Is CDN Really Essential for Small Businesses?

CDN (content delivery network) is a term which is getting popular day by day. Its purpose is to improve the experience of the readers. By bringing down the response time, it enables quicker communication and also helps the site to function smoothly. As a site grows and gains more readers, absence of CDN can affect its viewership disadvantageally. The page may slow down and may even stall during peak phases. So, large companies usually purchase their own CDNs. Although it can be an expensive act, it is essential for survival and growth in the long run. For small-scale businesses, it will be more viable to opt for cheap CDN.

There is a plethora of service providers which help small businesses to keep their site in good shape. One must remember that it is very difficult to reach the pole position in Google rankings but one bad move can undo all the good things. Some people have questioned the indispensability of CDNs for small businesses. However, if the business drives to thrive and is on the path to progress, it will be better to opt for it instead of ignoring it. Competition is not thinning in today's era. It is only going to get thicker from here on. Beside, if the website owner intends to grow into a riveting enterprise, it will absolutely have to get a CDN. So, instead of waiting for the big moment, it will be ideal to go for it right away.

Sites which have videos and high-resolution images can get annoying tardy. For these sites, it is more important to hire the services of content delivery network. Your failure to do so may actually make the site come to a standstill. It may also crash occasionally which will directly translate into loss of business.

With cheap CDN services, even low-scale businesses can attract higher traffic without having to go overboard with the budget. It goes without saying that the site will get updated and the problems of page-loading and video-streaming will dissipate. Occasionally, it also helps the site owner to manage his finances easily since the operational cost gets truncated. Bandwidth improvement is always a desirable thing and can make all the difference between a popular site and an ignored one.

There are good companies which provide the service at reasonable costs. Most of them offer multiple services and have pocket-friendly packages. A reliable and experienced service provider should also be able to draw a custom-made program for you. The whole idea is to make your content more accessible to the masses, irrespective of their location. Geography plays a significant role in this context. A server which is located at a distance will make your site difficult to access by a random visitor. CDN solves this problem and is since becoming almost an indispensable tool for businesses of all forms.

Not resorting to CDN can help you save some money. But the act will distance you from Google and make your business suffer in the long run.

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Do Not Be Afraid to Collaborate

Collaboration is a remarkable thing in business. But I find that it is something that we, as entrepreneurs and small business owners, do not do often enough. Most large businesses do this very well. As a result of smart collaborations, large businesses increase their exposure to a dedicated group of potential clients and create opportunities for future profits.

A great example of this was in 2012 when Chase Bank shared with Living Social to award grants for up to 12 businesses. Think about the brilliance of a smart partnership like this. Each of these companies has its core base of fans and / or clients. Chase has its loyal base of business clients to whatever they are communicating this amazing opportunity through online banking, statement inserts, in branch marketing, etc. Living Social, via its vast social media outreach, is spreading the word of this incredible opportunity to its raving fans. Some of those fan / clients may have overlapped prior to this collaborative effort, but now, each company's base of followers knows about the other. And because the information about the other company came about by way of an amazing offer, that new prospect is much warmer than a traditional lead. Brilliant !!!

So many of us are afraid to cooperate or form strategic alliances. I've found there to be a few key reasons for the hesitance. First, you may be afraid to approach a potential partner. Next, you may feel like you lose your ability to have the “final say” in matters relating to the business. And finally, you are afraid to “share in the profits”. So let's address these individually.

First there's the fear. I have written in the past about how fear can keep you trapped in your comfort zone. This is no different. Yes, it's scary to approach that business that's larger or more well-established or more seasoned than your business is. But as the saying goes, “feel the fear and do it anyway!” What have you got to lose. Maybe they say no. Maybe they do not return your calls. But maybe, they have been looking for a strategic alliance partner just like you. Maybe they have never considered collaboration and you are looked upon as the expert since you were the one to broach the subject.

Second is Communication. In any type of collaboration, communication is the key. The fact that you and another business agree to come together for a project or for a long term alliance does not mean you are now two businesses operating as one. Your business remains a separate entity and you have ultimate control over how you run your business. Typically, you are only collaborating for a specific project or client or for a short term commitment. Regardless of the type of collaboration, as long as you openly voice any concerns and agree to work together to resolve issue there should be no problems. And remember, you can choose to walk away once the project is complete if you feel there is no longer a synergy.

Finally, it all comes down to the money. There's some old saying that I'll paraphrase since I'm about to butcher it that goes something like “X% of something is better than 100% of nothing.” You may be concerned about collaborating with someone in a project that means sharing in the profits. Oftentimes, without the collaboration, you may not have landed the project. So do not be fearful about sharing the profits. Also, do not limit your thinking to only projects or opportunities for profits. Consider collaborative efforts that allow you to share costs (at an expo for instance); share exposure (email lists, radio audiences); Egypt to work with affiliates.

One final word about collaboration. Government agencies love collaborations – often called joint ventures in the federal space. So, consider approaching that company whose products or services compliment yours and together you will likely have more success winning a federal contract than either of you would have on your own.

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Investing in 8(a)

The time it takes to prepare your 8 (a) certification is significant. If you are starting from ground zero with just a DUNS #, it will take a few steps and several days just to get to the point where you can have access to the online portal. The bottom line is wherever you pay someone to prepare the 8 (a) certification package for you, or do it yourself, there is a cost – only you can determine which cost you want to bear.

Once in the SBA's General Login System, you could feasibly complete all of the forms in one sitting if you have your tax returns, business financial statements and all of your personal financial information handy; not to mention several hours to burn. Completing the online forms is the easiest part of the process, gathering the documents to be submitted is where it gets really arduous. There are checklists – yes, I mean for that to be plural as there are several – that explain what is to be included, how it's to be prepared and how the documents should be packaged for submission.

If you do choose to do the certification yourself, I'd recommend that you allocate 50 hours minimum to the task. Yes, I did say 50 hours. That is a full, b work week. So depending on what your time is worth, it may benefit you to pay someone to prepare the 8 (a) certification package for you. When considering the value of your time, I do not need to recommend that you think of it in dollars / hour. Maybe your business is not of the consulting nature where an hourly rate is the norm. Maybe you are a manufacturer or an IT professional and you work on a project basis. How much could you earn in 50 hours? That would be your trade off.

As a savvy business person you understand the opportunity costs of spending 50 hours during business hours on non-revenue generating tasks like certification preparation. But can you afford to sacrifice the time with your family and loved ones when you probably do that a lot just by nature of being a business owner?

Like I said in the beginning, there is a cost associated with having your 8 (a) certification prepared. You can invest the money to have the work done for you and reduce your effort to easily delegated tasks or you can invest the time and suffer the lost opportunity costs (either in your business or your personal life) associated with the time invested. The great thing is you have the choice of deciding which cost works best for your business.

The other really cool thing to remember is this, the money or the time spent is an investment. Just as your investments in equipment & machinery and training & development are designed to yield a return; the investment in 8 (a) certification will have a return that will benefit you and your business for years to come.

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Selling To The Corporate Buyer

Since you are here, you have probably reviewed certificates and how they can help your small business. But sometimes I will hear prospects say “I really do not want to sell to the government”. If you have had these same thoughts, it's understandable. There are many preconceived notions about selling to the federal government – some valid, others, not so much – but if you do not want to sell your goods or services in the federal marketplace, then my job is not to force you into doing it . My job is about educating my clients and prospects about certificates and their benefits; that being said, certificates are not just for the federal marketplace, they can come in really handy if you wish to sell your goods or services to major corporations as well.

Several states will offer tax incentives to corporations for hiring certified minority subcontractors. The state of Georgia, for example, gives companies a tax break of 10% up to $ 100,000 for work sub-contracted to certified minority suppliers. The operative word here being “certified”.

The same certificates that I talk about in these articles will usually suffice for Corporate Buyers as well. Women Business Enterprise, Minority Business Enterprise, Veteran Owned and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business are just a few of the certifications that would meet the requirements for most Corporate Supplier Diversity programs. Some companies also include Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender (I) people in their diversity targets.

The key is, as always, to know who buys what you are selling. If there are companies who have a need, reach out to their corporate headquarters and ask for the person in charge of supplier diversity. Here in Atlanta, we are fortunately to have almost a dozen such companies including The Home Depot, Newell Rubbermaid, UPS, and Delta Airlines. Most of these major companies are affiliated with one or many certifying agencies like Women's Business Enterprise National Council or Georgia Minority Supplier Diversity Council. Because of those affiliations, the companies may prefer certification from that particular agency, but any national certification agency's certification will suffice.

There is one common thread that runs between the federal marketplace and the corporate sector … that is persistence. Just as obtaining a federal contract is not a short term proposal, getting into one of these major corporations as a supplier will not be an overnight thing. The advantages, however, abound. Most of the corporate buyers you'll be looking at are publicly traded companies; therefore, there will be a ton of information readily available online. Finding the person in charge of supplier diversity will probably be easy, getting him or her to get back to you will likely be more difficult, but I did not promise this would be easy. Finding information about a company's supplier diversity goals and targets will likely be easy, as will finding historic data about their prior years' goals and, more importantly, whether they were met.

Armed with this public information, you can present yourself and your goods or services, as the problem solver in all ways. Not only are you bringing the company the products they need, but in the process you can help them make the targets that missed last year since your business is “certified”. Understand that supplier diversity is a win-win-win proposition. The companies who have embroidered it already know that. It's a win for the company because they get the product they need from a minor supplier that allows them to meet their target, they earn tax incentives for meeting their diversification goals relating to procurement and it's a win for you as you grow your business in the Corporate sector.

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Booklet Tips – Morph Your Material

Consider the last time you made what you'd consider a mistake with your tips booklet. Maybe it was a one-word typo or a different color or graphic image than you imagined on the cover or something else you view as an error. You're thinking the world has basically ended, and yet it could be one of the better opportunities of your life once you see it from a different point of view.

While there are many examples of this in the world, one of the more readily identifiable ones is the Post-It®Note – that well-used, highly popular sticky note product that came from someone's awareness of how a mistake in glue formula could be used differently. It was absolutely a very successful product for 3M, the company that held the patent for many years. It's also important to know the product was not an instant success even though there were people who believed strongly in its alternative use and who promoted that use for a long time before it was generally accepted as it ever became known.

You may have heard consultants advise you to make your mess your message. Take your challenges and let the world know how you solved your situation. Many people in the professional organizing industry, for instance, created organizing businesses from what they learned in their life as they themselves became organized. There are lots of stories like that, of businesses that came from their owners sharing the solutions that they discovered on their own journey. In fact, it's a very common occurrence when it comes to how businesses and products were created.

How this can work for you is to go back to that turning point, that moment when you discovered solutions for yourself. Capture those basic steps you took, whether that was turning a glue mistake into a completely different application than it was originally intended or an organizing approach thatave you comfort and the freedom to live a drama-free life.

Whatever you discovered is useful to other people. Just because your journey took a left-hand turn instead of a right-hand one or went zig instead of zag does not mean it was wrong. In fact it could be a destination you never considered that could be so much better for you and for the people with what you share it. And it might be a tiny discovery that made all the difference in the world that started or stayed small. Someone else is sure to find it helpful on some level.

ACTION – Think back on the earliest moment of what you later viewed as a turning point in your life. Focus on the most basic elements of it. Capture those moments in how-to tips to share with other people. Creating a written or stolen file of those tips is the beginning of an entire product line in various formats, a product line that helps other people improve their life, a product line that exposes your reach and your bottom line. There are people who want what you've got.

“Turn Your Tips Into Products, Your Tips Products Into Moneymakers.TM”

© 2014

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Which Certification Is Right For My Business?

If I had to pick one question that is posed most often by my prospective clients it's this one: “Which certification is right for me?” There are several that can provide your business with the competitive advantage you are seeking. Let's review the facts so that you can make an informed decision.

Although the 8 (a) Business Development Program is a fabulous program; it is not for everyone because not everyone can participate. You may already know the criteria, but here's a refresher. Acceptance into the 8 (a) Program is limited to businesses considered small per the SBA size standards. In addition, the 51% or better owner (s) must prove economic disadvantage and social disadvantage. If you happen to be an owner of a business who does not belong to one of the socially disadvantaged ethnic groups, it will be hard to prove your social discrepancy with what SBA refers to as a “preponderance of evidence”.

The Women-Owned Small Business (I) Program is available to certain small business where one or more women own and control 51% or more of the company. Control of the business is integral to qualification and there are documents online that detail the specifics of how SBA classifies “control”. The bottom line here is this, the SBA wants businesses run and managed by women. The program is limited to businesses represented by 45 North American Industry Classification System codes that have been underrepresented by women and 38 codes substantively underrepresented by women. SBA size requirements also apply. Since the I program can be self-certifying, the onus is on you to provide an accurate representation of your business and its management.

Veteran-Owned Small Business (I) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (I) Programs also exist. The requirements are that the 51% or better business owner is a Veteran or service disabled Veteran. Just as Small Business Administration has the General Login System (I), the Department of Veteran Affairs has VetBizOps. The veteran can upload required documents into the VetBizOps portal for submission to the VA for review. Upon verification and a site visit, the Veteran business owner will be awarded their status as a Veteran of Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business.

Women Business Enterprise and Minority Business Enterprise certificates are another option for businesses. The I or I certificates are usually evaluated by national certifying agencies like Women's Business Enterprise National Council (I), National Women Business Owners Corporation (I), US Women's Chamber of Commerce (I) and National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (I). These certifications may not allow you to play in the federal and state government sandbox, but they will provide you with the certificates needed to play in the commercial sector. Large companies will usually align themselves with one or more of the aforementioned organizations in an effort to diversify their procurement efforts.

So let's answer the question we started this discussion with, which certification is right for you? Well that depends a lot on the goals and objectives of your business. Let me begin by answering the question with more questions (Do not you just hate that?)

Who buys what you make, sell or service? If the answer to that question is other companies, then an I or I may work for you. If, however, the answer is a municipality, military installation or federal government agency, then I, I or 8 (a) is more appropriate. If it's both, then start with the one that you can get in the least amount of time, with the least expense and with the largest potential for profit. You can always add others later.

How seasoned is your business? If you are a young company with little to no experience with larger contracts, start with a certification from a National certifying agency and build experience in the commercial sector.

How experienced are you in the sector you are targeting? If you have never performed on any government contract … ever, you may not need to dive into 8 (a) even if your target is the federal government and / or military. You can start with another federally recognized certification (like I or I, if applicable) and gain some experience.

Are you currently – or have you in the past – worked as a Sub for a Prime contractor who wants to partner with a Women / Minority / Veteran-owned business? If you have, then get the certification that matches that need.

As you can see, there is no “one size fits all” answer here. My hope is that you now have the information to make an informed decision about which of the certificates I have reviewed here are appropriate for you and your business.

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The SBA Profile: Where Past Performance Meets Future Success

The SBA Profile shows up when your business is searched in the Dynamic Small Business Search (I). The SBA Profile is basically the resume for your business. And like any good resume, it's important that the information listed is current, accurate and represent you – in the case, your business – well. This is where past performance meets future success in the federal marketplace.

If you have a SAM profile, then you have probably heard from the folks at the SBA, government contracting officers and even me that you need to update that profile at least once per quarter. If you are doing that, great, but after you have updated your SAM profile, are you proceeding to the SBA profile and keeping that current too?

Once you have updated your SAM profile and get your Registration Complete message, make sure you click on the big button on the bottom to register or update your SBA profile. As I mentioned earlier, this is your business' resume. So you want it current, accurate and you want it to make you shine. There are five parts to your profile and they are:

1. Identification, Location & Contacts
2. Organization, Ownership and Certificates
3. Products and Services
4. Export Profile
5. Performance History

A lot of the information in the first section will come over from D & B. So while you are in the habit of updating your SAM info quarterly, make sure you update D & B as well because your out of date information will bleed into the SAM.

The second section allows you to state your organization's structure (Ie, I, S-Corp, etc.), the principals of the organization, self-certificates of owners (minority, women, etc.) and any non-government certificates. So if you are certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise with the Department of Transportation or if you have your Women Business Enterprise (I) certification via the Women's Business Enterprise National Council, that information can be entered here. If you are certified or an 8 (a) firm, you can not make these changes, you will have to call the numbers referenced in the profile so that the SBA can make those corrections for you.

The third section is where you need to have a thorough but concise capabilities narrative explaining what you do and for what. Be sure to highlight your core competencies and unique abilities. Here you also reference your North American Industry Classification Systems codes and design the primary I code. If you do anything in the construction realm, bonding levels are recommended. In this section, be sure to list the keywords most often used to locate your services. This just helps you be found more easily in a I search.

The fourth section only applies if you are or wish to be an exporter. The fifth and final section is your performance history. I can not tell you how many really good businesses fail to update this information. By neglecting this section, you may literally be leaving money on the table. If you were to do a I search right now with the following parameters, you would get 12 leads:

• State – GA
• Ownership / Self-certification – Woman Owned (all)
• Specific Nature of Business – Keyword: Masonry
• General Nature of Business – Construction

Only 2 of these 12 have the Performance history thoroughly complete. Half of them have past performance; however, the information is not current. The projects are from 5 – 10 years ago. That's great, but the government buyer wants to know that you worked on their exact issue with someone just like them … YESTERDAY.

Just like you updated your resume every time you got a promotion or left one employer for another, you want to update your business with its prior work history. Do this step and your priority performance will lead to your future success in the federal marketplace.

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Why Your Business Needs To Be Certified

You have undecidedly heard of Women, Minority or Veteran-owned certificates, yet you may be wondering, “Why bother?” Clients and prospects come to me to prepare certificates for several reasons; I decided to share a few of these with you so that if you recognize yourself in one of these scenarios, you can get additional information.

One of my current clients is going through the certification process because they have the opportunity to perform more work for a general contractor for what they sub out work if they become “certified”. My client is a woman-owned business but they do not have the certification to prove it. Once they get certified as a Woman Business Enterprise and enter the information into the Woman-Owned Small Business repository with the SBA, the General Contractor will happily funnel them more business. And why would they not, it's a total win-win. The general contractor can continue doing business with a company they already trust and they can satisfy their small / minimum business requirements at the same time.

Another reason my clients have chosen to get certified is in order to partner with other companies to bid on contracts. Oftentimes, Teaming Agreements are formed so that two or more companies can work together to win a large contract that the individual companies may not be able to win on their own. These situations sometimes mean that you are collaborating with a company that may otherwise be considered a competitor; but just as the acronym TEAM states – Together, Everyone Achievements More.

Most of the time, my clients decide on certificates because they want the opportunities that being certified can afford. Notice I said opportunities and NOT guarantees. Certificates are not an entitlement program nor do they guarantee the business concern that holds it anything. But what certificates are designed to do is even the playing field where it has been found to be uneven and to provide support where it has been found to be lacking.

Women and minorities business owners and small business in general, have not always had the same opportunities to perform as have large businesses. Certification programs have been adopted and goals set forth to bridge the gaps that have been found. As a result, 23% of all federal prime contracting and subcontracting dollars are to go to small business. Also, 5% of those contracts are to go to women-owned business. In an effort to support the men and women who served our country and were injured as a result, the Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act set an annual goal of no less than 3% of the aforementioned federal prime contracting and subcontracting dollars to go to Service Disabled Veteran-owned Small Business Concerns (SDVOSBC).

I have identified the three main reasons I see most often for working through the certification process. These are by no means the only reasons to get certified if you are able. What I encourage you to do is to get informed, learn what you are eligible for and research the benefits.

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What To Look For Before You Start A Medical Temp Staffing Agency

Regardless of your goal or the niche you are targeting you will need clients and candidates to make money in you medical staffing agency. Looking at these two areas before you start will allow you to save thousands of dollars in mistakes.

Determine how many hospitals or medical facilities there are in your area. Determine the qualified client pool in your area. Coordinating this information will allow a straight line approach in determining the validity of your medical staffing agency.

Many that have started a healthcare agency had some kind of background in the industry and new first hand what the demand was before they got started. Often times the amount of work they were performing answered the question if there was a need in the area. Other ways to determine a needs analysis without spending tons of money on market research include.

• Call and interview potential facilities you see yourself doing business with. Try to make an appointment with the facilities director ask how well their medical staffing needs are currently being met. Ask if they would consider using a different medical staffing service.

• Sign on with an agency outside of the area you plan on covering. This will allow you to get insight into valuable information on how others view the temporary service.

• Get demographic information on the area you plan on covering using the Census Bureau.

Hard Work To Overcome

The temp staffing industry is not without its problems knowing what you are getting yourself into and how to deal with many of the problems will in some degree alleviate some of the stressors associated with running a healthcare staffing industry.

• Paying your employees: It is easy to accumulate a huge payroll before your clients pay for your services. It is not uncommon to have a client in the medical staffing industry pay: Net 45, Net 60, Net 90 and in some cases Net 120.

• The competition in the medical staffing industry is fierce and in some cases down right dirty. Stealing staff by offering more incentives is a common practice in this industry. Loyalties are not a common term used in this industry especially if a client can save a few dollars and a candidate can earn a few extra dollars.

• Because competition is what it is, finding candidates will be a challenge when faced with competition. The margins have shrunk in the industry in an attempt to attract qualified professionals and secure new accounts.

• The life span of candidate can range between a couple of days to years. Keeping your clients happy and your candidates happier are a continual process that never, never ends.

Are You Sure This Is What You Want To Do?

The medical staffing industry has a lot of work to overcome in order to become successful. Are you sure this is what you want to do? Just kidding! The bright side is that all business has huge obstacles to overcome and the industry is not without them. Rest assured that starting a Janitorial service is just as complicated as starting a medical staffing service.

The medical staffing industry has become and is being seen as a professional choice to both work for and own. Today you are in such a great position to begin a medical staffing service.

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Medical Staffing Entrepreneurs: The Path Is Easier Than You Think!

Having the drive and the love to become self-employed allows owners to succeed in this business. No day is the same and owners experience great variety dealing with both clients and candidates. You must be a people person because daily you will be talking on phone to people, interviewing people and having meetings with people. Most starting a medical staffing agency is an experience in the field solving the initial problem of talking with knowledge to clients.

In 1985 in Chino, California a local Radiology Technologists started his X-Ray Staffing service, worked the shifts until finding candidates to fill the shifts. The firm began to grow doubling in size over a short period of time. The company continues to grow and experiences loyalty from the hospitals it provides staffing for.

A local Mammography Technologists began simply providing mammography help to a local clinic while her kids were in school. The sister facility requested staffing assistance from her establishing her second contract. A Doctor recommended her to his friend who was a manager in a large imaging center establishing her third contract. In a matter of two years, she began earning enough money to hire a secretary and a staff to help her fill the increasing number of gifts from her contracts.

A Nurse decided to provide medical care for her neighbor's father who was ill and needed daytime care while the family was at work. The family recommended her services to friends who also needed long term care. She called several friends who were retired nurses looking for additional income. She simply took a small fee for the referral and began her referral service for long term home care for the elderly.

Mike worked for a staffing agency for over five years before deciding to take the plunge and begin his own medical staffing agency. With his kids and his wife providing medical staffing customer service, almost immediately he began securing contracts.

Jacky started her medical staffing agency by providing Ultrasound services. Since she was an Ultrasound tech she was a one person medical staffing agency. After a short while, request came in to staff other shifts and other areas in the hospitals. Five years later she is a force to be reckoned with in the medical staffing industry. From what I understand she has demolished her home and in its place rebuilding a 5 thousand square foot mansion. Not bad Jacky !!

This is the way some owners have started their own business. While having deep pockets helps, it does not mean you can not start a medical staffing agency slowly and grow it over time. Your first step is to gather as much information as possible before you decide to begin your medical staffing agency. Knowing your competition, knowing what you want to do and how to get there will be the difference between success and failure.

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Hospitals Prefer Working With Medical Staffing Agencies

When you calculate the total pay associated with having an employee in a hospital it is usually 35 to 50 percent of the worker's salary. The hidden costs allow hospitals to view medical staffing agencies as a viable option.

Hospitals only pay for services rendered and they will never experience absenteeism due to illness when using a temp agency because the agency will always have a ready warm body available to cover the needed shifts.

Many managers prefer to use a healthcare temp agency over trying to hire new employees. Many healthcare agencies are moving into a total streamline process taking over the entire operation. Managers view this as a monetary gain especially when hospitals are being force to run a lean operation.

Hospitals view using an agency as a viable option to hiring new employees primarily based on the cyclical nature of the industry. Hospital census dictates manpower in a facility and using a staffing agency allows facilities to simply call an agency and cancel the shift. This allows the hospital to save on expenses for any particular day as opposed to firing an employee because the hospital is slow.

Deciding On Your Service

Deciding what service to provide may be as simple as determining what your goal is. If your goal is to simply provide services to hospitals using your particular skills, then finding your niche is as simple as using your professional license.

If your goal is to start with your profession and move into other areas, then you simply begin hiring professionals within your scope, build a financial base and slowly move into those other areas.

If you are a seasoned company wishing to build revenue within the medical industry, finding a qualified manager / business developer will be your best vehicle to use.

Deciding on your niche will be affected by the local market place. Your particular region will dictate the supply and demand for both the client and the labor supply. For example, if there are 5 Hospitals in your area, but there are 25 healthcare agencies, fighting for your particular niche, then may not be a viable vehicle to use. You may find that further specializing may allow you to make a nice living even with this competition. You may offer weekend night shift services at a higher rate guaranteeing services. This will allow you to attract employees and beat the competition in this area.

One of the companies I submitted for initially specialized in providing only radiology technologies in a very tight region. The company often slowly moved into Ultrasound, Nursing and ultimately Respiratory. The success came from slowly establishing themselves within a particular niche meeting the respect of the hospitals who later were willing to allow entry into these other niches.

The Key Elements

Some medical professions lend themselves for easier entry and higher return with less capital investment. Depending on several key elements will determine the cost associated and meeting potential of your temp service.

The key elements

Opportunity:

A temp agency can lower its first contract hourly rate for a particular area simply to get in the door. Provide excellent service to the facility and overtime you will find that entry into other staffing niches will be met with less resistance. This causes what I call “losing pennies to gain dollars” Many starting out do not realize this and are unable to secure contracts.

Flexibility

You will be asked to perform and supply professionals outside the scope of your niche. Be prepared to create an environment that lends itself to supply these requests. The requests are often the catalysts to breaking entry into otherwise shut doors.

Flexibility in this business is key to finding and keeping contracts. Those contracts once established must be protected and catered to as much as the managers / facility allows you to.

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Change Your Business Practices to Suit Your New Cloud ERP Software

Many businesses love their old software and do not want to change them.

They buy a cheap Accounting or an ERP software that meets their business requirements when they were making USD 1M. Now they want to use the same and make it run as the business has grown to US $ 10M. As their business need changes to meet Sales demands or CRM needs, they buy additional software and spend huge money to integrate the new technologies to their old Software. Because they are not able to see the future growth and do not purchase a FUTURE ready ERP software.

The challenge they do not understand is, they spend huge amount of money to run the old software, they keep IT personal to run and manage their hardware and server etc. This would lead to loss of business opportunity as the old solutions are not integrated together affecting customer services.

Recently as part of our cloud ERP software sales, we met a US $ 100 million manufacturing company in India. During our discussions with the company management, we were sure that they are interested to go for a Cloud ERP Solutions. But the challenge was “can we customize the product to suit their business practices and needs?”.

This means, management wanted to retain and follow their 30 year old practices where they manually check the data, numbers even after these are generated from their current stand alone ERP. They wanted controls and approval at every stage of documents.

They were in dilemma, because their business had expanded and had operations in 3 large locations. But they wanted to continue with old practices as they are afraid that their “Old work” can not manage the pressure. They do not want to change the legacy of the company Founder too.

It gave us an opportunity to think what is happening here and our findings were as below.

1. Old practice: When the Founder started the business, he wanted to control every document movements and approved by him. It is OK as that time where the taxation rules were stringent, getting bank loan was difficult and information / trade secret should be kept under wrapped. But as the business grown they added more people to do the manual document preparation and built “verification layers”, but did not automate the process and remove the old practices.

2. Fear of Unknown: Many senior employees worked as assistants to the Founder and gained his confidence and were promoted. The loyalty and “fear of unknown” did not allow them to change the old practices. They followed “Boss is always right” model.

3. Do not fix anything unless it is broken: They did not make any attempt to know what is happening around the world and they did not trust anyone. This was the problem as they never forgot after some of the best practices around the industry and made an attempt to practice and follow. They have an ISO9000 certificate, as it was essential to get the large company orders. They strongly believe that they follow a “world class practice”.

4. Resources Cost is cheap, but now it is affecting the organization as the current Workforce did not follow the level of commitment and loyalty that was exhibited by senior employees.

5. New generation is looking to change the current practice , but are overruled by their parents who are more “experienced”. So many young generations are forced to follow the old practices, as the senior workers never listen to them.

6. Data duplication and entries were high as their current system is a combination of multiple solutions that are decentralized.

7. Founders and their family could not penalize the old workers even though they miss the deadlines or missing the compliance rules as they were loyal to business and had grown with the business.

After analyzing the above, we suggested the following with justifications. Because it is essential to be empathic to customer needs and see how can we help them?

“We are happy to customize the ERP to suit your needs. But, before doing it, you should run our ERP” as it is “for 6 months. Post that we will take a decision on the next steps to follow”.

We justified this on why they should go for automation of an ERP and not to customize it to follow their old practice with below points.

1. A world class ERP solution brings some of the best practices used across the world. This could help them to improve the productivity, reduce waste and improve inventory movements.

2. Cloud ERP brings in process automation, control and meets compliance needs as it is. No more last moment run and miss the compliance deadlines and pay a penalty.

3. It reduces the chaos and simplifies the process.

4. It brings in clarity to the process and Business Owners can see the right details at right time.

5. Competition is increasing day by day and Businesses need to be ready with right process to win the customers. Customers are the decision makers now as the information is freely available to everyone.

6. Government Rules and regulation have become stringent. Every county is co-operating with each other to find tax evaders. So it is not advisable to keep the Oral records or miss the bookkeeping.

7. Just because they are following a process for many years does not mean it is correct now.

In summary, we won the deal being honest with this prospect and implemented our Cloud ERP Software as it is.

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Is Business Signage A Taxable Write-Off?

That's right! It's that time of year again. Happy EOFY's to all the business' out there. This time of year has made me decide to write up a helpful little article on tax deductions for vehicle signage. And yes, you can rejoice! Vehicle signage can be written off on your taxes. So do not forget to run off to your accountant, or if you do your own taxes, then take note. As all small business owners are aware of, a lot of things can be written off on taxes, such as fuel, tolls and other vehicle related expenses. But, little did you know, that your advertising can be used as a tax write off! That's right, the little stickers you had attached to your work vehicle could be a massive benefit to you come tax time. Since the costs are placed as a burden on your business, they can be written off as a business expense. But, there are some limitations. I'll go through some of the requirements needed to write off your stylish signage from your taxes, keeping the money in your pocket and out of the greedy government.

1) Do not pay cash
I think it goes without saying that paying cash will never give you proof of purchase. Especially with us, where we are not able to provide people with receipts if they handed over cash payment for jobs. So you may ask yourself, why would people pay in cash for something they can write off if they have proof of purchase? Well, many people opt to avoid the 1.1% surcharge we, regretfully, have to apply to any and all cash payments. Because of this surcharge, business preference to hand in cash, but this is often very rare, and vehicle owners know that a proof of purchase will help them recoup the money that they spent on getting vinyl signage attached to their vehicles.

2) Pay with a card!
Building on from the first requirement, many small business' owners encourage the use of cards and credit cards when making business related purchases, and even everyday purchases, as stuff that can be used on a relative basis can be turned into a great way to earn a healthy tax back cheque, such as coffee, or even food. These are a great way of adding up your receipts, and ensuring that you have a healthy collection of 'work expenses' that can be claimed back.

3) Keep Those Receipts
We've all seen that pile of receives people keep. Whether they were stacked neatly, alphabetically and / or numerically, or maybe they were just chucked in the back of your desk, or car, or filing cabinet. These receptions are the key to ensuring your guaranteed spot on the government's tax back list. And there's even more good news! Do not worry if you lost the receipt for that business purchase made 8 months ago. With today's electronic payment methods, all transactions are kept on storage, and so you can easily go back to the shop and ask for a copy of the receipt. Trust me, if I had a penny for every time someone called up wanting to get receipt for payment made on vehicle signage, I'd be retired on a mega yacht, sailing around The Maldives.

So, in essence, learning to be crafty with what you use business credit and / or debit cards can help you gain a lot of tax back, and especially with expensive things such as advertising and signage. With only a few weeks to go, make sure you get your taxes in order and head off to your accountant. It's also a great time to go out and do what needs to be done for your business signage, all so you do not have to wait for the next financial year!

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Some Unnecessary Small Business Expenses to Avoid

When you start a business, you have to be extra careful with how you spend your capital. There are many ways for small business owners to increase their profits. Reducing their costs is one of the simplest and most effective ones. A lot of the times, entrepreneurs would add costs to their budgets that they do not need to have. It may appear to them that these are necessary expenses when that's not the case. They can add many of these expenses once their business has established.

Expenses That Small Businesses Should Avoid

Excessive Advertising

Yes, advertising is quite important for businesses, but excessive advertisement is not. It still makes sense for large businesses to go full-on with advertising because they have the budget to do so. However, when it comes to small businesses, they must do intelligent and selective advertising only. Their first course of action should be to identify the advertising channels that work best for them. Just because you are a restaurant at the corner of a street does not mean you have to use awnings, vinyls, neon signs, and all other types of materials for advertising purposes. Pick the ones that work and skip what does not.

Too Many Work Hours

You do not need to have to follow the trends of your competitors to compete with them. It does not matter how good they are, even the best ones can make mistakes at times. Many business owners choose to keep their bids opened for customers for long hours. They will open the business early in the morning and close it late at night just so they can serve more customers. However, one must do cost calculation before taking such a step? What if you are getting only five customers in the first three hours of the business and five more at the last two hours?

Now imagine the cost of utility, wages of your employees, etc. Are you covering the costs of keeping your business opened for five additional hours with only 10 customers? Even if you want to continue this way, you better test it for a week only. If the response is cold, you should quit this practice as soon as possible.

Pursuing the Best of Everything

The idea sounds great but is not the way to go about doing business when you are in your early stages. You should spend your money on things you need, not the things you want without you have the budget to do so. If you are renting space for your office, you should look for a place that you can easily afford. Going for the best location in the most commercial area will cost you a lot of money. You can save your money even when it comes to internal equipment. Why buy new couches, seats and brand new computers when you can do with high-quality used equipment?

Why go for a printer with fancy looks and capacity to print hundreds of pages in a minute when you will not ever need that many printouts at a time? Go with simple and beautiful when it comes to decorating your office. You do not want to spend your budget on things that are not going to yield any benefits for your business.

Hiring IT Staff

IT is integral to any business today, tech or non-tech. However, it does not mean you have to have an IT team on board. One of the beauties of modern technology is that it allows you to outsource a lot of the business processes. The best thing about outsourcing business processes is that you can save a lot of money by doing so. Managed IT services are a perfect way for you to save IT costs while benefitting from the expertise of the best professionals of the industry. Rather than paying thousands of dollars to three or four IT people, it makes more sense for small businesses to outsource their IT processes for a small monthly fee.

The good news is that you can outsource almost anything IT-related. From basic helpdesk to on-demand data officers, IT outsourcing can cover a lot of ground for you.

Unnecessary Debts

Taking loans when starting a business is imperative for your growth and to have enough cash in hand to support your operations. However, there are more ways to fund your business than you might realize. Many small business owners follow venture capitalists and conventional banks when it comes time to fund their businesses. However, crowdfunding has emerged as an amazing financing option for startups and small businesses. The good thing about crowdfunding is that you do not necessarily have to offer equity to the investors in your business. Sometimes, you can just reward them with a sample of your product.

Hiring Only Full-time Employees

If you own a small business, you might want to consider hiring interns. Interns can benefit your business in many ways. First, you do not have to pay them the salary of a full-time employee. Second, you can ask them to do a lot of the mundane tasks that otherwise affect the productivity of your full-time employees negatively. While it might not be the best practice, in some countries of the world they have free internships as well where you do not have to pay your interns. However, that's not the right thing to do, and you should compensate them work to keep them motivated.

Conclusion

You should consider avoiding these expenses if you are a small business owner or about to be one. You can always take advice from those who have their own businesses to figure out what's necessary and what's not. Keep yourself up-to-date with new technological advances. Taking advantage of modern software and hardware solutions can help you save a lot of money. Take the example of a printer with duplex printing option. You could cut your paper costs in half by printing on both sides of the paper. In the end, look into your current setup and operations to see what some expenses are that you can easily live without.

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Data Visualization for Small Business

Everyone knows how important it is to monitor and evaluate the available natural, human and financial resources for any kind of business.

Visualizing the numbers has a crucial meaning for analyzing and estimating. Psychologically it is more intuitive and helps for deep understanding of the data which are represented by numbers.

A simple and flexible web based application, which converts and visualizes a user defined numbers into different types of interactive charts.

Overview:
Data visualization refers to the techniques used to communicate data or information by encoding it as visual objects (eg, points, lines or bars) contained in graphics. The goal is to communicate information clearly and efficiently to users. It is one of the steps in data analysis or data science. According to Friedman (2008) the “main goal of data visualization is to communicate information clearly and effectively through graphical means. , both aesthetical form and functionality need to go hand in hand, providing insights into a rather sparse and complex data set by communicating its key-aspects in a more intuitive way. Yet designers often fail to achieve a balance between form and function, creating gorgeous data visualizations which fail to serve their main purpose – to communicate information ”

To communicate information clearly and efficiently, data visualization uses statistical graphics, plots, information graphics and other tools. Numerical data may be encoded using dots, lines, or bars, to visually communicate a quantitative message.Effective visualization helps users analyze and reason about data and evidence. It makes complex data more accessible, understandable and usable. Users may have particular analytical tasks, such as making comparisons or understanding causality, and the design principle of the graphic (ie, showing comparisons or showing causality) follows the task. Tables are generally used where users will look up a specific measurement, while charts of various types are used to show patterns or relationships in the data for one or more variables.

Data visualization is both an art and a science. It is viewed as a branch of descriptive statistics by some, but also as a grounded theory development tool by others. Increased amounts of data created by Internet activity and an expanding number of sensors in the environment are referred to as “big data” or Internet of things. Processing, analyzing and communicating this data present ethical and analytical challenges for data visualization. The field of data science and practitioners called this data scientists help address this challenge.

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