Make It Like New: Renovating an Old Building for a New Retail Space

Make It Like New: Renovating an Old Building for a New Retail Space

Whether you are starting a new business or are expanding, finding the right space is essential. Depending on your location, there are may be many older and abandoned properties with historical value, loads of potential, and in need of a little TLC. These days, when city dwellers across the country are urging to keep downtown business districts alive, an older building may be the perfect fit for your business; particularly if the price is right.

Whether you love the clean lines on a Classical Revival building or are head over heels about the masonry construction and arches of a Romanesque Revival building, any old building you choose to renovate may require some work. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by your work in progress, look at your purchase as an opportunity to make your business stand out.

Safety First

Much of an old building’s charm is visible on the outside, but in order to capture the original look on the inside, it may require peeling and tearing out layer upon layer of outdated building materials (such as paneling, plaster, carpeting, and linoleum). However, you may also come across a building that looks as though it has never been touched by modern architecture. Either way, you will need to make sure that your building is a safe place for your business and that it won’t put you or your patrons in danger.

  • Inspection: Have the building inspected by a professional. He or she will closely examine every aspect of the building from the roof to the foundation to determine the building’s safety. This report will help you decide how much to invest in the remodel and how much assistance you may need from a designer/architect.

  • Beware of Red Flags: The price tag may be too good to pass up, but are there are some red flags to consider such as hazardous materials like asbestos. Many old buildings contain the carcinogen and should not be destroyed or removed without a professional.

Asbestos can be found in almost every type of building material prior to the late 1970’s. “Asbestos has been used in heating and domestic water systems, including pipes, boilers and tanks. It also has been used in vinyl and linoleum flooring, and drop-in ceiling tiles,” says Belluck & Fox

Design Tips

Once you’re given the green light to go ahead and start renovating, it may be hard to decide where you want to start. While money will most likely be the deciding factor, plan a design that focuses on energy conservation and safety without losing your business’s unique style.

  • Spend to Save: There are many features in the old building that you may want to hang on to such as tall ceilings, ornate light fixtures, and large store front windows. You can keep some of these charming features and add some updated, money saving designs. Consider saving light fixtures, but adding more efficient lighting. Keep the large windows, but make sure there is new weather stripping around the windows.

Additionally, get rid of features such as mail chutes, that may interrupt efficient heating and cooling. If you’re lucky, you may find some inexpensive replicas (flooring or lighting) that perfectly match some of your building’s vintage charm.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Can a Business Owner Be Held Liable When a Customer’s Mess Causes an Injury?

Can a Business Owner Be Held Liable When a Customer’s Mess Causes an Injury?

Business owners have a legal responsibility when it comes to maintaining a safe environment for its customers, visitors and invited guests. When a business owner fails in that responsibility, and a person is injured on the property, the owner or property manager can be held financially liable. If you are injured in a slip and fall accident at another person’s business or on their property, you must be able to prove negligence on the part of the owner before you will be able to file any type of premises liability claim. What about when a customer’s mess is what causes the injury?

Liability in a Personal Injury Accident on a Business Site

Fault in a slip and fall or injury accident at a store, restaurant, office building, theatre or other place of business does not automatically fall with the business owner. In some instances, an accident can simply be just that, an accident. If one customer leaves a mess which causes another customer to be injured, who is liable? Is it the business owner? Is it the other customer?

While the customer’s mess in this scenario may have been responsible for causing another customer injury, liability has still must be investigated. If the business owner had no knowledge of the potential hazard, or no reasonable expectation that he or she should have been aware of the danger, then the injured party has no grounds to file a lawsuit or claim against the business. If the customer who left the mess had no ill-intent behind doing so, it is unlikely that party could be held liable.

Elements Which Must Be Proven in a Premises Liability Claim

To file a premises liability claim against a negligent business owner, you must have proof of each of the following:

  • The business owner owed a duty of care to you, the injured customer
  • A breach of that duty occurred, and
  • Your injury was directly caused by the breach.

Even if you are able to prove the business owner owed a duty of care to you, and that he or she failed to fulfill that duty, you are unlikely to win your case if it is necessary to prove that the injuries were a direct result of this breach. In the case of another customer’s mess causing your injury, it would be necessary to prove that the property owner was aware of the hazard and failed to remedy it.

What to Do If You Sustained Injury at a Place of Business

The first thing to do after sustaining injury at a place of business is report the accident to the business owner or manager. Do not lay blame or admit fault, simply report the facts. If you did not receive emergency medical care at the scene of your accident, go see your doctor right away for a medical evaluation and to be treated for your injuries.

You should also hire a skilled premises liability lawyer who can answer any questions you may have, advise you of your legal rights, determine whether you have a valid premises liability claim and if so, help you seek maximum compensation for your injuries and losses.

Types of Disabilities that Typically Receive SSD Benefits

Types of Disabilities that Typically Receive SSD Benefits

GettyImages_178135895When someone is injured at work, or is otherwise rendered unable to earn a living, the situation can seem dire. No income and an injury or illness to contend with can easily lead to feelings of helplessness. Fortunately, the United States government, through the Social Security Administration (SSA), provides a safety net for people who find themselves in that unfortunate circumstance. At the end of 2013, over 10 million people were receiving monthly social security disability (SSD) payments in the United States. The number may seem high, but not all disabilities qualify.

The Social Security Administration provides an online Listing of Impairments that they use to help determine whether or not an applicant qualifies for SSD, but each section is long, complex and cumbersome to read. So, here’s a brief look at some of the most common categories of injuries and illnesses that the SSA has historically approved for disability payments.

Cardiovascular System

Heart and artery diseases fall under this category, as does the full range of disorders that negatively affect the circulatory system. The condition can be acquired, but it can also have a congenital origin.

Digestive System

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), liver dysfunction, malnutrition, and gastrointestinal hemorrhage are some of the conditions covered under this category.

Skin Disorders

Whether congenital, acquired or hereditary, skin disorders such as certain chronic infections, genetic photosensitivity disorders, burns, and bullous diseases are considered to be valid conditions that can qualify someone for Social Security disability payments.

Musculoskeletal System

The SSA approves some people with certain musculoskeletal conditions for SSD. Such conditions can be acquired, congenital or hereditary, and can range from soft tissue damage to spine injuries, bone fractures, and limb amputations.

Respiratory System

Illnesses, such as asthma, and diseases including cystic fibrosis, are covered under this category. The SSA has even approved some people who have severe sleep-related breathing disorders.

Special Senses and Speech

Vision, hearing and speech are the cornerstones of communication. So, when one or more of your senses becomes diminished to the point that it interferes with your ability to work, you may qualify for Social Security disability payments. If balance is an issue, or you suffer from vertigo, you may qualify as well.

Common Specific Conditions and Diseases

The broad categories listed should help you assess whether or not you have a qualifying condition. However, there are some specific illnesses and diseases that are approved more often than others. The list includes certain cancers, carpal tunnel syndrome, blindness, diabetes, liver disease, traumatic brain injuries, and back injuries, among others. However, even if your condition isn’t commonly approved, it’s still worth applying for SSD if it falls under one of the Social Security Administration’s general categories.

Does SSD Impact Other Benefits?

Don’t be concerned about SSD payments impacting other benefits you may already be receiving, such as pension or workers compensation. It is possible to collect benefits simultaneously. After all, you’ve been paying into Social Security for your entire working life so the benefits could be there for you when you needed them. Even if there ends up being an adjustment in benefits, it is still in your best interest financially to apply for SSD.

 

If you’ve been diagnosed with a condition or disease that will prevent you from working, you owe it to yourself to explore the option of SSD payments. Applying for SSD can be cumbersome, but the long term impact can be positive because, upon approval, you will have a consistent and reliable income stream for the duration of your disability.