Foot Traffic: Beneficial For Businesses In Many Ways

Foot Traffic: Beneficial For Businesses In Many Ways

Business owners know that one of the most important factors that determine success is location. A good location is critical to attracting the right type of customer. It seems like more and more new businesses are opting to rent out locations in areas where customers are required to walk to them. This could be due to factors such as increased availability of these type of locations, as well as decreased price to rent them out.

One of the biggest perks for these types of locations is that they do not need to rent out dedicated parking space for their customers. After all, most of their customers will come on foot. Moreover, the cost of parking space inside a city center can be quite high. Choosing a business location that attracts foot traffic rather than vehicular traffic can be beneficial for business, the environment, and the overall health of the community.

Benefits to the Business

Business locations in more traditional, parking-friendly locations tend to be more expensive. Setting up shop in a location that requires walking can have financial perks aside from decreased rent. It can allow for businesses to turn window shoppers into customers by employing different marketing techniques. These locations give businesses a higher chance of converting foot traffic into paying customers.

Some great marketing techniques include hosting grand opening events, holding sales, hosting targeted classes or seminars, personally handing out incentives at the door, and gaining exposure through local involvement. Becoming noticed through location-based apps on smartphones is important, and syncing business hours with customer’s schedules can also be helpful.

Benefits for the Environment

An increase in foot traffic can be extremely beneficial to the environment. As vehicle use eliminated for the purposes of shopping, this in turn leads to a decrease in the amount of emissions that clog up the air. Cars are the second leading cause of CO2 pollution, which damages our planet by causing global warming. The centers of cities are notorious for the amount of emissions produced by cars. If businesses actively try to encourage foot traffic, it will be possible to decrease air pollution, which is a major culprit in many medical conditions.

According to the World Health Organization, by reducing air pollution levels, there will be less risk for heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma. Less cars also means that there will be a subsequent decrease in noise pollution, which is also a source for numerous health problems.

Benefits in Health

Situating a business in a walkable corridor allows for pedestrians to develop healthier habits. Walking has the lowest dropout rate of any exercise routine. Encouraging foot traffic will lead to people opting to walk towards their shopping destinations, allowing them to incorporate exercise even for those with busy schedules. This simple change can lead to more positive changes in physical routines. Benefits to walking 30 minutes a day include lowered risk for cardiovascular disease, colon and breast cancers, lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and reduced risk for diabetes.

Locating a business in the city center or walkable corridor is a great way to attract foot traffic. It can lead to great outcomes for the business, the environment and the health of the community.

Top 5 Metro Areas to Start a Business In

Top 5 Metro Areas to Start a Business In

Certain cities – and states – are much more favorable places for the establishment of a new enterprise. Starting any new business is expensive, and keeping costs low in the initial stages can make it possible for a small business to survive this stage, and become viable. Costs associated with corporate taxes, real estate, and the necessary equipment and materials, as well as marketing and payroll will consume the majority of any investment, whether your own money, bank loans, or funds provided by an investment partner. Choosing the right metro area to get established is an important decision. There are five places that Forbes Magazine reports as offering the greatest advantages.

Raleigh, NC tops the list, due to low business costs and an educated labor pool, according to Forbes. The news source reports in its evaluation of cities that the area has business costs that are 18% lower than the national average, and the labor pool is far more educated than the national average of 30%, standing at 42% of adults with a college degree. Des Moines, Iowa also ranks highly, with a much lower cost of living, standing at 6% below the national average, with the business costs at coming in at 17% lower. Utah has traditionally been a favorable state in which to do business, and has three cities in the top ten metro areas most favorable for business, with Provo coming in third in the list issued in the Forbes report. Colorado has two metro areas that come in fourth and fifth in this list, with Denver in fourth place and Fort Collins listed as the fifth most favorable.

USA Today used a different set of criteria to come up with the top five cities most favorable for starting a business, listing Shreveport, LA, Tulsa, OK, Springfield, MO, Chattanooga, TN, and Jackson, MS. The criteria used in naming these areas did not take into account the education level of the area, which may not be important, depending upon the type of enterprise. This list measured costs of office space, cost of living, and access to resources.

Choosing the location for business requires that you weigh all the factors that will have a potential impact upon the success of your venture, but there are other factors to consider. Your family and “roots” may be in a state or metro area that is tough for business, but your connections and quality of life are not something you are willing to sacrifice. Your new venture may not require that you have a manufacturing facility, in which case a more expensive metro area may not be such a concern, particularly with regard to the cost of real estate. The most expensive cities in which to start a business in the USA, according to USA Today, are Anaheim, CA, San Jose CA, Santa Ana, CA, Oakland, CA and Ontario CA. In fact of the top ten worst cities, six are in California.

Starting any business takes determination, money, and the willingness to devote the time to get the enterprise off the ground and into the black. An interesting fact is that the success of any enterprise is in large part the direct result of the actions of the owners, and the ability to overcome challenges. Corporate structure is a critical point, and ensuring that your new enterprise is legally protected from threats, and that the corporate structure suits the type of enterprise early in the process also gives a new business a better opportunity to become a success.

Big Business Tools on a Small Business Budget

Big Business Tools on a Small Business Budget

All businesses have to start somewhere. There isn’t one huge corporation out there that didn’t start out as a small business. The key to success for a small business will undoubtedly derive from a solid business plan that revolves around 100% customer satisfaction. Many may aim for this, but few actually achieve it. One way to achieve that customer satisfaction is as easy as getting the service or product they paid for to them in a timely manner.

Popular Shipping Systems

Timely shipping is something larger corporations have deciphered, and it is a big reason why they continue to excel. The ability to get your product out to consumers effectively without breaking the bank is key, and yet often overlooked by most start-ups. There are numerous shipping services and software that help small businesses integrate shipping systems to their business plan. Services like Veego, Orderbot, Uship, Ordoro, Shipstation and Shiply make it easy for small businesses to set up shipping systems through USPS, UPS, FedEx, or DHL. These cloud services offer a way for businesses to not only ship orders using a desired shipping service, but also provide a way to manage orders and keep a detailed history of every item purchased.

Orderbot – All in One Hub

Orderbot for instance, allows businesses to centralize all sales channels. It will keep track of all your sales channels in one hub. With a very user friendly interface, Orderbot makes it easy for you to keep track of invoices and to fully manage your orders from beginning to end. What really makes Orderbot stand out from the rest is their comprehensive inventory management feature. It keeps track of your inventory in real-time ensuring that you do not oversell; which can be key when attempting to keep customers happy. Consumers expect to receive what they pay for, and they want it as soon as possible. Ensuring that you do not bite of more than you can chew, the unique inventory management tool offered by Orderbot ensures that you receive orders for the inventory you actually have in stock.

Shipstation – One Stop Shop

Alternatively, Shipstation is a one-stop-shop for all of your ecommerce needs. They offer a free 30-day trial and can integrate sales channels such as Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, Bigcommerce and more. They make it easy to ship from any desired shipping service such as FedEx, UPS or USPS among others. They also offer very competitive monthly plans that do not cost an arm and a leg. With the cheapest plan starting at $25 a month, small businesses can set up a strong foundation for effective shipping. Logistics are more important than what people give them credit for. A strong and solid foundation can propel your business to the top and set it up for success.

Having a strong shipping process enables you to get your product out to customers quickly. It no longer requires owning your own cargo trucks. These new methods of transporting goods have become so cost effective that even startups and small businesses can turn a profit. These systems allow you to get products out to customers quickly, and help grow your business into large corporation easier than ever before.

Working From Home: Does Telecommuting Add or Detract From Professional and Environmental Efficiency?

Working From Home: Does Telecommuting Add or Detract From Professional and Environmental Efficiency?

The touch of a button can unite a cross-continental conference call, and the allure of a decreased dry-cleaning bill is enough to tempt many hard workers away from the world of grim cubicles and endless vapid water-cooler banter.  . . but are the merits of working from home/telecommuting really worth giving up on old-fashioned face-to-face office life?

Red Asphalt and Black Skies

Each gallon of gas we use emits around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Commuters driving cars and trucks amount to one fifth of carbon emissions in the U.S. alone, and carbon monoxide is one of the leading causes of global warming. It also doesn’t help that the more difficult gas is to extract, the more resources it requires to process. Not to mention nearly 1.3 million people die in auto accidents globally each year.

If you think about it, it puts a whole new spin on tires that need not needlessly wear down their tread. Rush hour is also one of the most dangerous times to be on the road and injure yourself, even a seemingly mindless whiplash can turn into a work-crushing nightmare. The environmental and safety hazards of reducing your driving time doesn’t stop there, in fact, the Consumer Electronics Association estimates that current telecommuters are already saving enough energy to power one million U.S. homes for an entire year.

Productivity City

Although many surmise that the allure of sleeping in and being pajama-clad all day might end up in distracted disaster, however studies show that simply isn’t the case. A study by Stanford University found that employees that telecommute can boast 13 percent more productivity that their in-office counterparts. Fluorescent lighting, pretending to laugh at innocuous jokes, and being forced to sign birthday cards for people you don’t know don’t look so bad now, do they. A study by the University of Austin also found that telecommuters work 5-7 hours more than their counterparts, proving that traffic isn’t just horrible for the environment, it’s also a productivity-sucking waste of time.

More Gratitude and Giving, Less Stress

The larger, more altruistic impact of working from home can not only be beneficial to our external environment, but your own internal environment. Working from  place of tranquility and comfort allows employees to be free from distraction mentally and physically. A University of Pennsylvania study found that telecommuters not only feel more valued when they are allowed to work from home, but they also experience less stress. The lowering stress levels correlate to better work life balance.

Employees that work from home can spend more time on hobbies. Instead of white-knuckled traffic jams from 5-6 PM, they can enjoy gardening or a walk with the dog. Furthermore, working from home can cut costs for both employees and employers. Office clothes, gas money and obligatory restaurant lunches are out of the picture, and  it is estimated that companies may save up to $11,000 annually for each employee that that telecommutes. In an earth-friendly nutshell, telecommuting can save you and your employer time, money, resources, frustration and delay . . . what’s to lose? Except maybe a less hasty onset of global warming and a grumpier workforce.

When Brands Miss The “Social” Part of Social Media: Tips to Stay on Your Game

When Brands Miss The “Social” Part of Social Media: Tips to Stay on Your Game

In the award-winning film, “The Truman Show,” there is a moment where Jim Carrey’s character is having a revelation bordering on a breakdown. In the middle of his crisis, his wife stops him, smiles sweetly and proceeds to interrupt his authentic conversation with a plug for cocoa. If you are unfamiliar, “The Truman Show” is a film based on a man’s life that he doesn’t know is a reality TV show. Of course, the sponsors of the fictional show keep it bankrolled largely through product placement. How is this relevant to your brand’s social media presence?

Well, it’s a prime example of a brand taking the “social dialogue” out of context. Many brands push so hard to plug their products and services that they forget to appeal to simple human interaction, the primary purpose of social media. Through case studies, monitoring the evolution of trends and becoming a proxy for your demographic, any brand can maximize the opportunity not only to grow customers, but build loyal fans.

Case Study One: Interact, Don’t Blast

The top 35 brands on social media report an average of 35 posts per week, contingent on their product, service or brand persona, reports The Social Examiner. The behemoth, yet wonderful brand, iTunes posts an average of more than 60 pieces of content on their Facebook page per week, while Subway posts only around nine. iTunes then experienced a slow growth of fanship by only around 0.04 percent, while Subway boasted a growth of 0.10 percent. Those may seem like small numbers, but that’s a huge difference for brands with such a heavy international reach.

What made this staggering difference? Although there are a number of factors, the boldest difference seems to lay in Subway’s devotion to answering poster’s questions. Subway responded to 61 percent of all inquiries, while iTunes responded to zero. Instead of playing it like a numbers game and blasting fans with constant updates, Subway took a more targeted and personal approach, making social media a two way street.

Case Study Two: It Doesn’t Matter Who You are or What You Do, There’s a Niche Waiting for You

Social Media today has written about the importance of befriending and embracing local communities before, and the importance of this extends to any brand, no matter the size or industry. Embracing local communities and interacting with them positively is a wonderful way to build brand loyalty and demonstrate attentiveness. However, this can quickly backfire with insensitivity.

For example, the culinary powerhouse, Epicurious, embarked on an unintentionally offensive social media campaign to show local support for the tragedy of the Boston marathon bombing. However, instead of appearing as empathic and sincere, their tweets backfired because they used them to promote their own products. One tweet read “In honor of Boston and New England: may we suggest whole-grain cranberry scones (with a link to their page)?” Instead of generating traffic to their scone section, all they did was create an uproar of offended former-fans eager to point out how self-serving the tweet was.

Meanwhile, even law firms can create local engagement through looping in both local and national trends. Take Neblett, Beard & Arsenault, based in Louisiana for example. Their ability to make their Facebook page relevant and informative has helped expand their reach and secure their reputation as more than a group of stuffy lawyers, but people who are interactive and keep their finger on the pulse of pertinent happenings.

 

Whether or not your brand is a Law Firm, a sandwich company, or you just want to peddle some cocoa on the big screen, the impact of tailoring your social media to speak with your demographic, instead of “at” them, can make a world of difference.

How to Make Your Business More Productive

How to Make Your Business More Productive

Take Control of Your Habits

When you run a business, especially a small business, it may feel like you’re always behind. At the end of many long days at work, you may feel like you should have gotten more done. You’re not alone; most small business owners would love to have a few extra hours in the day. Unfortunately, like everyone else, you only have 24. But, you can take control of your day-to-day habits in a way that will help you get the most out of the hours you have. The following is a list of basic practices which, if you make a conscious effort to adopt, will eventually become second-nature. The little things really do add up. Soon, you’ll find that your business is more efficient, more productive, and that you are less stressed.

Productivity-Increasing Practices

  • Focus on a single task at a time. When it feels like you’re being pulled in a million different directions, it’s tempting to try to put out every fire at once. In reality, the idea multitasking is a bit of a myth. If you’re doing many things at once, you cannot do them well. Better to attack a single task thoroughly, and….
  • …Delegate the rest! You hired talented employees; let them lead on tasks that play to their strengths. It will leave you more time to focus on your own workload, and many employees find the increased autonomy to be motivating. Satisfied employees are more productive.
  • Plan out your schedule and your to-do list, every day. It may feel silly, if you think you already know what needs doing, or overwhelming if the list gets long, but it’s worth it. An organized plan helps you budget your time and prioritize your tasks.
  • Make sure you have the appropriate software for your business’ operations. In one study by Microsoft, 55% of respondents directly linked their productivity levels to the quality of their software.
  • Similarly, consider using an external or remote-access drive for all your employees. It’ll cut down on back-and-forth emailing of attachments, and miscommunications: everyone will literally be on the same page. Many online drives allow plenty of free storage space in the cloud, or offer other services for quite low fees.
  • Make sure lines of communication are always open, and streamline your meetings. You and your employees will be more efficient if you can access information quickly, and reach each other easily. You may find that more frequent, quick updates are more productive than long, general meetings.
So You Think You Can Finance? The Pros and Cons Retail in the US

So You Think You Can Finance? The Pros and Cons Retail in the US

Retail sales in the US top four billion dollars each year, so there’s clearly a piece of the pie out there for burgeoning entrepreneurs. Although many starry-eyed would-be Richard Branson’s forget to ask themselves a simple question before they embark on the road to their billions, and it’s “what am I up against?” Understanding different types of retail and business models is integral to understanding where your business will fit on the spectrum of retail success.

How The Business Operates

Obviously, running a brick-and-mortar business is going to have completely different overhead from a simple website, but understand overhead, cost and associate risks helps you anticipate what you’ll need to get started. Dunn and Bradstreet, a notable firm, conducted a study that revealed that 90 percent of small businesses fail because of “a lack of skills and knowledge of the owner.” Say, for example, you’re an excellent yoga instructor with enough capital to start a small studio, it doesn’t matter how good you are at the “lotus” pose if you don’t understand and master the art of bookkeeping– or hire someone who does. Great customer service, smart inventory or service management, effective staff training, strategic merchandising, long-range planning and disciplined leadership are uncompromising pieces to any business that wants to stay successful for the long-haul.

The Strategy Behind The Success

The best product or service in the world will fail unless it begins with a solid, well researched and creative marketing strategy, which includes understanding of your competition. All sales techniques, networking initiatives, advertising, PR and media campaigns fall under the umbrella of marketing. According to Marketing Made Simple, this begins with understanding your customer, and understanding you may not be the best proxy for your customer. Do your research and get into the mind of the demographic you are looking to penetrate, and design your mission statement and value proposition around them. Then, write a marketing plan that’s built to evolve with the changing marketplace. You’re marketing plan could be simple or have hundreds of moving pieces; The American Marketing Association offers excellent, and in-depth tips on creating the best plan for your business.

Ensure Legal Compliance

Some of the biggest and best brands have been brought down by skirting, or simply failing to understand all of the legal risks involved. Most of us have a general understanding that discrimination, tax evasion and embezzlement are a bad idea, but they may not know the intricacies or risk factors involved with the subtle rules of workers compensation or the ins and outs of what at-will termination really means. Protecting your personal assets is also an essential part of successful business operation. There are unique and complex legal hoops for just about every industry, as the law is never a “one size fits all” entity. Food labeling is much different than food preparation for example; every genre of product has its own legal book of rules to follow, so it’s essential to find a knowledgeable attorney, no matter what industry you seek to make a mark in.

The True Impact of Startups on Cities

The True Impact of Startups on Cities

Take a problem, add a dose of passion, a pinch of innovation and a dash of gumption and you have a startup. Merriam-Webster defines a startup as “the act or an instance of setting in operation or motion” or “fledging business enterprise.” This level of ingenuity and entrepreneurship has led to some of the most successful startups—Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, just to name a few.

Big cities are logical hubs for startups. With the allure of an easy commute, access to all the business essentials, and opportunities at every corner it is easy to see why startups flock to these meccas. The increase of population also has increased greenhouse gas emissions. In short, more people means more pollution. The solution while it may be simple it is not as easy to accomplish—diminish the carbon footprint all the while continuing to grow and expand: enter smart city.

What is smart city? In simple terms it is a city in which technology and local government come together in effort to diminish the effects of pollution and yet promote technological growth. How is this possible? It is actually quite simple, more startups. The Knight Foundation reports that after eighteen months spent researching startups and the city issues they aim to solve they found “a rapid increase in founders and investors who want to solve city problems and believe startups are poised to solve many of our biggest city challenges.” Smart City Summit aims to bridge the gap between city and startup through collaboration and innovation, starting with their annual summits. These summits open the door between city and startup to share knowledge, and hopefully be the catalyst in a lasting relationship.

Not only are startups helping cities become “smarter” by reducing their carbon footprint, but more importantly, they are promoting growth through employment opportunities. Startups provide jobs that would simply not exist without our country’s brave innovators. Some startups are so unique that people will relocate just to be part of something new and exciting. Many want in at the ground floor and being in at the ground floor has historically paid off in a big way. A great example of this is Apple, Inc. Yourstory reports that in 1980 when Apple, Inc. went public, 300 millionaires were created almost instantaneously.

Fun & Profitable Small Business Ideas

Fun & Profitable Small Business Ideas

Everyone has thought about starting up and running their own business at some point. Think of it. You can be your own boss, you can do what you love, you can have fun and make money. Starting up a business is a lot of work, but if you do it right and well, there’s a lot of reward. Don’t dismiss that business dream you had that one summer, decades ago, your ideas might more profitable than you think.

Need some ideas for starting your own profitable (and even fun) business? Consider a few of these.

Toy Business

Toys? Yes, toys. When you were a kid, you probably came up with some pretty cool ideas about how you could make your existing toys better. Sure, the children’s toy market is competitive, but if you’ve got a fresh idea and a test group of kids, you might have a pretty good chance. Remember, kids are the best (and most honest critics), they will let you know if you’ve got a winner. If you add an educational element, you’ll have bonus points with parents.

As you would with any business, it’s important to remember that all toys, games, and other products targeted to children is safe. Children are a vulnerable demographic, make sure your product is safe. Never try to sell or make a defective toy. Many successful toy makers started out small, just don’t forget the “kid in you” and always stand behind your product.

Event Planner

If you are an organized person with an eye for style and can stretch a dollar, you might make the perfect event planner. Today, with people’s busy schedules and lack of desire to plan their own events, event planners are in high demand. While it can be a competitive field, there’s no lack of need for event planning from small cocktail parties to corporate holiday gatherings to high brow galas.

The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor & Statistics reports event planning as a fast growing occupation (about 33% faster than average) and with no sign of slowing down anytime in the near future. The pay can be great, but you will work hard to earn every cent. One big plus with event planning is seeing the finished product: A magical evening.

Errand Services

Errand services could very well be grown up code for “chores”, but such a service is in high demand. Decades ago, people who wanted to run their own errand services had to rely on word of mouth, flyers, or the classifieds, but now the internet (as well as smartphone apps) has made errand services a thriving business idea.

If you don’t mind people calling you up and asking you to pick up their dry cleaning, go grocery shopping, organize the pantry, or even scoop the litter box, you’ll be successful. Some major pluses of starting an errand service is the ability to being your own boss, setting your own rules (like what you will or won’t do), and making good money. You can even vamp up your services my adding pet sitting, dog walking, and general cleaning (all things that are always in requested).

Be your own boss. Have fun, be safe, and make a profit.

How a Business Can Increase Product Safety and Minimize Recalls

How a Business Can Increase Product Safety and Minimize Recalls

The subject of corporate accountability associated with product recalls affects businesses from small, family-owned operations to the most well-known and recognized corporate entities. A manufacturing error, a failure to warn consumers of a potential danger in the use of a product, a tainted food product, or a faulty design can lead to a product recall and many product liability claims. A safety recall is not only expensive for a business, it can significantly damage the business’s reputation. What can business owners do to increase productivity and minimize the chance of recalls?

Every business enterprise is unique in the products or services it sells consumers, but there are certain basics that all business owners should focus upon at every stage of conducting business, both to protect the consumer and the bottom line of the enterprise. The last thing you want your business to be known for is causing illness, injury or loss of life.

The Basics of Product Safety

Have a Recall Readiness Strategy in Place

Any business can unexpectedly face a product recall. If one of your products has been recalled, or your business recalls it voluntarily, a skilled management of the process will have much to do with the final impact on the bottom line, as well as your business reputation. Many businesses fail to put a recall strategy in place, such as planning the reverse logistics involved in getting the product off the market. Get a recall readiness strategy in place, with the management team named and trained up for the processes involved.

Maintain Strict Quality Control Standards

Rigorous and ongoing quality control of your product is essential to avoiding a recall. Faulty products that are manufactured overseas can slip through and your business will be forced pay the price if a consumer is injured. Don’t assume that the product is safe, but inspect, inspect, inspect. Manufacturers can change processes, product components, ingredients and other alterations without informing you. Your business is responsible for the safety of your product. Test all current and newly developed and released products on a regular basis.

Inspect Your Factories or Farms

Don’t assume that the factory or farm that is producing your product is maintaining the standards set for your product, or consumer safety standards set by federal or state agencies. Engage the services of industry professionals and safety experts to do on-site inspections on a regular basis, and make changes if there are safety issues that could affect consumers and potentially lead to a recall. A first inspection of a factory or farm is not enough – these inspections must be ongoing.

Make Consumer Safety a Priority in Product Development

If new products in development have consumer safety as a focus during all stages you can avoid future problems. It is easier and less expensive to develop a product that is safe for consumers than being forced to fix a design flaw once the product has been released onto the market.

Develop Manuals for Product Safety and Product Recall Processes

Your business should develop manuals to maintain product safety, as well as manuals that address every detail of the recall process. One of the most dangerous corporate errors is to deny that a product is dangerous, or to remain silent. Businesses that take accountability seriously will quickly manage any danger to consumers, admit fault, and have processes in place that allow them to immediately inform all stakeholders – from governmental agencies down to the end-user – of the safety issue and what is being done about it. Honesty and transparency is far more effective. Rather than damaging your business reputation, there can be a positive response by consumers and stockholders when a recall is managed professionally.