Category Archives: Business

Know More About Biometrics

Biometrics and authentication are two of the most discussed topics in the world of mobile payments. This interest is due to technology like Apple’s Touch ID.  According to research commissioned by Visa and Populas in 2016, two-thirds of Europeans are ready to use biometrics for secure payments. Business Insider predicts 99 percent of U.S. smartphones will be biometrics-enabled by 2021.

In the search for greater security, this technology has raised the excitement level about what’s possible for stopping hackers in their tracks. “Biometric identification and verification has created a great deal of excitement in the payments space. It offers an opportunity to streamline and improve the customer experience,” said Jonathan Vaux, Executive Director of Innovation Partnerships at Visa Europe. “Our research shows that biometrics is increasingly recognized as a trusted form of authentication as people become more familiar with using these capabilities on their devices.”

Acceptance Challenges

Yet, challenges remain. One of these is the potential for a false positive or false negative during the authentication process. Unlike a PIN, biometrics is not a binary measurement. Instead, it’s based on the probability of a match. By linking it to other factors, such as the device, geolocation technologies, or another authentication method, this challenge can be overcome.

An Overview of Biometrics and Authentication

To understand the impact this technology is having, it’s important to first understand what it does. Biometrics is technology and scientific authentication based on biology that’s used for security purposes. It can replace ID cards, PINs, passwords, or tokens. Examples include digital fingerprinting, facial identification, voice recognition, and iris technology.

For example, before a credit card transaction is authorized, biometric authentication can be used to authenticate identity. Transactions are verified by comparing an image against what’s in a database. For example, fingerprint or facial recognition software can ensure that the right person is making the purchase. Online businesses can also use biometrics for their card-not-present transactions to reduce the risk of fraud.

Impact on Payments

With this type of capability, it’s no wonder why biometric technology is shaping the future of payments. Your body is your password. “People choose convenience over security,” Mikhail Gofman, Professor at California State University, Fullerton, and an expert on multimodal biometrics, told TechCrunch. “People are relieved of the responsibility of designing and remembering a strong password — you don’t have to remember your fingerprint, it’s a part of who you are.”

There also appears to be a positive impact on payments outside of the U.S. and Europe. Acceptance is growing in Asia and Latin America where transaction security has been a long-standing issue. With proof that biometric technology can reduce the risk of fraudulent transactions, more global transactions are being made. This impact on payments also helps small businesses in these other countries to now compete within the global business environment and leverage online opportunities.

Measurable Benefits

The impact can also be felt in the number of benefits that biometric technology offers:

  • Makes transactions secure. While there are some concerns, biometrics is intrinsically secure. No one has the same fingerprint, eyes, ears, voice, heartbeat, or behaviors. The security that biometrics provides could finally give customers some peace of mind to adopt mobile payments for their transactions.
  • Simplifies transactions. “Online payments are always a big headache. You forget your password … you worry about security,” said Alibaba founder Jack Ma. Alipay’s “Smile To Pay”allows users to complete a transaction by just smiling or nodding. MasterCard unveiled its “Selfie” payment technology where customers take a selfie to verify their identity for payment. This can speed up transactions over having to enter a password or insert a chip into an EMV terminal.
  • Saves businesses time and money. “The technology is less time-consuming, reliable, easy to use, difficult to forge, cost-effective,” said Subhasree Banerjee, a Content Marketer with AuthenticID. Biometrics also reduces password administration costs and increases ROI in areas like loss prevention or time and attendance. There is no time spent searching for lost tokens or trying to remember passwords.

As more businesses enjoy these advantages, adoption is set to grow rapidly, especially in light of all the ongoing security breaches and fraudulent transactions that continue to plague the payments industry.

Biometrics Set to Grow Further

Biometric technology will continue to grow in use as more businesses seek additional layers of security for their online transactions.

Winning Business Plan

Starting a business is an exciting venture. To make it an absolute success, getting all the details right from the very beginning is absolutely crucial. This is where a business plan becomes relevant.

A business plan is a formal statement that comprises the goals of a business, reasons why they are attainable and the ways in which these can be accomplished. In short, a business plan is a road-map to success.

It is important to understand that while a business plan may not make success inevitable for a business, it can definitely help you identify viable ways to avoid failure. It helps you get a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your business and devise ways to capitalize on the strength and minimize the risks.

Parts of a Business Plan

Regardless of whether you are starting a business or planning to grow your existing one, a business plan is an absolutely crucial element. Let’s take a look at what to include while craft a winning business plan.

Executive Summary

An executive summary briefly outlines the goals and objectives of the business. It summarizes a description of the business, the products and/or services provided, growth potential, funding requirements, a proper plan on how you will repay loans, if any, etc.

Sometimes, you might require to show the business plan you formulate to investors and financiers. Therefore, you should ensure that you get to the to-the-point in the summary.

Description of the Business

This is where you introduce readers to the business. Describe the products and services that your business plans to provide and where and how you plan on providing these to your potential customers. By now, you would need to have a clear idea about which industry corresponds to your business and who your target customers are going to be.

Also include, an industry analysis and how your business fits in. It should also comprise an outlook for the future. Include how further developments in your industry may affect your business and add facts supporting your inferences.

Analysis of Market Opportunities and Competition

A thorough market research is crucial for your business. This research should analyze the buying habits of customers, purchasing cycle, their willingness to accept new products and services etc. In short, you would need to determine whether there is a viable market for the products and/or services your business will offer.

Also, it is important to have an idea about your competitors and what works for them. These findings will help you determine how to differentiate your product or service from the existing ones. The strategies you devise for this purpose should be included in your business plan.

Marketing and Sales

This section should comprise a layout of your marketing plan. One of the primary purposes of this section is to find ways to spread awareness of the products and services among your target customers. Marketing involves advertising and promoting your products while maintaining proper public relations.

Your plan should include the techniques that you will implement to generate leads, increase conversion and retain customers. These should be actionable and based on facts.

Business Operations and Management

This section is dedicated to how you plan on running the business. This may include requirements related to staffing, logistics and development of the business. Also, the tasks assigned to every division, responsibilities of the management team etc. are included. Some other aspects that you need to consider are infrastructure, working equipment, WiFi requirements and so on.

You should keep in mind that the operations will change as the company grows. Therefore, your business plan should have provisions for these changes.

Finances

The success or failure of a business boils down to its profits and this section will help in planning how to keep it steady. The major aspects include:

•    An income statement comprising the sources of the business’s cash generation
•    The cash flow statement determining how you plan on meeting financial obligations

Additionally, the business plan should be inclusive of proper funding options for expansion and growth.

Contingency Plan

Even with a full-fledged plan, there can still be certain areas that can go wrong. Your business plan should include strategies that you will implement in case things don’t go as anticipated. This could include a shift in marketing strategies in case the desired results are not obtained within a specific time, change in product focus etc.

While this is a basic structure of a business plan, you can include variations depending on the type of business. The benefits of a business plan are endless. A well-drafted plan is crucial in driving your business towards success

Some Signs About Bully Boss

Bosses have a duty to incentivize and encourage workplace success by being a strong leader who has gained the respect of colleagues. By contrast, being a bullying boss creates an air of discontent and anguish, often leading to an underperforming workforce.

It is within every boss’s interest to be a leader others look up to instead of cowering away from.

Are you concerned that you may be a bully boss? If you are a bully boss, what damage could it be doing your business and how do you overcome your bullying ways?

Are You a Bully Boss?

Small Business Trends spoke to Tracey C. Jones, M.B.A., President of Tremendous Leadership, a professional development firm that advises Fortune 500s, government agencies and universities on issues of leadership, ethics and employment engagement.

Jones provided us with a number of workplace bullying pointers everyone in a position of leadership should consider.

You’re Giving Destructive Criticism Instead of Constructive Criticism

According to Jones, “The tough boss gives constructive criticism; the bullying boss gives destructive criticism. It all centers on the motives of your boss; are they there to intimidate or to inspire?”

A tough boss, says Jones, will insist employees work hard and give their best effort and submit high-quality work all the time.

By contrast, an abusive or bullying boss deliberately provides employees with false or misleading information, humiliates workers in public, calls them demeaning names, puts the blame on employees and treats them like servants.

Being treated in such a derogatory way naturally isn’t good for workplace morale or staff retention. Bosses should therefore work hard and channel their criticism to be constructive rather than destructive.

You Suffer From Insecurity as a Leader

“Much of bullying is rooted in insecurity,” says Jones.

Bosses should strive to become more secure in their leadership role and grow out of their juvenile behavior. Making the effort to be a more secure, stronger and less immature leader is good for business, as it will help avoid members of your staff from suffering and leaving the company.

Your Employees Are Leaving

Another telling sign your bullying exploits at work are having a negative impact on your business, is members of your staff are leaving.

This ‘dysfunction’ in the workplace, when employees have exhausted their chain of command, both internally and through HR, is a sign that a business is on a downward spiral.

“My personal experience is that these companies do eventually implode publicly or dissolve through a merger or acquisition,” says Jones.

It’s therefore up to the boss to start becoming more tolerant and less bullying or be faced with the challenge of team members quitting, which can soon result in a failing business.

You Are Contradicting Company Policy on Workplace Bullying

Some companies have policies in place regarding workplace bullying and what isn’t acceptable. If you are concerned that you are becoming an intimidating boss, make the effort to familiarize yourself with your firm’s workplace bullying policy.

Jones advises employees to become “fully versed on company policies regarding workplace bullying.” The same level of diligence can be shown by employers to ensure they don’t cross the line about what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable in terms of workplace bullying.

You Are Not Being a Role Model to Employees

According to Jones, “There is one thing the bully boss is good for; teaching you how not to behave when you step into the leadership role.”

Good bosses are effective role models. They teach others about the importance of effective leadership and how to achieve it. If your bullying antics are meaning you are not a good role model to your colleagues, it’s time to step back and evaluate your behavior.

Quality leadership role models get more respect and productivity from their workers. Those who intimidate and scare are left with a fragile set of workers, who will not be able to do their best work.

You Are Losing Respect

Earning respect is the cornerstone of effective leadership. Bosses who shout their orders and bully and intimidate will not earn the respect of their workforce.

If your harassing attitude towards your team is resulting in your employees no longer respecting you, it’s time to approach your relationship with your colleagues differently.

Finding a way to make workers respect you and your authority is vital in ensuring employees work to a high standard and contribute to the successful business.

Make greater effort to recognize workers are people too, and they must be shown respect from their managers in order to enhance their performance.

You Steal the Credit from Others

Stealing or taking credit for colleagues’ ideas, innovations and contributions without acknowledging them is another sign you are a boss practicing bullying at work.

Naturally, no employee wants to see someone else take credit for their hard work and good ideas, let alone their boss!

Make the effort to recognize and applaud the good ideas and vision of others, instead of stealing the credit in an attempt to enhance your own career.

You Are Deliberately Misleading Others

According to Jones, an abusive or bullying boss deliberately provides employees with false or misleading information.

Misleading others and concealing the truth is a sign of bullying antics and is not conducive with nurturing a happy, contented workforce.

Endeavor to tell the truth to your workforce and refrain from deliberately misleading others. This will create a happier, more honest working environment.

You Are Undermining Work

Deliberately undermining work and delaying an employee’s progress on a project is another tell-tale sign of leadership bullying. Instead of undermining, belittling and hampering work and progress, make the effort to show support.

A supportive boss will be rewarded with a workforce determined to do their best and help the company succeed.

Removing Workers’ Responsibilities

Taking away the responsibilities of others, or deliberately changing their role without any reason or cause is an ineffectual and bullying leadership strategy.

Give your workers the opportunity to work at their best and let their creativity thrive by encouraging greater responsibility instead of deliberately hindering it.

As Jones notes, “The tough boss will ‘break you down’ to build you up; the bully boss will ‘break you down’ to see you crumble. And nobody wants to work for a crummy boss.”

Don’t be that crummy, bullying boss. Be an effective leader that has gained the respect of your team and you’ll put your business in a much better position to be collectively driven to success.

Essential Calculators

Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is a method applied to compare the cost of a project or appliance with its benefits. Small businesses need to save where they can and one place where companies may be able to lower what they spend is on their energy bills, according to Constellation, which provides solutions for homes and businesses.

By carrying out a cost benefit analysis on commercial appliances and features, businesses can have a greater understanding of their energy consumption, the effectiveness of energy saving efforts, and where further valuable savings can be made.

ENERGY STAR® provides interactive calculators designed to help small businesses estimate energy and cost savings for energy-efficient products.

Take a look at the following three essential calculators that can help you do a cost benefit analysis for reducing energy on several common commercial appliances.

Energy Cost Savings Calculator for Air-Cooled Electric Chillers

In a typical commercial building, chillers can be one of the biggest consumers of electricity. The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) has calculated that a 175-ton, air-cooled chiller meeting the mandated 10.05 energy efficiency ratio saves money if it costs no more than $5,690 above less efficient models.

ENERGY STAR® provides a cost calculator that small businesses can use as a screening tool, which estimates an air-cooled electric chiller’s lifetime energy cost savings at various efficiency levels.

This cost benefit analysis calculator for reducing energy of air-cooled electric chillers uses an energy efficiency ratio (EER). The EER is the ratio of net cooling capacity to the total input rate of electric power applied in watts.

The efficiencies expressed as an EER are converted into kilowatts per ton using the formula: kWton = 12/EER.

ENERGY STAR’s cost benefit analysis calculator for reducing energy of air-cooled electric chillers only provides data about the relative difference between two equivalent products, all other factors being equal.

When using this calculator, a small business must enter whether the project is a new installation or a replacement. The performance factors must also be entered, including whether the new design will be handling a full or partial load.

The calculator user must also enter the new chiller’s cooling capacity in tons, as well as what the full-load efficiency is of the new chiller in EER. The partial-load efficiency of the new chiller must also be entered in EER.

The cost factors must also be punched into the calculator, including the current cost of energy per kilowatt hour. The user also needs to enter the annual hours of operation in equivalent full-load hours.

When the data has been entered the calculator will determine the energy cost savings of the appliance.

Energy Cost Calculator for Compact Fluorescent Lamps

Lighting is an unavoidable energy cost for small businesses. By using an energy saving calculator, small businesses can see how much they could save in money and harmful emissions by switching to more energy-efficient light bulbs.

ENERGY STAR’s calculator for compact fluorescent lamps determines the payback period for your small business’s investment in more energy-efficient bulbs.

Small businesses must enter their existing incandescent lamp wattage, the costs of incandescent lamps in dollars and the incandescent lamp life in hours. You’ll also need to enter the projected wattage for your replacement lighting along with the expected cost of using them and their projected life (6,000 hours for moderate use and 10,000 hours for high use).

Further information required by the energy cost calculator for compact fluorescent lamps includes the number of lamps in the retrofit project, the hours operating per week, the average cost of electricity, the relamper labor costs, the time taken to retrofit all the lamps in the project and the time taken to relamp one lamp.

The calculator enables small businesses to figure the simple payback period for a lamp replacement project, as well as the simple payback period of spot relamping.

Savings Calculator for ENERGY STAR®-Qualified Office Equipment

The savings calculator for ENERGY STAR®-qualified office equipment was developed by the U.S. EPA and Department of Energy in order to estimate the energy consumption and operating costs of office equipment and the savings businesses can make with ENERGY STAR®.

The calculator compares new ENERGY STAR®-qualified products to the average available non-qualified new products. The average savings may vary depending on the use of office equipment and other factors.

Users of the calculator need to type in where their equipment will be used, including whether it is for commercial or residential use, the location, and the electric rate. The average commercial electric rate in the U.S. is $0.128/kWh, but if you know your own rate, you should enter it on the calculator.

Users of the calculator must enter what office equipment they are planning to purchase, as well as the quantities of the equipment. Performance levels of the devices should be stated, as well as the number of units turned off at night and the number of units with sleep settings and low power enabled. The additional cost per unit for ENERGY STAR®-qualified models must also be entered onto the calculator.

Better Managing Client Relationships

So much time and effort is put into acquiring clients, yet very few businesses spend the same energy nurturing existing relationships. This is unfortunate, since a current customer is much more profitable than a new one.

Relationships: The Heart of Business

We, as a business community, often try to make success too complicated. We focus on all of these little fragmented components while ignoring the one thing that matters.

“The key to business success is winning and keeping customers,” entrepreneur Steve Tobak definitively says. “And the key to winning and keeping customers is, and has always been, relationships. The world’s greatest business experts — Peter Drucker, Mark McCormack, Regis McKenna and others — have all said the same thing in one way or another.”

Sadly, entrepreneurs and business owners like to spend all of their time and energy on things like social media, productivity hacks, advertising techniques, etc. These can all be helpful little elements, but their value begins to pale when you look at them within the context of the bigger picture.

“No matter what you do for a living or aspire to become, none of those fads du jour will have a material impact on how things turn out for you or your business,” says Tobak. “But building real relationships with real people in the real world will.”

Client Relationship Management Strategies

Saying relationships are the heart of business success and actually prioritizing relationships are two totally different things. The latter takes a lot of hard work over a lengthy period of time, but there’s no better time to start than now. Here are seven client relationship management strategies to consider.

1. Respect the Client’s Time

Time is the most precious and finite resource you and your clients have. If you want to build healthier relationships, you have to respect their time. Here are a couple of ideas to help you do that:

  • Don’t just tell a client to drop by if they want to meet with you. You’ll inevitably be in the middle of something and have to make them wait. Open yourself up to clients and allow them to schedule appointments with you. There are free tools that can automate this process.
  • Small talk is definitely part of building relationships, but recognize when it’s time to talk shop. Don’t waste a client’s time. Get straight to business and you’ll be seen as respectful and self-aware.

This might seem like a really small thing, but it sets the tone for the rest of the relationship. When you extend respect, you’re telling your client that they matter to you — it doesn’t get much better than that.

2. Get Face to Face

“When things go wrong and the client knows, call. Email does not always translate circumstances or feelings well as there is no voice inflection and a client usually places more value on a phone call,” entrepreneur Marshall Zierkel suggests.

While Zierkel is right — a phone call is better than an email — there’s something that’s even better than a phone call: meeting in person. If at all possible, you should get face to face with clients — when things go right, wrong, or are otherwise indifferent. The more you’re able to be face to face with a client, the stronger your bond will grow.

3. Over Promise and Under Deliver

It’s a cliché saying, but it can’t be stressed enough: over promise and under deliver. If you make this a habit, you’ll rarely put yourself in a situation where you’ll let a client down. Instead, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of looking good — even when you barely exceed your own expectations.

4. Don’t Burn Bridges With Pettiness

How many times do you let small, petty things cost you a relationship with a client? Entrepreneur Craig Valine is one of the first to admit how dumb he used to be in this area. As he explains, there was a time where “I wouldn’t return phone calls; I wouldn’t follow-up with a referral from a client; I’d miss an appointment and not call to apologize; I wouldn’t pay my vendors on time; I’d squabble over a few dollars; or I’d act apathetic from a good deed from another.”

How many times have you let something small and petty cost you a relationship with a client? If you’re honest, burning a bridge rarely turns out to be a positive thing when you look back on a situation. Try to understand this and be willing to lose the battle in order to win the war.

5. Set Mutual Goals

Do you ever feel like you and your client are on totally different pages? Well, it’s probably because you are. You have your objectives and your client has his. The solution to this common issue is to set mutual goals from the very beginning.

As soon as you start a new project with a client, sit down together — face to face, if possible — and come up with mutual goals. This puts you both on the same page and gives you something to point to later on when challenges arise.

6. Build Credibility Over Time

It takes time to build credibility, so stop trying to make it happen overnight. So what if a client doesn’t fully trust you the first or second time you meet? You haven’t done anything to make him trust you!

Remember that trust takes years to build and can be destroyed in a matter of minutes. Be consistent and methodical in how you deal with your clients. Focus on slowly building credibility with each and every thing you do and say. With this sort of conscious precision, you’ll eventually wake up and realize that you have healthy client relationships that are defined by trust.

7. Be Transparent and Human

Stop trying to be such a polished version of yourself in front of customers. In an effort to clean yourself up, you’re actually cheapening your image and transforming yourself into someone you aren’t. They don’t want some ideal image of you. They want the real deal.

Mistakes are going to happen and it’s much better to be open about them. This proves that you’re human and, while they may be frustrated at the moment, it ultimately puts them at ease.

How Are Your Relationships?

How would you grade your client relationships on a scale of 1 to 10 right now? If you’re like most, you’d probably struggle to honestly reach a 5 or 6. You might even fall closer to the 1 end of the spectrum, which is — unfortunately — totally normal these days.

In an effort to push your business to the next level, you have to start prioritizing client relationships over things that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s hard work, but the payoff can be tremendous