Internet has caused what was once a straightforward process to become complex and confusing to many job hunters. Yet, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Like never before, as a job seeker you have immediate access to announcements and advertisements of openings around the globe. You have the ability to conduct detailed research on companies of interest. And you have unprecedented opportunity to cost effectively promote your qualifications to hundreds or even thousands of hiring authorities of just a tiny fraction of the cost of doing so through traditional methods. While the new skills you must learn may seem daunting at first, by understanding the concepts and creating your electronic resumes, you are well on your way to an efficient, effective Internet job search.

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Starting Your Business: Avoiding the “Me Incorporated” Syndrome

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Many people who want to start a business have similar reasons for their ambitions. Typically, they are seeking autonomy from an employer, freedom, or control over their own destiny, which also means that they can determine their own income, work schedule, job duties, and career trajectory. However, upon launching a business, it becomes immediately apparent as to why many entrepreneurs describe their position as that of “chief cook and bottle washer.” This is another way of saying–in the absence of anyone else to address all of the major and minor tasks that must be accomplished to run the business–it is the entrepreneur who him or herself, must do everything.

Sweeping the floors, taking out the trash, wiping counters, answering phones, taking care of customers, packaging, shipping, invoicing, receiving, repairs, handling the bookkeeping, marketing: performing these tasks as well as anything else that must be done, is all in a day’s work for the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur becomes a jack of all trades and also falls into a trap. This scenario bodes well for a prediction: The business will never grow. This is because at the onset–when the entrepreneur’s imagination should have been running wild with “blue sky” possibilities surging through his or her head–there was only one overarching compulsion, which was to rush forward and print the title “President” on the entrepreneur’s new business cards. The entrepreneur was already afflicted with the “Me Incorporated” syndrome.

The job description above also explains why some displaced corporate executives who start businesses are completely unprepared for their new roles as business owners. Now they have to do everything; but, they were trained as specialists who operated in silos. They never had to clean the toilet or polish the brass handrails at “Behemoth Worldwide.” Their jobs there did not prepare them for survival in the “mean streets of Entrepreneur Town.” They can’t deal with the ambiguity and uncertainty that surrounds entrepreneurs, who must create their own destiny and fly without a manual. Their jobs were about keeping their mouths shut, fitting in, and saying, “Yes, boss–that’s a great idea [which you stole from me, you wheezing, blundering, conniving, drooling…idiot].”

Lest I go on into a full fledged rant about oversized corporations and the drone-like behavior that they seem to thrive on (not to mention ethical breaches and other shenanigans), let me stop right here and get back to the primary theme of this article. Suffice it to say that you want to start your own business, and you have your own reasons.

Given that I have explained the outcome of the “Me Incorporated” syndrome, it would be appropriate for me to discuss cause and effect, so that the affliction can be avoided. Let’s start with how you should think about your business in the beginning. Now hang in there with me folks, I’m going to be talking about imagination, crayons, scissors and paste, and being considered just a bit on the edge for a few moments.

Prior to starting a business, there are no restrictions as to the thoughts that you are entitled to have. When you are in the planning stages, it’s no time to squelch anything that pops into your head. There will be plenty of time for you to confront impediments after you start the business. Feel free to doodle, draw, color, paint, cut out shapes, and assemble anything that you wish. Draw other people a picture that’s clear as a bell and show them what you are made of. It’s your vision. Make it big and bold, and throw in a dash of pure crazy colored sugary sprinkles. Many phenomenally successful inventions were created by people who were proven to be geniuses instead of lunatics, only that was after they became successful.

As an example, let’s suppose that you imagined, instead of one sandwich shop, starting a chain of sandwich shops throughout a city. These shops could benefit from efficiencies of scale. Did you know that anything that you have printed, such as napkins, menus, cups, and sandwich wrappers in this instance, is cheaper in larger quantities? If you print 1000 of something, for a few dollars more, you could probably have printed 2500. Most things are “cheaper by the dozen.”

A few other examples of efficiencies are well worth mentioning here, so that your imagination becomes fully engaged. I once serviced a group of franchised business owners who wanted to collaborate and purchase advertising, acting together, instead of separately. First, I helped them write a cooperative agreement. You should know that even though they each provided the same services, realistically, customers would do business with the franchise owner whose store was closest. In other words, customers who were located downtown did business with the downtown store; customers who were located on the east side of town did business with that store, and so on. Technically, these stores competed with one another, but not really.

The store owners purchased a large advertisement in the yellow phone directory, and they split it up so that they had plenty of room to promote not only their individual locations, but also their brand name, and the features and benefits associated with their services. Any given single location could not have afforded to get all of that across; acting as a group of stores, they could.

The majority of all advertising is local advertising. Mom and pop companies advertise to consumers in their own respective market areas. Your single sandwich shop, acting all by itself, just about definitely cannot afford television advertising. However, with five or ten stores in a city, a chain of sandwich shops probably can. TV might be a great medium for featuring the satisfied faces of customers who are consuming your delectable culinary creations–if only your vision had called for that. Purchasing supplies, advertising, food, and anything else can probably be accomplished more efficiently when you are acting on behalf of several stores.

Let’s talk about personnel, too. Instead of rushing to become President, you should think about becoming CEO. In that role, your job is to be the visionary, and the team builder. “What are the qualifications for becoming a successful store manager?” is the question you should be asking. In case you haven’t followed my leap of reasoning–you need ten such store managers in our hypothetical scenario. You are the CEO, remember? Your role is to hire and motivate, compensate, and grow the overall enterprise. Your primary responsibilities are to plan, to confer with other team leaders, take the pulse of the markets in which you operate, understand the economy, and to fulfill the unmet needs of customers. As an entrepreneur, by definition, fulfilling unmet needs is what you are in business to do.

“Where do I get the money?” you may ask. Did you ever think about the fact that you can “sell” the notion of a bigger return on investment more effectively when you are wielding a more imaginative, stronger plan? Many small businesses, afflicted by the “Me Incorporated” syndrome as they are, will do nothing more than struggle and exhaust their owners, who are doing too much, for too long, for too little. Eventually, both the businesses, and the owners will submerge beneath the waters of insolvency and sink to the bottom of the entrepreneurial sea–or they will be eaten alive by larger, better adapted predators.

It is just as easy to say, “All I need is nine-hundred-and-seventy-three thousand dollars to underwrite the opening of ten highly competitive, efficiently run, strongly promoted, professionally managed sandwich stores” as it is to say, “Mom, dad, I was hoping that you could lend me two-thousand bucks for first and last month’s rent on a ‘sandwish’ shop.” No, it’s not a typo. I meant to say “sandwish” shop, because that’s what it is. It’s an uncertain proposal on the part of an unimaginative would-be entrepreneur, who has already demonstrated a lack of foresight or an ability to think beyond him or herself. It’s one thing to bootstrap a business startup, but it’s another thing altogether to proceed without any of your creative juices flowing. If you think “me, me, me,” all of the time, then you won’t think about sharing the work, sharing the profits, or building a team.

No, you’ll do it all yourself. No thanks to all of the other people who have let you down. There’s nobody who can make a “sandwish,” any better than you can. Nor can they run the cash register, accept a delivery, or do anything else as well as you can. “Oh, baby, baby, you are the best!”

To avoid the “Me Incorporated” syndrome, you need to create strategic and tactical plans representing your solutions for recruiting, hiring, training, developing, compensating, and retaining personnel. You need to have external resources lined up to accomplish what is not done in-house. You need a detailed marketing plan, to include the product, pricing, publicity, advertising, facilities, delivery, and customer satisfaction processes that you will utilize. Similarly, you need a financial plan, an operations plan, a technology plan, and contingency plans to manage business interruptions and risk. Whatever you were planning to write down, just add zeros, because that’s what it costs to start a real business and run it right, so that everyone gets their money back, along with a profit.

You will probably not have time to do all of this planning after you are overwhelmed with the responsibilities of handling every aspect of running your business all by yourself. It will be too late by then, for you will already be trapped in a quagmire.

Before you take the entrepreneurial plunge, decide what kind of business you want to create. If you ask for something bigger, and justify it, you may just have a chance of making it happen. What’s the alternative? You’ll be in charge of your own tiny little fiefdom, never knowing how things could have been, if you had only thought a little longer, a little harder, a little bigger, and a little less about how you could do every little thing all by yourself, either scheming to keep all of the profits, or avoiding reality thinking that you could wing it forever.

Put that “sandwish” down and think beyond what you can do yourself, and focus on what you can imagine. The transcontinental railroad that spans the United States was built one railroad tie at a time, but it was always the plan to connect the East Coast, with the West Coast (and a larger part of this vision was to connect the East Coast with goods shipped by merchants from places such as China and India). If you can envision, articulate, sell, and implement a business concept that entails serving, employing, partnering, leading, and uplifting others, you are probably cured.

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Finance

The Basics of Web Design and Web Development

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Web design has been one of the trends in the recent years. It has helped companies to market their name, brand and services to a wider scope of market. The only problem is that the web design should be able to capture your audience’s attention and make an impression in less than five seconds. Five seconds, that is not enough time to tell them what you want and to even sell them your product, service or idea. So how do you do this at this time when people want instant results and with the tons of other competitions in the web today?

The first thing that you need to remember is to get to the point of what you want to say. We live in a world where everything is fast and are done in an instant: fast food meals, losing weight in days and even starting and ending marriages are done in haste. The way people use the internet is not so different, so if you can’t deliver in a matter of four or five seconds, then you’re dead.

This means that you need to have something interesting to make the visitor stop and think. Test your website while it is loading and see how long it takes to load; what are the first thing that you can see; how long until you can read something from it and how long will your visitor take to understand what you wanted to convey.

The ideal thing is for the site to load from top to bottom, left to right. Then the most eye-catching elements should start to load before everything can finish loading. Furthermore, think about the pictures that you would use and the format that you will use. Use a format that will load quickly and do not try to try the visitor’s patience.

Aside from these web development elements, make the visitors want to stay on your site and continue reading. Offer them something that are valuable to them like articles that are useful, newsletters and free tips. Additionally, make sure that the web design can be navigated easily so visitors will have ease in browsing through the pages.

In order for you to achieve optimum use of your website, you should get the services of a web development company that will offer you web design packages that is useful and something that you need. For instance, if you want a Flash and website with your own content management system, static HTML or the e-commerce type, then look for web design packages that carry everything that you will need. If you want a user-friendly website, then do not opt for Flash websites.

Make sure that the web development company that you will hire has relevant experience with the type of company that you run. If you are in steel industry, then choose a company that has sample design in their portfolio about something that is in line with your business.

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Finance

Know About Claims Processing Software

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Claims processing is an important business function for Insurance companies, public entities and risk managers. The claims have to be handled timely to ensure quick settlement leading to customer satisfaction. Claims processing software is beneficial as it helps to effectively manage and analyze information pertaining to claims. This software helps to automate the entire system of claims management by reducing the settlement time and enhancing the customer service. It provides faster and intuitive access to data records which help in making effective decisions.

Functions of Claims Processing Software

The claims processing software is an effective designed to house complex data, notes, diaries and financial reporting. It performs the following functions:

· Increase Effectiveness Of Managing Claims

This software manages the entire process starting from First Notice of Loss (FNOL) to final settlement. The software can easily capture appropriate information, document file activity, and maintain reports and correspondences pertaining to claims. The software provides faster access to data and helps employees to operate with efficiency. This software also allows tracking of claim processes performance resulting in improved process visibility. This increases the effectiveness of managing claims as they are quickly finalized and decisions are made faster. Various analytical tools in the software further increase the effectiveness of claims management.

· Easy Documentation And Maintenance Facility

The claims processing software allows for documenting all file activity pertaining to claims. The reports and correspondences pertaining to claims are also maintained by the software document depository. All transactions are properly documented and stored which is useful for future reference.

· Integration With Other Software Products

The software allows easy integration and supports other software products and office applications like Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel and even Outlook. Easy integration allows export/transfer of claims data, reports, and correspondences to other software. Easy integration allows efficient and faster claim handling.

Advantages of Claims Processing Software

The claims processing software helps to effectively organize the entire claims processes. Some of the advantages include:

· Reduces Administration And Errors With Manual Systems

The earlier systems of claims processing included manual systems where paper files were used to document everything. The claims software has automated the entire process of claim management reducing the need for administration required in manual systems. Even, as the entire process is automated the chances of occurrence of human error have been significantly reduced. Workflow processes and waypoints are automated.

· Remote Accessibility And Confidentiality

This software allows easy remote accessibility to know the status of claims processes. The SQL database software supports Internet browser and other latest technologies to ensure secure remote accessibility. As the software handles sensitive personal and financial data of the claimants, it is important to keep it confidential. The data is kept confidential by ensuring filtered access rights, VPN and SSL Encryption.

· Increases Productivity In Processing Claims

The claims processing software significantly eliminates the amount of time and labor involved in processing claims resulting in increased claim volume. The reduced claim processing time makes it easy for employees to quickly respond to customer queries. The software provides good visibility of the claim process which enables the users to make improvements and use enhanced resources to provide better results. The software also provides effective user friendly interface with contact sensitive help instructions and tutorials for various features which makes it easy to learn quickly.

· Highly Secure

The claims information is kept secured and safe with the use of encrypted data and multi-level access passwords. Only those with user ID and password are authorized to access the system thus eliminating the chances of unauthorized access. The user activity is constantly tracked to ensure a secured network.

The claims processing software can help the insurance companies and risk managers to reduce exposure, increase employee productivity, reduce the claim processing cycle time, and provide better customer service. The claims software helps insurers and risk managers to enhance the quality of service which gives a competitive edge over other companies.

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Finance

What Is Business Car Leasing?

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For companies, renewing your fleet vehicles with a business car lease is the ideal way to finance new cars. They help spread the payments over the months and avoid a single lump sum having to be put through the books.

Bank managers and financial annalists will also view the purchase of vehicles through car leasing arrangements as a positive statement of business longevity. They also make sense as car-leasing deals often include the vehicles maintenance and servicing within the agreement to, so you will be saving money on running costs as well.

The initial payment on a car leasing deal is normally the equivalent of three months payment. Two months as a deposit and the third part as the month’s rental, plus an administration fee of between £100 and £200. At the end of the agreement you can usually carry over the deposit from your first car onto any subsequent vehicle you take a lease out on.

Once you take delivery of your new car, you then have to make, in the case of a one-year contract, nine further payments, or 33 payments if you take the contract over three years. Before finally handing the car back to the dealer.

So what is in the deal for business users?

The monthly payments, along with providing you with a new car will also include full maintenance, routine maintenance and servicing, tyres and exhausts. Many of the larger organisations also provide roadside assistance with the likes of the AA or RAC and annual road tax.

Dealers will quite often provide a dedicated accident manager along with a freephone line for booking appointments and services and a network of courtesy cars and picks to assist business users.

The customising, company livery and installing gadgets such as sat nav, mobile phone kits and tracking systems, along with fuel cards to keep an eye on running costs.

All cars financed under a car leasing scheme need to have fully comprehensive cover and despite being able to get cars at a preferential rate your insurance cost will more than likely be at the full rate. You may need to bear this in mind when deciding what type of vehicle to take out.

It can also be possible to take out a newly new car leasing deal with certain companies. What you need keep in mind here is the type of car you consider. Traditional fleet cars like Mondeo and Vectra loose value early on in the life cycle and so you may be able to get some good deals here.

Higher end cars that hold value, such as BMW, VW or Audi will not depreciate as much during the early years and will not represent that much of a saving over taking delivery of a brand new car. These cars will represent a less appealing option for those considering newly new offers.

Over all though, businesses users that take on cars through leasing deals will find that under current market conditions, this possibly represents the best way to fund your company cars.

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