Small Business Tips – Three Small Business Innovations You Need To Know About

The best small business tip that I could give you might just be this one: There is a big difference between a “Good” small business Entrepreneur, and a “Great” one.A good small business Entrepreneur reacts to changes in their environment or industry. A GREAT Entrepreneur doesn’t need to react, because they can see the future.This means that Robert Zemeckis must not be a “great” entrepreneur.So who is Robert Zemeckis? He’s not, as far as I know, a small business owner, and chances are you’ve never heard his name. But you are most likely aware of his work.He is the director of several outstanding movies, most notably the Back to the Future trilogy. He is widely regarded as a great director and an inventive thinker in the film industry.So why, then, is he not a great Entrepreneur? Simple. He doesn’t have a crystal ball.Not too long ago I decided to watch Back to the Future II with my kids. I loved this movie growing up, and thought my kids might like it too.In this flick, Marty McFly travels to the future, and gets to ride hover-boards, cruise around in flying cars, and see his future self and family.I loved the creativity in this movie – the hover boards were awesome, the back-straightening robot was a chiropractor’s dream toy, and who doesn’t want a flying car? It was pretty enjoyable to watch this show again after almost 20 years, and I thought the director did a good job of dreaming up the future……and then Marty McFly picked up a payphone.SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECHWhat? Picked up a pay phone? With all of the crazy amazing inventions this guy dreamed up – flying cars and hoverboards and dehydrated pizzas and robot maids – he couldn’t imagine something as sensible and practical as a cell phone?Surely he could have imagined that pay phones would be obsolete by 2015…since, well, they pretty much are. (When was the last time YOU went looking for a pay phone?)Good hell, even the writers for Star Trek dreamed up “communicators”!Obviously, Robert Zemeckis could make up a future fantasy land – but he didn’t have a crystal ball to show him the future. He dreamed up a bunch of crazy inventions that weren’t practical – but he failed to imagine this one big invention that would revolutionize our lives (and what’s even more head-scratching – it’s something that we actually had the technology for when the film was made!)Robert Zemeckis doesn’t seem to have it in him to be a “great” entrepreneur. He doesn’t have a crystal ball.Do you?The biggest innovations and industry-changing advancements have come from people who could clearly envision the future. These innovators (who are also usually GREAT Entrepreneurs) can see what’s around them, and imagine something better – and then CREATE what they imagine!And plenty of crystal-ball-carrying Entrepreneurs and small business owners have made fortunes acting quickly when those innovations just start to take hold. (Here’s another big small business tip – be the front runner on new innovations)If you can’t innovate, or predict which innovations will change the way your customers think or behave, then you are in danger of becoming like the typewriter repairman – i.e. extinct.The marketplace is changing and evolving every single day. Here are three major recent innovations that are changing the world RIGHT NOW. These are movements that are going to stick. These are innovations that might just force you to change your operating strategies and marketing plans. These are innovations that as a small business owner you cannot afford to ignore.1. Tablets are the new laptops.You may have noticed these new-fangled gadgets called “tablets”. Apple popularized the idea, and realizing how revolutionary this product was, Samsung and others quickly jumped on the bandwagon. People have already started to carry them around like day-planners. They are completely replacing peoples’ entire briefcases. And it’s only a matter of time before they make laptops (and maybe even desktops) as we know and “love” them completely obsolete.Soon enough, if it doesn’t have a screen that you can touch to navigate your way around, and if there’s a keyboard or a mouse attached to it, then no one is going to want it. (“You have to use your HANDS? That’s like a baby toy!” – Classic line from Back to the Future 2)If you are in the consumer electronics industry, then you are already stocking as many Tablets as you can get your greedy little fingers on. But you might want to think about limiting your order quantity on laptops – unless you want them sitting on your “perpetual clearance rack” next to your portable CD players and Polaroid film.But there are plenty of ways you can capitalize on this craze from other industries. For example, what if you armed your sales force with tablets? Your company would be seen as a cutting-edge front runner (there’s a lot to be gained by that distinction). Also, these slick little devices have outstanding presentation abilities and applications – improving your overall level of professionalism.And it won’t be very long before they have built-in projectors, completing their annihilation of laptops (if you don’t believe that, then you probably also didn’t believe that they could fit a whole video recorder inside a teeny little phone either).2. Smartphones aren’t the wave of the future – they are the wave of RIGHT NOW.Soon you won’t be able to buy a cell phone that doesn’t come complete with the ability to play Angry Birds, surf the internet, and creep around on Facebook. In fact, it’s been estimated that already as much as 25% of all internet surfing is done on a Smartphone. And this number is going up every day. In fact, there’s a good chance that you’re reading this message right now on your Smartphone.But unless you’re a cell phone retailer, then you might wonder why this is important to you. Well, if you do any kind of advertising online, then this movement is absolutely CRUCIAL to your future prosperity. Advertising on mobile units is different from standard Internet advertising – and the audience is growing much faster than the number of advertisers are. If I could give just ONE small business tip in this article, it would be this: LEARN HOW TO PROPERLY MARKET YOUR COMPANY ON MOBILE DEVICES!3. Plugging in instead of filling up.The Toyota Prius wasn’t the first hybrid – but it’s the car generally credited with starting the Hybrid craze.The hybrid movement was originally started based on the idea of saving the environment. Green energy nuts and tree huggers ditched their “Shaggin’ Wagons” and immediately gravitated to these gas-sipping vehicles. And with the Prius, the mainstream quickly started to catch on. It wasn’t long before you saw celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz cruising around in the funny looking cars (Prius gets a C- for style).But hybrids aren’t the future. In fact, hybrids will eventually become as extinct as their gas-guzzling counterparts.With the release of the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt, the first volley of true mass-market electric cars has been launched. Make no mistake – the alternative energy craze combined with the shrinking supply of our limited fossil fuel resources will absolutely drive more and more companies to come out with their own lines of fully electric vehicles, which will change the industry in the same way that unleaded-fuel-powered vehicles forced out the “regular” crowd.But that’s not where it will end. Over the course of the next decade or so, there will be a real race to create alternative energy vehicles (instead of the P.R. farce put on by a few auto manufacturers today).Look for hydrogen powered vehicles to become more popular and economical. Don’t be surprised to see solar powered cars hitting the showroom floor (probably a little more popular in Phoenix than in Seattle). And a few decades down the road, I fully expect to see (*gasp*) soccer moms shuttling their kids around in Nuclear Powered SUVs.If you are an auto dealer, your course of action here should be obvious. But what if you’re not? What small business tips could we possibly give to the non-auto-dealer crowds related to Green Machines?Well, on the small business level, the “Going Green” movement is as much about public relations as anything else. It’s outstanding P.R. to be seen as a company that cares about the environment and conserving natural resources – especially for a small business!Imagine the positive P.R. that you could generate if your computer repair squad cruised around in fully electric cars rather than gas-guzzlers? What would your customer’s reaction be if their pizza showed up at their door inside a Nissan Leaf instead of a 1997 Corolla?You could even push the Green Revolution envelope a step farther – by installing wind turbines or solar panels on top of your building, or mandating electronic delivery of invoices (which has the added bonus of saving you quite a bit of cold-hard-cash).Here were three quick MAJOR examples of innovations changing the entire market – and the way every-day business is conducted – on a wide-scale. But every single day individual industries are being revolutionized. Including your own.So pull out your crystal ball, and start figuring out where these innovations are going to come from so you can prepare for them. Or better yet, why don’t YOU become the innovator yourself? After all, in business, it’s always better to be forcing the reaction, than doing the reacting!These are just a few of the many ways that you can give your small business a completely UNFAIR competitive advantage. But they aren’t the most powerful way…

Business Travel Agents Tips: Things to Know About Flight Delay Compensation

You arrive at the airport, your flight is delayed or even cancelled? Flight delay compensation is an important topic travellers should know about, especially when it comes to business travel. Whether it is due to bad weather such as snow, a security alert or a strike, there are many reasons for flight delays and cancellations. But whatever the reason, it means you have to stay involuntarily longer at the airport before you can travel to your destination or back home. Plus, you may be entitled to flight delay compensation or a refund. Here are some important rules helping you to make sure you are not left out of pocket and make the most of the involuntarily gained extra time.1. Know your rightsFrom getting refunded for all your food and drink expenses to getting a hotel or some alternative transportation, you should know what you are entitled to. So, if your flight is cancelled or heavily delayed, you’re protected by the Denied Boarding Regulation (EU rule 261/2004 and repealing regulation (EEC) No 295/91). Unless ‘extraordinary circumstances’ apply, you can claim a financial flight delay compensation for cancelled or heavily delayed flights totalling:€250 (£210) for inter-EU flights of 930 miles or less€400 (£330) for flights between 930 and 1,860 miles€600 (£500) for other journeys (long-haul flights)It applies for EU flights, which includes any flights leaving from or arriving at an EU airport with an EU-based airline. Plus, your compensation may be reduced by 50% depending on flight distance and the ultimate arrival time. This means the reduced compensation applies to short haul flights within two hours, to medium haul flights within three hours and to long haul flights within four hours. But remember, flight delay compensation is only applicable if it is the airline’s fault (i.e. no act of God applies, such as natural catastrophes, incl. earth quakes, volcanoes or bad weather or political unrest). To claim flight delay compensation simply write to your airline stating the flight number, date, length of delay and reason for the claim. Sometimes airlines try offering you vouchers as flight delay compensation, but you don’t have to accept them and can ask for a cash refund instead. If your airline refuses to compensate you, contact the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for support and advice. Note, technical faults, unless they result from events which, by their nature or origin, are not part of the normal exercise of the airline, do not count as extraordinary circumstances.Your right to reimbursement comes into play, if the delay is a minimum of five hours. You should get a reimbursement within seven days, for the cost of the flight ticket, the part of the trip not travelled and the parts already travelled, provided they are then useless. Where applicable, you may be even entitled to the earliest possible return flight to your departure destination or rerouting along with a refund.During the travel disruption you should receive assistance from your airline, including food, drinks, two free telephone calls, faxes or emails, as well as accommodation and transport transfers to and from the hotel – where applicable. This is regardless of the reason for the delay/cancellation.2. NetworkingIt’s always good to make friends, so why not use the downtime for extending your network. Try to see the positive of dealing with flight delays. Seen from a practical level, you may be able to share costs, e.g. for a taxi into town. Also being friendly towards the airport staff may prove helpful. Especially in these kinds of situations they encounter a lot of stressed and unfriendly customers, although the delay/cancellation is none of their personal fault. If you are friendly they are much more likely to help you, maybe even give you some extra advice.3. Gate-crash the airport loungesThose of you flying Business Class or being members of corporate airline loyalty or frequent flyer schemes will already be in the VIP lounge enjoying a nice drink and peanuts. It’s a far quieter and relaxed environment. This may be the best option when having to wait for a delayed flight. But if you are neither flying business class, nor a member of a loyalty scheme, be advised that in some cases these lounges are not exclusive and you may be able to access them for a fee of around £20. This could be much cheaper than getting your food and drink from an airport bar.Furthermore, desk agents in these lounges are often authorised to make fast, last-minute reservations’ changes and there are usually far fewer people ahead of you in the queue. At least you can enjoy the Wi-Fi and free snacks (or booze!) while you have to wait. In the case of a flight cancellation or major delay, and you are at the airport immediately contact the airline you are travelling with. To change the ticket and get advice on the available options, it is best to go to your airline’s ticket desk, as soon as possible. Your business travel management company should continually provide pro-active telephone support throughout, as Flightline Travel does.What are your top tips for dealing with flight delays and cancellations?© Copyright Flightline Travel Management Ltd. All rights reserved. All amounts and prices stated are correct at time of publication.Flightline Travel Management – Pro-active business travel support services for corporate travellers

Insurance for the Construction Industry – An Insiders Guide to Getting the Best Rates

Next to the cost of labor or materials, insurance premiums often represent the single largest business expense for a construction contractor. It only stands to reason then that successful contractors should seek to take advantage of all available means to minimize insurance costs. The good news is that there are many ways to effectively do so. Some methods are fairly simple, for example price shopping when looking for a policy. Others techniques, such as applying for credits and reviewing modifier rates are a bit more involved. In either case, most construction related businesses will find that the effort is well worth the reward in the end. When efficiently managed, even small contractors can realize a significant reduction in premiums. Here’s a few tips on how you can save money from an insurance professional that specializes in writing polices for the construction industry.My first piece of advice is to always shop around for the best price and get several quotes from multiple agents. The difference in price between the lowest quote and the highest quote can be substantial. This is especially true of general liability, commercial auto and commercial property coverage. Shopping around also means shopping for the agent that is the best fit for you. Make sure you are using an agent that has experience writing insurance for the construction industry. As someone who specializes in working with construction clients, I can tell you that I might not be the best person to come to if you were looking at liability coverage for a doctors office or a property policy for a manufacturing plant. Construction insurance represents a specialized area of insurance. Just as lawyers or doctors specialize in a particular area of their trade, so do many insurance agents. Not all agents posses the specific industry knowledge that is required to get you the best rates or have access to carriers that offer the most favorable prices for construction businesses. The additional tips that I will give in the following paragraphs are important methods to controlling your insurance costs. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to test your potential agents knowledge of these concepts. Ask what advice he or she can give you on how to lower your rates. Ask for references from other construction clients that they work with and don’t be shy about calling those references. Lastly, make sure your agent knows that simply renewing the same policy every year is not sufficient. In many cases renewing the same policy is the best way to go, but not always. It is easy for an agent to get comfortable and stop working hard to earn your business. Don’t let that happen.Another important aspect of controlling insurance costs is to minimize claims. One of the most efficient ways to accomplish this is to implement a formal safety program. This actually has a dual effect in reducing costs. The first is to raise awareness of safety issues at your company and to involve employees in pro actively working to prevent injuries. Research conclusively shows businesses that maintain a safety program are statically much less likely to file an injury related claim. It is a fact that claims frequency and the dollar amount of claims you have filed are two of the largest factors used by insurance companies in calculating your rates. A good claims history can drastically decrease the price you pay, while a poor claims history can send your premiums through the roof. This is true of virtually all lines of insurance including workers’ compensation, liability, property and auto. A safety program also helps to reduce costs because many carriers offer an extra discount to businesses just for having one. Many workers’ compensation polices offer a safety dividend return that will return a percentage of your premium to you if you are able to complete the policy with little or no claims. This safety dividend can be quite substantial. One company that I work with offers upwards of 30% back on your policy if you go without claims. Discounts are available on auto polices for safety measures such as air bags, anti-lock brakes, having drivers with safe driving records and even for such items as establishing and maintaining a regular maintenance schedule for your vehicles. While not necessarily safety related, you can also receive auto insurance discounts for anti-theft devices such as alarms and gps tracking systems.The last tip deals specifically with workers’ compensation. Your workers’ comp. policy is based on a percentage of annual gross payroll. Each job classification pays a different rate based on the risk associated with that particular class code. For example a roofer would pay a much higher rate than a plumber. In most cases the percentage of payroll charged for a particular job class is assigned and approved by the state in which you do business. California may charge a different rate for trim carpenters than Maryland, which may charge a different rate than Montana. Insurance carriers doing business in a state must base their fee for workers’ compensation coverage on the percentage that has been assigned by that state. There are however several ways to manipulate that percentage. I’ve already discussed one way, which is to maintain a good claims history. Another method is to take advantage of contractors insurance credits offered by many states. The credit amount varies by state and is not offered by all states. However, if you do qualify this is one of the most effective tools you have at your disposal to reduce workers’ compensation costs. In general terms, the contractors credit program offers a premium refund for construction industry employers who pay their workers an average wage that is above a certain bench mark amount. As an example, the minimum amount to be eligible in Florida is $10 per hour or higher. Employers in that state can receive a maximum credit amount of up to 25% of the total policy premium. In Missouri the credit starts when an employer pays an average wage of $16 or more and the maximum credit amount is up to 34.4% of the total policy premium. That can add up to thousands of dollars for even small contractors. The contractors credit is easy to apply for. In fact, your insurance carrier is required to provide you with the form needed to file. The form is just 1-2 pages long and is fairly simple to complete if you keep accurate payroll records for your business. Check with your agent for the specific details of your states contractors credit program.There are several other techniques that you may have heard about with respect to reducing your insurance premiums. One is to raise your deductible to a higher amount. I am not going to recommend that here because there are more factors to consider when choosing a deductible than just price. For starters you need to make sure you have a deductible that you can afford to pay if it ever comes down to that. There are several other reasons that I am not recommending a higher deductible as a standard cost cutting tool, but the bottom line is that I don’t feel it is necessarily a good solution for everyone. Another cost saving measure you may have heard of is to become self insured. While this can certainly be extremely effective in reducing premiums, only very large employers can choose to self insure. I have not discussed this here simply because it does not apply to most construction businesses.In closing, remember that while you will never be able to entirely eliminate insurance premiums as a cost of doing business, you can certainly reduce the financial burden that they have on your company. Shopping for the best price and the right agent, minimizing claims, emphasizing a safe workplace, taking advantage of safety dividend programs and applying for contractors credits are a few of the most effective methods at your disposal.