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Small businesses have special needs, especially in comparison to larger, more established companies. The term "small business" often really refers to "new business", in that many small businesses that have been around for a while are as large as they are likely to ever become simply because of the type of business they are. Some small businesses, however, are destined to become large businesses. These companies in particular need to weigh the considerations of their unique situation when purchasing a business phone system. Knowing one's options when it comes to business phones can save a substantial amount of money and time.

Special Considerations for Small Business Phone Systems

Special Considerations for Small Business Phone SystemsSmall businesses have special needs, especially in comparison to larger, more established companies. The term "small business" often really refers to "new business", in that many small businesses that have been around for a while are as large as they are likely to ever become simply because of the type of business they are. Some small businesses, however, are destined to become large businesses. These companies in particular need to weigh the considerations of their unique situation when purchasing a business phone system. Knowing one's options when it comes to business phones can save a substantial amount of money and time.If a company is in a physical location that will be able to meet it's needs for many years to come and their number of employees is well into the double digit range, they may wish to go with a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system. PBX systems offer increased expansion capabilities and can come with more available features for the end user. Installation expenses for PBX systems can be extremely high, however, and should be factored in any organization's business phone system budget.The alternative would be to use a Key System. Key Systems are cheaper and require less in the way of installation expense. Still, they are only expandable to provide service to thirty or forty terminals. For businesses that will eventually require more handsets than Key Systems are capable of supporting, replacement with a PBX system would be inevitable.The worst case scenario would be for a business to buy a phone system that barely meets it's current needs only to find that it will have to be replaced soon after. Properly planning for growth will help any business end up with a phone system that can expand with it's expansion and allow the most value for the overall investment. Like any business investment, phone systems do not last forever, so it is often unnecessary to purchase the very best (and most expensive) system on the market. Still, it does pay to purchase a business phone system that is certain to meet your company's needs, both now and well into the future.

Cost-Reducing Tips for the Small-Business Owner

Cost-Reducing Tips for the Small-Business Owner

One of the keys to running a successful small business or home office is learning to control costs. Even the smallest expenses can quickly add up and cut into profits, leaving you with a business that won't move forward.Many small-business owners know where their money comes from, but are not as clear on where it goes. This can have a significant impact on their businesses' cash flow.It's important to review your expenses regularly - every quarter if possible - so you can accurately manage your outgoing expenditures and look for ways to save.Demos Parneros, president of U.S. stores at Staples Inc., provides the following suggestions to save your business money.* Buy last year's model. Furniture, computers, PDAs - there is always something new. This also means that there is always something old. If you wait until the end of the year or for sales throughout the year, you can save on your office needs.* Buy in bulk and buy ahead. By buying commonly used items in large quantities, you can save a lot. Replenish your supplies before you run out. Thinking ahead, and thus buying ahead, gives you a chance to comparison shop and take advantage of sales.* Buy products that save money. Consider quality alternatives to national brands. Staples ink and toner products, for example, offer consumers quality products at a 15 percent to 20 percent cost-savings per cartridge.* Take advantage of discounts. Professional and trade associations often offer their members discounts on insurance, travel, shipping and other common expenses. Similarly, some credit cards, like the American Express Corporate Card for Small Business, may get you discounts as well.* Save on mail costs. Mail costs for your business can add up fast. To save money, use postcards or consolidate shipping. You also can buy or lease a postage meter or get a mail scale to eliminate overpaying.

No Cost Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

No Cost Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

Many small businesses are run from peoples home computers and fall under the radar of business statistics. Whether you are working for a multi-level marketing company or selling painted bird houses the difficulty of advertising your products without a budget is overwhelming. Let us face the fact that $20 a month spent on classified advertisement isnt going to bring in a flood of visitors. A home-based business cannot compete with their larger counterparts. That is why in many cases owners are expected to tap into their personal relationships to make sales. Like many of you I run a small home based business and have learned through trial and error what works and what doesnt. Despite putting some notches in my belt I have never stopped learning. In the beginning, many years ago, I wasted money paying for different types of advertisements. None of them worked well. Now my budget is nearly $0 and I receive thousands of visitors a year. How did I do this?Strategy #1 Email: Instead of paying for lists and possibly getting in trouble for spamming I send businesses a very personalized email message. How do I find these businesses? I find them by looking on the web, going to their homepage, reading a little about them, and then sending them a personalized email about my product. The key is personalization. Write a basic sales letter which highlights your product, offers contact information and how it can impact a particular type of business. Since I run a magazine which survives off of advertising revenue I have developed sample letters for the clothing industry, auto industry, legal industry, etc. I then place their information within the letter so that when they read it they say, Wow! This guy knows what is important to me! Strategy #2 Information: Search engines and customers love informative articles. We have all heard the saying, knowledge is power. Customers want to learn about their business as much as possible. Posting informative articles on your web page will help visitors keep returning for additional information and hold them there longer. Information also increases your credibility as a business to the potential customer. If they agree with what you are saying they are more likely to purchase from you. Search engines, like customers, are constantly searching with their spiders for content related information. If your articles are about the product you are selling chances are that search engines will rank your site higher.Strategy #3 Business Cards: Off-line marketing has never gone out of style. It may even be more necessary today than it was in yesteryear. There are plenty of printers out there that offer free business cards in exchange for a placement of their contact information on the back of the cards. In most cases the printers information is small and unnoticeable making the free deal a good deal! Therefore I get my cards for only the cost of shipping and handling. What you do with these cards is almost as important as how much you spend on them. People are interested in the self and love to talk about themselves as much as possible. Generally, I pass out the cards under the auspices that I would like to further a particular conversation or I would like to keep in touch with them. It is a great way to get their card in your hand and make a good friend. Now they have a personal relationship with me, are much more likely to look at my site and I can catalogue their information for networking purposes. Strategy #4 Ezine Articles: Like I said in strategy #2 people love free information. Those same articles I placed on my website for my current customers can also be used to lure new customers. By making sure that you articles are informative, professional and worthy you can submit those to article databases for free content. Then websites pick up the article to post on their own site. The trick is to have your personal contact information either embedded into the article or as a tag line on the end. Personally I use my web address and my name. The better your article the more times it is posted around the web and the more customers you will get. The four strategies work together to enhance the popularity of a website and reduce the amount of time you waste everyday. Writing informative articles about your product and submitting them to ezine directories helps to improve your sites search engine rankings, retain your customers and increase overall exposure. Passing out business cards and networking with other owners works well together and kills two birds with one stone. Sending out personalize emails and reading about your customers site helps to increase your understanding of your customers needs while advertising to them. The overall strategy of business is to make more money and spend less time and resources doing it.

Know What You Are Welding

Know What You Are Welding

Welding smoke is a mixture of very fine particles and gases. This smoke can contain, such materials as chromium, nickel, arsenic, asbestos, manganese, silica, beryllium, cadmium, nitrogen oxides, phosgene, acrolein, fluorine compounds, carbon monoxide, cobalt, copper, lead, ozone, selenium, and zinc and they can be extremely toxic. Generally, welding fumes and gases come from the base material being welded or the filler material, but can also come from the paint and other materials on the metal being welded. Chemical reactions can also occur from the heat and even the arc light. These reactants can also be toxic.Health effects of welding exposures can be difficult to list. The smoke may contain materials not listed or assumed. The individual components of welding smoke can affect just about any part of the body, including the lungs, heart, kidneys, and central nervous system.Exposure to metal fumes such as zinc, magnesium, copper, and copper oxide can cause metal fume fever. Symptoms of "metal "fume fever" " may occur 4 to 12 hours after exposure, and include chills, thirst, fever, muscle ache, chest soreness, coughing, wheezing, fatigue, nausea, and a metallic taste in the mouth and usually lasts a short term.Some components of welding fumes, such as cadmium, can be fatal in a short time. Secondary gases given off by the welding process can also be extremely dangerous. Ultraviolet radiation from the welding arc reacts with oxygen and nitrogen and produces ozone and "nitrogen oxides" . These gases are deadly at high doses, and can also cause irritation of the nose and throat and serious lung disease.Another reaction from the ultraviolet arc is a gas produced from chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents; this gas is called phosgene gas and even a very small amount of phosgene may be deadly. Studies have shown that welders have an increased risk of lung cancer, and possibly cancer of the larynx and urinary tract. This risk comes from the cancer-causing agents such as cadmium, nickel, beryllium, chromium, and arsenic.Besides chemicals being thrown off by welding, another risk can be found in the extreme heat. This intense heat can cause burns. Contact with hot slag, metal chips, sparks, and hot electrodes can cause eye injuries. Excessive exposure to heat can result in heat stress or heat stroke. Welders should be aware of the symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, and irritability. Some welding may take place inside a workplace; the welder must be protected as if they were working outside in the hot sun. Ventilation, shielding, rest breaks, and drinking plenty of cool water will protect workers against heat hazards.The intensity of the "welding arc" can cause damage to the retina of the eye, while infrared radiation may damage the cornea and result in the formation of cataracts. Invisible ultraviolet light from the arc can cause the white dots. The white dots, while mostly temporary, may end in blindness. Half the injuries of white dots come from people standing around the materials being welded. The intense light can even be reflected off of other objects in the area. Even though welding generally uses low voltage, there is still a danger of electric shock. The environmental conditions of the welder, such as wet areas, may make the likelihood of a shock greater. Falls and other accidents can result from even a small shock; brain damage and death can result from a large shock.The intense heat and sparks produced by welding can cause fires or explosions if combustible or flammable materials are in the area.Before beginning a welding job, it is important to identify the hazards for that particular welding operation. The hazards will depend on the type of welding, the materials (base metals, surface coatings, electrodes) to be welded, and the "environmental conditions" . Check the Material Safety Data Sheets to identify the hazardous materials used in welding and cutting products, and the fumes that may be generated. Make sure that all possible compounds can be identified before welding begins. After identifying the hazard, appropriate control methods can be implemented.

Guerilla Versus Gorilla - Small Companies Can Win

We make our living as guerillas not the bad kind, but more of a freedom fighter. By using the term guerilla I mean EMJ (now a division of SYNNEX) fights for business against big gorillas (other distributors) in the field. Our competitors are almost 100 times our size; EMJ is a Canadian-based, $165 million per year distributor. We have made an operating profit for the past 80 consecutive quarters. So even though we are up against the big gorillas as a distributor, we must be doing something right.If you are in a business where some of the competitors are much larger, you may be able to benefit from using guerilla tactics. The principles of running a guerrilla organization differ from running a gorilla organization. As a guerrilla, we hide from our competitor; we do not try to crush them. I even go so far as to examine what they do well and let them do it. At the same time, I look for under-serviced markets and get to these markets fast.A gorilla takes all competitors head on, trying to crush the competition. Sometimes this takes the form of a price war. Sometimes it takes major prolonged, drawn-out investment. This works as long as you are the same size, or larger than the competition. Even then, such a long battle can sap power and ultimately profits. Companies that die often believe they were gorillas. It is certain death for a business to fight gorillas unless they can withstand the siege. Any time we hire someone with a gorilla-company background, we watch and coach that person to make sure they are indoctrinated with the appropriate tactics. We have to make sure they understand out business model.My 8 favourite guerilla tactics are:1 Act fast. I use my companys size for my advantage. I can act lightning fast. In the computer business, this is a huge asset. Things change so rapidly that moving fast and being first to market is a huge advantage. Larger companies do not react quickly. Develop a reputation for being first it gets the attention of customers. 2 Welcome smaller opportunities. Gorillas tend to say no to manufacturers who dont think they can do significant volume with. But a small opportunity rejected by a gorilla can be a very profitable opportunity for a guerilla. For EMJ, a million dollar per product line is an opportunity big enough to get the attention of my first string. In your business, look for the right-sized opportunity for you. Frequently, it is the smaller opportunity that has the best promise. The gorillas will leave you alone. There is always a right-sized opportunity for a company of any size. Knowing your rightful place in the market can help you to thrive.3 Get focussed. Higher focus means we know more, stock more, and sell more product of fewer manufacturers. The smaller our product listing, the more powerful we become. We know a lot about a little. That means we know the products we sell better than a gorilla, and we become a sales tool for the reseller, not just an order-taker. Could you become more focused and specialized in a business area by giving up on a part of your business?4 Be more flexible. We can adapt more easily to our customers and suppliers. We try not to be ruled by policy. The bigger a company gets, the more likely they are to have policy and some of it is required. As a small distributor, we can be more flexible. Are there areas that your competition is ignoring that by being more entrepreneurial, you can capitalize on?5 Be smarter. This sounds too simple, almost embarrassing to write. Since we are smaller, we can look at the business we do more carefully and make sure it makes good business sense. We dont pick up another manufacturer just to increase the size of our line card. Thats just not good business sense for us. Thats the way we have to think and so should you.6 Lower your overhead. For some reason, most companies seem to choose more expensive offices and furnishings as they grow. This expectation tends to increase costs in all areas of the company that distribution, at current margin levels, can ill afford. At EMJ, we buy quality used furniture. We are on the outskirts of Guelph where the cost of land and taxes is less. Our capital base is even high enough that our cost of capital is less than some of the gorillas. Are there areas that you can be lower overhead than the gorillas in your field? Costs always add up on the bottom line.7 Foster staff loyalty one major advantage guerillas have over gorillas is the ability to attract, motivate, and keep good people. Primarily this is because guerillas can be more flexible, easier to work for and give people more of a sense of accomplishment because what they do contributes more directly the companys bottom line. I have always found there to be great power by being smaller and treating my people with respect and not just as numbers. Gorillas can try to do this but it is tough for them to copy you.8 Just BE a gorilla. We like to enter market areas that we can dominate and specialize in. We may not be the biggest but in certain specific niches, we dominate. As long as we are the biggest in an area, we can act the part. We can under-price and over-service the competition forever. Anyone who enters our markets learns that it is expensive and often impossible to unseat us.9 Be personal. One thing a smaller organization can do is to be more personal. People buy from people. You can foster relationships that will help you sell. Part of the way we are personal is by showing our customers what markets and products ARE profitable. There is nothing that cements a customer relationship better than making them money, because youll be making money for them AND for you!10 Be opportunistic to sum up guerilla strategy is simply to be opportunistic. Take advantage of opportunities that the gorillas cannot do. There are many companies that remain profitable by being opportunistic.In summary, unless you are huge think guerilla. Appropriate guerilla tactics for your size will win any battle.

'Stop the Stupid Stuff' In Your Business

We are living in a world of change. Shift happens! Competition comes from all over the world, which means that many American businesses are in trouble. Many decisions are being made that are contrary to both good business sense and building customer loyalty.Most organizations' marketing is usually an exercise in figuring out what to do to get current or potential customers to spend more dollars with them. I'm suggesting that instead of thinking about what to do, figure out what to stop doing. In other words, stop doing the "stupid stuff."Not doing the stupid stuff means finding out what prevents customers from spending money with you and making sure that that action or reaction never happens again.Here's an example of what I call "stupid stuff." Some airlines now want to charge customers who want to speak to a live agent.That's stupid stuff in two ways. First, they've chosen to penalize customers who want to continue getting what they've always gotten - one-on-one attention. Worse, they've done it by saying they will charge more for this previously standard level of service. How many customers will they lose because of this decision? I know of at least one.There are more subtle, but no less damaging, stupid things businesses need to stop doing.Take, for example, the new Wheaties boxes. General Mills recently introduced Wheaties boxes with photos of the U.S. Olympic gold medalists. One was missing: Paul Hamm. Why?This was General Mills' response to my inquiry:"Selecting a Wheaties Champion has never been an easy task, especially when we have witnessed so many outstanding performances by so many championship athletes. But it simply isn't possible to honor every champion on the Wheaties box."So they leave off the first U.S. man to win the Olympics all-around gymnastics championship in one of the sport's greatest comebacks? His return from a disastrous fall to a near-perfect high-bar routine won near-universal praise and, for most of us, defined the word "champion."But there was controversy. As most of you know, a South Korean gymnast claimed that a scoring error cost him the gold and appealed to the Court of Arbitration for sport. The court recently ruled that Hamm can keep the gold medal.Even though the medal was disputed, it was not because of anything Hamm did or did not do. Still, General Mills decided to do the "safe" thing. But by being safe and leaving out Hamm, Wheaties is alienating the millions of customers who see him not as controversial, but as a hero, and losing customers in the process. Now that's "stupid stuff."So start stopping! Stop saying "No" and start using the word "Yes." Stop charging for services that most of us think are free.Find out what exasperates, discourages, hassles or confuses your customers and stop it.

Summary

Small businesses have special needs, especially in comparison to larger, more established companies. The term "small business" often really refers to "new business", in that many small businesses that have been around for a while are as large as they are likely to ever become simply because of the type of business they are. Some small businesses, however, are destined to become large businesses. These companies in particular need to weigh the considerations of their unique situation when purchasing a business phone system. Knowing one's options when it comes to business phones can save a substantial amount of money and time.