Top Ten Small Business Mastermind Advisers All Small Business Owners Need To Have to Succeed

The statistics on small businesses going broke in the first 12 months of operation are nothing short of obscene and seriously scary. In Australia and other western countries such as the United States 70% of all small businesses fail within the first 12 months of operation but let me tell you from experience, surviving after that 12 months is no less harrowing.After 10 years of running four small businesses and creating them from scratch I can tell you with some authority, that I did not do this on my own. In fact, I reckon I have made every mistake in the book on how not to run a small business, but yet I have still survived. The secret to staying in business is all down to being able to talk to my ten Small Business Mastermind Advisers.My ten Small Business Mastermind Advisers are there as my support team in helping me make the right decisions. See often when we make a decision in small business, it might be right at the time but down the track it can do you a lot of harm. Having your small business mastermind advisers on call, you can simply call them and ask them the consequences of the choices you are about to make.For example, having the right business structure and putting your business assets in the right structure will play a major roll in the success of your business when you decide to exit the business. Se e most people who go into business only ever think of the business as a job they do not look at it from the perspective of how they will exit the business when they have built it into an enterprise.Those ten small business mastermind advisers will help you to ensure that you have met your obligations and that there are no hidden issues that might come up in the future for your business. For example, we recently chose to sell off our car cleaning business as my wife wanted to pursue something different. Because of the way I had structured some of the trademarks in my company that related to hers, when we went and sold the business it created a number of headaches in the sale process. Essentially we had to shift ownership of those trademarks to her company prior to the sale which created a number of financial costs that we have had to endure even though my company never made any money. This issue arose simply because in the early days, I did not have my 10 Small Business Mastermind Advisers to tell me how my choices would impact on me in the future.Adviser 1: AccountantIn business today, with the complexities of superannuation, sales tax or GST, income tax and all the other taxes out there an accountant is a must. As a small business owner you need to find an accountant that is a small business specialist and is proactive in working with you.What I have found is that some accountants will only do what you ask them to do and will not step in and give you advice if you do not ask. You want an accountant that if they see you are doing something wrong then they will tell you without you asking.The other thing you will need to ensure is that you hire an accountant that outlines where all of their hours are going. It is very easy for you with accountants and solicitors to end up with 5 or 6 figure bills.Adviser 2: SolicitorThe solicitor is another important Small Business Mastermind adviser. Just like the accountant you need to make sure that the solicitor is a small business specialist. The role of the solicitor is to help you with all legal issues like what structure suits what you want to achieve, do your forms and policies meet your legal obligations, like your privacy policy, recruitment policy etc.They can also help you protect your assets and in particular your intellectual property like trademarks, copyright etc. Often small business owners do not do the basics of trademarking their business name and logos to stop other business predators using their identities.Adviser 3: Marketing and Advertising ExpertA Marketing and Advertising Expert is a must in today’s market place. I have found that with the various media types, people in the industry can get better deals than if you dealt with the media owners. For example, recently I chose a new advertising specialist to join my small business mastermind advisers because their company was able to negotiate lower television advert placements, than what I could dealing directly with the station.Your marketing and advertising expert should have some experience in your industry and be able to show real statistics of adverts and marketing campaigns that actually achieved results. More so, they should also have a mantra of test and measure to ensure that your campaigns are giving you value for money and more so, are making you a profit.Adviser 4: BookkeeperSome accountants have their own bookkeepers, but I have found that quite often they are more expensive than bookkeepers not tied into an accountant. Further to this you should always check to make sure the bookkeeper is certified. In some countries, including Australia, bookkeepers can be certified through the National Bookkeepers association or the CPA.Your bookkeeper must be prepared to work with your accountant and if they have questions you must give them permission to speak with your accountant and more so, you need to make sure that they document all communications with your accountant.Remember one thing, it does not matter whether your Bookkeeper or your accountant makes a mistake, ultimately, you as the business owner are responsible for your books. If they get it wrong, it will be on your head, so always make sure that you understand what they are doing.Adviser 5: IT PersonEverybody hates computers and I am a 20 year veteran of the industry and I still hate them. Having a good IT person is essential. Most businesses today are now totally reliant on their IT Technology and if your technology goes down, the question you need to ask is, “could your business still operate?” If the answer is no, then you need to hire an IT person who will be there in an emergency.When choosing an IT Person or company make sure they are qualified in the technology you are using. For example, if you are using Microsoft Windows technology in your office, then your IT Person should have at the very least the Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician qualification.Adviser 6: Website and Search Engine ExpertIf your business is not on the web and you are not selling products to the global market then you are making your life incredibly difficult and you are missing out on lots of opportunities. The internet is a fantastic tool for doing business but be warned there are lots of crooks out there, especially in the search engine optimization industry.Before choosing a web builder and search engine expert ask to speak with some of their existing clients or talk to other business associates and find out who they use. I will say you should expect to pay anywhere between $1,500 to $5,000 per month for this service depending on your business and what sort of income you want to derive from the internet.Adviser 7: Business CoachBusiness Coaches, are like website and search engine experts, there are a lot of snakes out there who have no real small business experience. Before choosing a Business Coach ask them if they have ever owned a small business or if they had been a principle small business manager.If you have been in small business for a while, then it will be very obvious to you as to which business coaches have owned businesses before going into business coaching. Their approach will tend to be more practical then something out of a book. Once again before choosing a business coach, talk to your business colleagues and see if they can recommend someone.Adviser 8: Financial PlannerManaging your money is a major issue and most accountants will not give you Financial Planning Advice. A good financial planner will be able to help you where to put your business money, to get good growth but also to be easily accessible.You should also have a good financial planner for your personal 401k or superannuation policy but also if you are managing an employer superannuation program. Most small business owners forget to build their own 401k or superannuation policy as they are building their business and when they get to selling their business they find they do not have enough to live on once they retire because once the business debts are paid off, nothing is left.Adviser 9: Business BankerFinding the right bank and right business banker is essential to succeeding in business. You definitely need to build a constructive relationship with your business banker as they will be your life line in a dire cashflow situation or if you need money for a deal you just could not let go by.Business Bankers can also help you with other issues like leasing and hire purchase accounts, but also other facilities like merchant facilities, sales tax bank accounts etc.Adviser 10: Insurance BrokerI learned the hard way on how important an insurance broker is to your business. The previous insurance company I dealt with did not advise me that none of the glass in my building was covered if I was broken into. I have extensive insurance, but because Glass was an optional extra, the previous insurance company did not tell me this and when we were broken into, even though I pay over $5,000 per year in insurance, I still had a $4,000 bill for all the glass damaged during a break and enter.This particular experience really drove home, how a good insurance broker, whilst upfront might cost you more, in the future will save you more.Just like any employee when you are putting together your Small Business Mastermind Advisers you need to interview each adviser and ensure that you are able to work with them. Further to this, to get the best advice from your Small Business Mastermind Advisers you must be 100% honest and open with them, even when things are looking dire. If you are not totally honest, then they cannot give you the advice that will help you get out of trouble.

9 Steps to Repair, Improve, and Protect Your Credit

The following steps will help anyone recover from past financial mistakes. These steps will help you rebuild, protect your credit, and obtain the credit scores needed to qualify for credit cards, loans, and/or mortgages (subject to income or other qualifications). If you have credit issues you must not only clean up derogatory obligations on your credit report but also establish new credit. Your scores determine your ability to qualify for that new car, credit card(s), vacation, mortgage, or even a job. Credit impacts almost every aspect of our lives. Many employers now require a credit check and past credit issues such as: bankruptcies, foreclosures, or judgments may disqualify you for a better or new job.The following are steps to rebuild your credit:Step One – Request a free copy of your credit report from all of the 3 main credit agencies (Transunion, Experian, or Equifax). Your reports can be requested online from any of the above mentioned credit agencies or through You are legally entitled to one free credit report yearly from each credit agency.Step Two – Thoroughly review the report(s) for any errors or discrepancies. You can request the credit bureau correct any errors or dispute any derogatory accounts. You can dispute any inaccurate accounts. If the creditor who put the derogatory credit on your credit report cannot provide evidence that you owe the debt, it should be removed from your report.Step Three – Bring all accounts current. If you have past due accounts focus on bringing them current first. Usually you can bring delinquent student loans current by negotiating a payment arrangement with the creditor. Then after 6 months of on time payments the creditor will likely report the account as current. If the creditor allows, change the payments to an automatic deduction. That will ensure your future payments are paid on time.Step Four – Rebuilding your credit. Secure credit cards are offered by large banks online, local banks, and /or credit unions. A secure credit card usually requires a $300 to $500 deposit to open an account. This type of credit card will report payment activity to the credit bureaus just like a standard credit card. A secure credit card is a great way to obtain new credit. The last thing you want to do is apply at numerous lending institutions and pile up inquiries (which will lower your credit scores). You may need a co-signer if your credit scores are below 500.Step Five – When rebuilding your credit, time will be your best friend. After 6 months of on time payments with a secure card, ask the lender to upgrade your credit card to a standard card. Also ask for the limit to be increased. This will give you more room to keep your balance under 30% of the available limit. Department store cards are a good place to start because they’re usually easier to qualify for. Remember to keep your card balances under 30% of the available limit to maximize your scores.Step Six – Limit your inquiries. When shopping for a new credit card, installment, or auto loan, research the requirements first. If you do not qualify for the loan, go to another lending institution. The last thing you want to do is lose points from excessive inquiries.Step Seven – Avoid closing credit cards. Usually the credit bureau does not differentiate between a card closed by the consumer or the creditor. Closing accounts can affect your score by lessening the amount of long-term established credit.Step Eight – If you are unable to open a secure card, look into becoming an authorized user with a relative. They may qualify for the loan or credit card and add your name as an authorized user. You can use the card, make the payments, and have the payments recorded on your credit report.Step Nine – Contact the credit bureaus to put a freeze on your accounts. This will prevent new accounts from being opened unless you contact the bureaus first. Identity theft protection services can be purchased which will monitor your credit activity and alert you of any potential fraud. Identity theft services can usually be purchased for less than $25 per month.

Auto Insurance Principles Should Apply to Health Insurance

Many Americans rely on their automobiles to get to work. No automobile means no job, no rent or mortgage money, no food. A single parent, struggling to make ends meet in the suburbs with 100,000 miles on the odometer, would presumably welcome the guaranteed opportunity for low-priced insurance that would take care of every possible repair on her auto until the day that it reaches 200,000 miles or falls apart, whichever comes first. Especially if the insurance is valid regardless of whether she even changes the oil in the interim.So why aren’t the auto insurance companies writing such coverage, either directly or through used auto dealers? And given the importance of reliable transportation, why isn’t the public demanding such coverage? The answer is that both auto insurers and the public know that such insurance can’t be written for a premium the insured can afford, while still allowing the insurers to stay solvent and make a profit. As a society, we intuitively understand that the costs associated with taking care of every mechanical need of an old automobile, particularly in the absence of regular maintenance, aren’t insurable. Yet we don’t seem to have these same intuitions with respect to health insurance.If we pull the emotions out of health insurance, which is admittedly hard to do even for this author, and look at health insurance from the economic perspective, there are several insights from auto insurance that can illuminate the design, risk selection, and rating of health insurance.Auto insurance comes in two forms: the traditional insurance you buy from your agent or direct from an insurance company, and warranties that are purchased from auto manufacturers and dealers. Both are risk transfer and sharing devices and I’ll generically refer to both as insurance. Because auto third-party liability insurance has no equivalent in health insurance, for traditional auto insurance, I’ll examine only collision and comprehensive insurance — insurance covering the vehicle — and not third-party liability insurance.Bumper to BumperThe following are some commonly accepted principles from auto insurance:* Bad maintenance voids certain insurance. If an automobile owner never changes the oil, the auto’s power train warranty is void. In fact, not only does the oil need to be changed, the change needs to be performed by a certified mechanic and documented. Collision insurance doesn’t cover cars purposefully driven over a cliff.* The best insurance is offered for new models. Bumper-to-bumper warranties are offered only on new cars. As they roll off the assembly line, automobiles have a low and relatively consistent risk profile, satisfying the actuarial test for insurance pricing. Furthermore, auto manufacturers usually wrap at least some coverage into the price of the new auto in order to encourage an ongoing relationship with the owner.* Limited insurance is offered for old model autos. Increasingly limited insurance is offered for old model autos. The bumper-to-bumper warranty expires, the power train warranty eventually expires, and the amount of collision and comprehensive insurance steadily decreases based on the market value of the auto.* Certain older autos qualify for additional insurance. Certain older autos can qualify for additional coverage, either in terms of warranties for used autos or increased collision and comprehensive insurance for vintage autos. But such insurance is offered only after a careful inspection of the automobile itself.* No insurance is offered for normal wear and tear. Wiper blades need replacement, brake pads wear out, and bumpers get dings. These aren’t insurable events. To the extent that a new car dealer will sometimes cover some of these costs, we intuitively understand that we’re “paying for it” in the cost of the automobile and that it’s “not really” insurance.* Accidents are the only insurable event for the oldest automobiles. Accidents are generally insurable events even for the oldest autos; with few exceptions service work isn’t.* Insurance doesn’t restore all vehicles to pre-accident condition. Auto insurance is limited. If the damage to the auto at any age exceeds the value of the auto, the insurer then pays only the value of the auto. With the exception of vintage autos, the value assigned to the auto goes down over time. So whereas accidents are insurable at any vehicle age, the amount of the accident insurance is increasingly limited.* Insurance is priced to the risk. Insurance is priced based on the risk profile of both the automobile and the driver. The auto insurer carefully examines both when setting rates.* We pay for our own insurance. And with few exceptions, automobile insurance isn’t tax deductible. As a result, the fear of increasing insurance rates due to traffic violations and/or accidents changes our driving behavior and we sometimes select our automobiles based on their insurability.Each of the above principles is supported by solid actuarial theory. Although most Americans can’t describe the underlying actuarial theories, most everyone understands the above principles of auto insurance at the intuitive level. For sure, as indispensable automobiles are to our lifestyles, there is no loud national movement, accompanied by moral outrage, to change these principles.Unsustainable MarketIn contrast, similar principles are routinely violated in health insurance. To demonstrate this, let’s return to the same suburban mother from the opening paragraph. She’s busy working, driving to and from work, and driving her kids to school and activities. She ends each day exhausted, sitting on the couch with fast food. She’s obese, has a sedentary life, a bad diet, and hasn’t taken the time to go to the doctor in years. After a simple injury doesn’t heal for weeks, she turns up at the emergency room and learns she has type II diabetes. Although type II diabetes is controllable, changing diet and exercise habits and properly tracking her condition takes time and effort and she’s never quite successful in implementing the necessary lifestyle changes.So the initial emergency room visit is only the first of a long list of health care related to non-controlled diabetes and other problems associated with obesity. Whether she has individual or group insurance, her insurance pays for each episode of care, without singling her out for a premium increase, and without charging her any more cost sharing than is charged to the healthiest and most medically diligent insureds. Her coverage continues until she voluntarily changes insurance companies and/or employers or becomes eligible for Medicare. If she’s covered under group insurance she may not even pay any premium. Her insurance continues unabated, even though the disease was caused by neglecting her body and she maintains her poor lifestyle even after the disease becomes known.This just wouldn’t happen in auto insurance. This scenario is the auto insurance equivalent of guaranteed access to low-priced auto insurance that takes care of every possible repair, including damage already done, until the day the car falls apart so completely it’s unsalvageable (death) or reaches 200,000 miles (Medicare), regardless of whether she even changes the oil (takes care of herself) in the interim.As a society, we don’t expect this in private-market auto insurance, but we expect it in private-market health insurance. Furthermore, there’s a chorus of national and state interests, which continuously pushes us further away from the auto insurance principles.The current private health insurance market isn’t sustainable. Prices have been consistently increasing faster than inflation for decades. Each year, insureds use more health care than ever before and more people have no insurance at all. Most actuaries and other people in the private health insurance market don’t want national health insurance with its bureaucracy and one-size-fits-all benefits. Yet, we’re trying to sustain a private insurance system, which violates the very principles we know are necessary for private insurance markets.Yes, health insurance involves the sacredness of human life and is therefore different from auto insurance. But if we’re to sustain a private-market solution to health insurance, actuaries need to explain to the larger society, in terms that society understands, the rationale for the following principles:* As sacred as health care is, it’s still an economic transaction that has to be balanced by individuals and societies, against other economic choices. It can’t be unlimited. Sometimes it will be secondary to other choices. On a given day, for example, the mother in our scenario may value her car more than her health.* Insurance premiums should be paid by the individual and tied to controllable risk factors. This will provide the best incentive for the control of risk factors.* Although it’s hard to draw the line between abuse, neglect and ignorance, self-abuse shouldn’t be insured and we need to draw that line somewhere.* The private market can’t provide unlimited, self-directed health insurance.* Routine care and ongoing treatments of chronic conditions can be pre-funded, can even be subsidized, but they don’t constitute “insurable events.”* Insurance can’t be expected to keep every human body in pristine condition. No amount of health care will prevent everyone’s ultimate death.* Comprehensive, unlimited, non-subsidized private-market coverage isn’t possible for people with severely impaired health.* The private health market can provide limited non-subsidized health insurance, such as protection from accidents, to even health-impaired individuals.* Individuals who can afford to do so and who take good care of themselves should be able to “buy up” to better coverage. People have the option of buying up for everything else in life.Discussion of these principles is lacking from most of the current health insurance debate. If society can intuitively understand how similar principles apply to health insurance, then they should be able understand the principles in the health insurance context. We need to initiate the debate.This commentary is solely the opinion of its author. It does not express the official policy of the American Academy of Actuaries; nor does it necessarily reflect the opinions of the Academy’s individual officers, members, or staff

Reading Health News Articles

If you want to stay up to date with the current trends in health, it would help to read at least one or two health news articles daily. Even if you are under the care of a good general practitioner, you can never be sure that he is aware of all the latest in health news. Health articles sometimes need months, even years, before they generate enough popularity for people to take note of them. It seems that people who read health newsletters, health bloggers, and health pioneers are the only ones able to keep abreast of the most recent developments.Regular reading of health news is beneficial especially if you are dealing with any chronic health problem. Scientists researching on the many different diseases are on the verge of finding a cure. Reports are made almost everyday about a new radical treatment for AIDS, cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. There are diseases deemed hopeless just a few years ago that can now be treated with newly formulated drugs and other unconventional methods.Needless to say, caution is necessary when reading any health article particularly if the item was penned by a journalist without any scientific or medical background. Health articles are usually slanted towards promises of miraculous cures, which would only be disproved later. An ordinary reporter may reference the health article on complicated research studies that are often times beyond his comprehension. Thus, it comes as no surprise if the report will focus on the therapeutic claims scientists make while remaining silent on the veracity of such claims. Even preliminary findings are presented as if they are already the conclusions and recommendations.Therefore, you need to make sure before following any of the recommendations given in a health article. When you are able to distinguish the good from the bad, you will find that there are many health articles that include sensible advice. You can learn on ways of getting the best workout, choosing the foods to eat or avoid to alleviate seasonal problems, and similar things. However, be wary about health publications that sound too good to be true. If you are interested about a miracle cure mentioned in a health article, it is best that you talk with your physician before experimenting with it. Being skeptical is good once in a while if only to be realistic. It will also prevent you from trying every new thing that comes out. On the other hand, if a health article sounds really convincing, logical and right, you may do test it out. Health publication recommendations are, at the very least, unlikely to be harmful. For all you know, it could be the miracle cure you are waiting for.

Planning & Designing an Impressive Outdoor Entertaining Area

Adding an outdoor entertaining area to your home can be beneficial on many levels in providing extra living space, fuss-free entertaining and adding increased value to your home. When planning your outdoor entertaining area there are many factors to consider including:* What the space is to be primarily used for – ie. is it to keep the weather out, for entertaining purposes, an area for the kids to play in or a combination of all three.* What outdoor feature/s will suit the style of your home – ensure any additions blend in with your home’s existing style. This is especially important when adding pergolas, patios, decking, privacy screens, opening roofs, sail shades and awnings to the exterior of your home. This includes selecting colours, materials and structural designs that enhance your existing home.* Estimated budget and associated costs* Time frame for completion* Size or dimension of the outdoor area required.Sizing up your Entertaining AreaWhen planning to add an outdoor entertaining structure such as pergola, patio or sail shade it’s important to firstly determine the size of the area you require for entertaining.When adding a pergola a key design tip is to try and line up the proposed structure with the ends of the walls, house or facia’s. This tends to make the structure look like it was meant to be.As a general guide, the easiest way to determine the size of the entertaining area that you will require is to position your outdoor table and barbecue where you envisage they will be situated. The place your outdoor chairs around the table ensuring to pull them out to the level that you would normally be seated at. Once you have your outdoor settings placed as desired allow enough room around them so that you can easily walk to and from the house and around the outdoor furniture. Plus you will need to take into account the likelihood of inclement weather and how this will affect the size of your entertaining area in terms of remaining sheltered from any rain blowing inwards.As a minimum allow a width of 4 metres for your entertaining area. You may wish to extend this size for your own personal needs allowing for extra items such as pot plants, an outdoor bar, extra seating and so on. Remember to allow enough room in your new outdoor living area so that it will be of a sufficient size to enable you to enjoy your lazy days and entertain in comfort.© Greg Jacobs, Pergola Land – 19th November, 2007

Why Private Brands Are Un-American and What Retailers Can Do About It!

As the U.S. private brands industry collectively cranes its neck across the pond with an envious smile at the U.K. private brand share success (approximately 47 percent in dollar share), I question how we’ll ever achieve this level of penetration with our current strategies. Instead, rather than wringing our hands about U.S. dollar share, we should respect our cultural challenges, acknowledge our U.S. heritage in retail, and evolve our approach accordingly.Did it start with the Founding Fathers? Or was it The Beatles? The U.S. remains a bit obsessed with England, and the private brand industry is no different. Is that why we are compelled to compare their 47 percent share and question if it’s a result of the U.K. being that much better than us? Or is it simply a difference of country maturation? We want the U.K. and U.S. to be similar, but the reality is we’re quite different.Here’s why. Behavio(u)r. We even spell it differently. And if we spell it differently, how can we expect people to act the same? When it comes to behavioral data, retailers, through their loyalty card programs, have plenitude. We know what she’s buying, whether it was at a promotional or regular price, how many times a year she’s buying it, in how many trips per year, the total of her annual spend, and her average basket size. What we don’t know is why. Why does she choose our brand only some of the time? In only some of the categories? On only some of her trips? And collectively, why do our U.S. private brands hover at only 18 percent share? What retailers often need to better consider and prioritize are the unconscious motivations that drive that behavior.U.S. private brands purchasing behavior is influenced by two critical components: the impact of our culture on private brands as a concept, and America’s heritage of retail. By placing a lens over these two drivers we are better equipped to understand her private brand perception, and therefore begin to answer the “why”-especially as it relates to share comparison with the U.K.In The Culture Code, Clotaire Rapaille defines the very term Culture Code as “the unconscious meaning we apply to any given thing: a car, a type of food, a relationship, even a country, via the culture in which we are raised.” When asking Americans what they think of America, the author deduced, from their stories, that the Code for America is “DREAM.”That should come as no surprise to Americans. It makes perfect sense. We are a country built on the visions of dreamers. America’s Founding Fathers dreamt of big ideals like the separation of church and state. Our ancestors emigrated through Ellis Island in pursuit of their dreams for a better life. And people still emigrate to this country today to fulfill their dreams. Without a doubt, the “American Dream” is our Culture Code.Let’s examine the other driver of purchasing behavior: the role of retail in the United States and its unique heritage. To understand where we are today we must understand where we were yesterday; this holds true for all types of relationships. Therefore, we must remind ourselves of how retail, and private brands, have developed in this country to ensure a realistic assessment of how consumers perceive those brands today.In the United States, real estate is vast. Our large geographic footprint not only enabled expansion, but also encouraged our desire to expand, to fulfill the American Dream. In any country, retail is a derivative of real estate, and as retail developed across the U.S. it was very regional. Even today, we have limitations with grandfathered, regional store banner brands. To the consumer, this is a highly fragmented experience. In consumers’ minds, retail became a transaction. Also-and it should come as no surprise-the concept of the supersized grocer or “supermarket” was first developed here in the U.S. Correlating to our geographic footprint, retail became a very big transaction. And it’s getting bigger; reports show a 15-20 percent increase in SKUs over the past decade. Essentially, retailers believed that the way to win, in executing on a satisfying transaction for customers, was to provide more variety and increased choices (through the expansion of the store and additional SKUs).Because we are a nation of expansionists and dreamers, we are constantly looking at the horizon and asking, “What’s next?” Dreamers inherently question boundaries, seeking out new possibilities, and in turn, new opportunities. As Americans explore and pursue new things we, on some unconscious level, need guideposts to remind us we are not lost-a source of comfort, if you will. As marketers, we know that brands can provide that source of comfort. Beyond providing a solution, brands bring us a sense of belonging and an intimate relationship that is built on trust. Unfortunately for private brands, because of our regional retailer fragmentation across our vast geographic footprint, the only guideposts from one coast to the other to provide our consumers that comfort have historically been national brands.Then came a pivotal moment in U.S. history: World War II. After WWII there was a strong sense of national pride. Everyone wanted American anything. Then, the 1950s economic boom stirred the marketing boom, and the two became enmeshed in our minds. Therefore, the message of the American Dream got translated into “consume stuff.” Specifically, consume American stuff. But there were no nationwide retailer brands available to capitalize on this unbridled enthusiasm, only national manufacturer brands.To juxtapose British culture and behavior, The Culture Code states that, “The English Code for America is UNASHAMEDLY ABUNDANT.” This can be further contrasted if we consider the British heritage of retail. Retail, as a derivative of U.K. real estate (focusing on the 20th century), was much smaller and more intimate when compared to its U.S. counterpart. Moreover, retailers were positioned as arbiters of good taste, maintaining this intimacy with their patrons. This has been demonstrated through the British retail solution of providing a focused selection (reinforcing that intimate understanding of their shoppers) versus the American strategy of providing variety (or SKU proliferation). It is a subtle distinction, but it should be respected. In addition, U.K. retailers have always treated their brands like brands. Sainsbury launched their private label as far back as the 1890s. The concept of “generics” was tested in other European countries, but not in England. (Remember, the focus is on the heritage of retail, deliberately ignoring the recent events where it seems the U.K. retailers, Tesco and the likes, are demonstrating a bit of what they have defined as the American experience: “unashamedly abundant” by their expansion into superstores.)It’s fair to say that that when it comes to retail and behavior, America has its own set of challenges:

Our country is built on expansion. Expansion in stuff and expansion in experiences. Let’s ask ourselves, “How can retailers and their private brands enable that insatiable appetite for new things?”
U.S. banner brands (the brand displayed above the door) have different relationships with consumers. Remember-historically, the role of retail was regional, fragmented and transactional. As an aside, I have fond memories of shopping (and being forced to bag the items) at the local Waldbaum’s with my Mom on Long Island, New York. I remember the excitement and sense of wonder I felt as we entered the store every Saturday morning. Today, I live in San Francisco, and these intimate memories are surrendered to disparate experiences in West Coast chains.
Private brand portfolios hinge on the banner brand. There are two inherent challenges here. As previously stated, the banner brand lacks an emotional, intimate connection, so when retailers are finally able to create that intimacy through tangible products (she brings it to her home, feeds it to her family and stores it in her medicine cabinet) the brand lacks any true emotional meaning of its own. In fact, the brand parrots the personality and point of view of a national brand.
There are certain limitations, even for the Brits. Private brand share and price gaps vary by category. Before activating any strategy, at the portfolio, brand or product level, consider the realities of that category, and how that category supports the banner brand strategy.
And historically, we haven’t done much to overcome these challenges. We went from emulating national brands-creating a SKU-by-SKU fragmented “label” impression as part of an already fragmented experience, to emulating the U.K. retailers-(e.g., Tesco, Waitrose) by creating value alternative solutions, using the banner brand, across an exorbitant number of categories. Retailers shifted from labels to painting their portfolio with a very broad brush. Too broad a brush. This leads us to today, where we find retailers conflicted between building brands with a strong point of view (and consistency), versus competing at the category level, as they are most comfortable, with blatant national brand cues and claims.So how can American retailers course-correct? How can they make up for years of missed opportunities in building intimacy (and then preference) by making the consumer feel special? Here’s where I get patriotic… I recommend the following principles to drive everything you do from here on out:Figure out a banner brand strategy. Encourage your organization to make hard choices about your corporate or banner brand. Without a well defined, distinct banner brand strategy, your portfolio of private brands lacks any meaning or direction.Move from emulating to creating… and create something special. If private brands are truly about stealing trips from your competitors versus stealing share from national brands, then you need to create an unquestionably different experience. Work in tandem with your Corporate Marketing team to determine how the retail experience can drive your private brand strategy, and conversely, how the private brand strategy can drive the retail experience.Move from imitating to innovating… and embrace product innovation. We’ve seen private brand innovation success happen most often in one of two ways: 1) Form, factor, and formulation or 2) An innovative category strategy. Demand more from both your strategic suppliers and your organizational partners: category management and product development. Create multi-category brands based on key consumer needs.Embrace insights like never before and expand their richness. Only you know how your consumer behaves inside your store and how she feels outside of your store. Understand her like never before. Understand the “why” behind all of the rich behavior data. Talk to her in your store. Consider her needs and how she acts in the context of your store to drive any and all private brand activity. Know the areas in the store in which she’s engaged, and wants selection (not variety)- and create room for those items by reducing variety where she doesn’t want choice.Know how to activate. Whether it’s through a unique product line, retail environment, or staff training-in everything you do-make her feel special. Turn your cashiers into guerrilla marketers. Influence your organization to educate and empower their staff to speak about your brands. Think about the attitudes of those who work at Trader Joe’s or the Apple Genius bar. Ask yourself, how do your workers and staff compare? Transform service into culture.In conclusion, I wholeheartedly believe in private brand growth in the U.S.; however, we will never achieve the U.K. level of growth given our current approach. As you look enviously across the pond at that 47 percent share, I suggest instead to redirect your energy, consider our own set of challenges, and create ways to make her feel special. If you stop trying to force-fit a U.K. model and remember the principles, I believe we can build share way beyond 47 percent. In fact, let’s be unashamedly abundant.

Top 3 Advantages of an Online Education College Degree

An online education college degree is the non-traditional, but no less effective way to get all the 21st century benefits of a higher education.What We’ve Been ToldFrom early on, we’ve all been drummed into heads by our parents who tell us how important it is to have a college degree. For the 99% of us (minus the 1% who are the Bill Gates and Michael Dell’s of the world) having a college degree is an advantage for our careers. However, going the traditional route may not work out for many people for various reasons. Luckily there are options and that’s where an online education college degree comes in.This so-called new trend really takes the best of the old way of learning and combines with the latest technologies. The courses and curriculum are really just the same. What’s missing from the mix is lengthy commute, schedule rearrangements and to some extent expensive textbooks. Most universities offer accredited degrees in all manner of majors and degree levels.Why Study Online? This method of education works well for many people who missed out on college education earlier due to financial circumstances, lack of accessibility to a college. Therefore, the online education students are not your usual type. The typical he or she is someone who already has a career and a family and find these programs helpful to advance their career.Here then are the Top 3 advantages to choosing an online education college degree:Affordability, Accessibility, Flexibility1. Affordability:Online education courses are usually more cost effective than their traditional on site university and college counterparts. This feature is particularly helpful to the prospective student that has a family and children to support. With lower education expenses, the student gains an opportunity to advance his career and make more money later with an online education college degree.2. Accessibility: Let’s not forget that every town has a local college. This can be a major impediment for many people who would like to obtain a college degree but with no easy access before.3. Flexibility: Studying from home allows for flexibility. For instance, the adult student does not need to attend classes with other younger students and thus feel uncomfortable. Remote learning also allows the student to focus on academics rather than other college life activities which they do not have the luxury of time to participate.Conclusion The benefits to learning online cannot be overstated. Provided she has a good sense of self-discipline, the student enjoys greater flexibility, a more affordable education, and the comfort of learning at her own pace, as well the convenience of studying in their home environment.Given they kind of stress we have to endure in today’s’ workplace, an online education college degree is the answer for many adults looking for a way to further their education, boost their income and most importantly, build a better future for their families.

3 Social Networking Sites That You Probably Don’t Know About

Everyday in the media we hear about social networking sites. A different site seems to pop up every day. Here are three social networking sites that you have probably don’t know about, and would want to know more about in your quest to understand social media.
MLM Social – This network is dedicated to network marketers. It is a fast, growing site, where thousands of network marketers gather to discuss issues relevant to their business. Whether it is how to get more prospects for your business, or what not to do in the industry this site is a tremendous resource for those looking to connect with their MLM peers.
Plaxo – OK, so this might be a website that you have heard of. Remember Sean Parker, founder of Napster and the first president of Facebook. Well, he also had another important role in this company as it’s founder. He helped found Plaxo as a social address-book that integrated with Microsoft Outlook. Sean Parker is long gone, but this network remains active and has a good user base.
Alikelist – This is a cool location based social network. It links up with your Facebook connections, and you get to tell your connections, which locations you like best. People can check out locations by friends and also by category.
OK, so I could spend the entire day creating a list of sites that you have not heard of, but I want to make sure that the social networks that I listed were useful and beneficial in your search for social media glory! So take a look at least at one of the three of these sites, and take it off your list of social networking sites you did not know about.

Don’t Follow the Crowd – Pick the Easy Route to Fat Loss and Fitness

Are you sick and tired of hearing all the latest garbage on how to achieve a fit toned fat free body in a super quick time? There’s a sucker born every minute and unfortunately some people do fall for this rubbish. Keep reading to learn the only way to Get Fit Fast.I want to tell you how I have been successful in achieving amazing results with fitness and fat loss with my clients for many years without any fad exercise gadgets or crazy diets. If you really want to find out the only true way to ‘Get Fit Fast’ then read on and I will tell you exactly how to do it, here and now.First things first, the most important thing you must do to ensure you get fit as fast as you can is to be clear about exactly what you want to get fit for. You must a have a clearly defined goal as to where you want to be and a very good idea of how you intend to get there. How can you expect to get fit if you have no idea where you are heading?Let me put it into simpler terms and ask you this question. Do you think you would get fit faster if your goal was to be able to climb 10 flights of stairs without stopping compared with climbing Everest? Of course you would. The task of climbing 10 flights of stairs is much less of a challenge than climbing Everest; therefore if you where training to climb mount Everest, you would reach and overtake the desired fitness level to climb the stairs well before you are ready to tackle Mount Everest.So back to the original question, How to Get Fit Fast depends greatly up on your current level of base fitness and the desired goal ahead. The next thing to think about is the relevancy of your training. The example above gives two similar goals, in respect that they both involve climbing of sorts. One much more technical and challenging than the other, but the training would be some what similar to start with.Let’s look at another example; if you compare a Body Builder with a long distance runner, initially you would say that both are fit. This is correct to say that both are fit for their respective sporting disciplines, however if both were to swap roles, you could say that both would struggle to perform well at each others sports.These are classic examples of people who are fit for what they do. The training path to reach the desired level of fitness for each sport is completely different. So you need to make sure that the training you do to improve your fitness is relevant to your final goal, otherwise you will never get there.Take it from me you have to have a very good level of base fitness to succeed at either of these sports. Most people’s idea of a base level of fitness is to enable them to cope with the stresses and strains of their daily lifestyle. This might include, tending the garden, leisure walking, running for the bus and playing with the kids.To get fit as fast as you can follow these 6 simple steps;1. Assess where you’re at; Ask you’re self why you want to get fit. Most people decide to get fit for one of 3 reasons; a) Improve physical appearance b) Health reasons or quality of life c) For a particular sport, challenge or taskWhich category do you fall into?2. Set yourself a goal; Make sure there is light at the end of the tunnel. When will you know you have reached your goal? What do you need to do to get there? If your goal is weight loss, then what is your ideal weight? If you are training for a specific event, such as a running race, what time or distance do you need to achieve. If it’s for health reasons, you may wish to reduce your blood pressure or cholesterol.3. Eat healthy; Your diet must be specific to your goal and your exercise plan. Make sure you are eating the right food and at the right times to get the most out of your exercise programme. A poor diet equals low energy and poor performance, ask any successful sports person. My advice is don’t go on a diet. You’ll just end up hungry, de-motivated and give up.If weight loss is your goal, then start by making one small but significant change to your diet every week. For example if you were to cut out 1 tsp of sugar from your 2 cups of tea or coffee per day, then that’s a saving of 14,500 calories in one year. That amounts to a loss of over 4lbs of body fat. Do you see where I’m coming from? Small changes can make a big difference when you add them all together.4. Exercise; If you are new to exercise and think you don’t have the time, and then make a commitment to start exercising for 5 minutes per day. Do you think you can handle that? Next week, increase it to 10 minutes and so on until you are doing 30 minutes per day. You’ll be amazed how much fitter you are just in that short time.Choose an exercise activity appropriate to your goal, but make sure it’s a balanced program that covers all the major components of fitness. A balanced exercise program should include; CV training, for aerobic & anaerobic fitness. Resistance training, for muscular endurance, strength and power. Flexibility for range of movement and posture. Balance and coordination.If you are not sure where to start then consider these; 1. Enjoy what you do 2. Balance your exercise to include CV, Resistance and Flexibility 3. Make your exercise specific to your goal 4. Make it a lifestyle change not a chore 5. Make it challenging, but not impossibleFor the best results and to get fitter faster, then consult an exercise professional to design a program specifically for you.5. Monitor; Monitor your progress; it will help to motivate you to stop you losing interest. Once you see that you are making steady progress towards your goal it will keep you focused.6. Motivate; One of the hardest things about starting a new fitness campaign is keeping on track. Try training with a friend or join a club to help keep you interested. Reward yourself every now and then with your favorite meal or treat.7. Fitness for life; Don’t just make a commitment to get fit for new year or holiday, make it a lifestyle change. Decide that you are going to make changes for life.Last but not least if you can get to the point where fitness and healthy living becomes second nature and a natural routine then it’s the unhealthy things that start to become a chore! Remember if you practice anything enough you will do it without thinking about it and this is the state you need to aim for. One day you will come to realize, ‘this fitness stuff isn’t so bad after all’.

S&P 500 Rallies As U.S. Dollar Pulls Back Towards Weekly Lows

Key Insights
The strong pullback in the U.S. dollar provided significant support to stocks.
Treasury yields have pulled back after touching new highs, which served as an additional positive catalyst for S&P 500.
A move above 3730 will push S&P 500 towards the resistance level at 3760.

Pfizer Rallies After Announcing A Huge Price Hike For Its COVID-19 Vaccines
S&P 500 is currently trying to settle above 3730 as traders’ appetite for risk is growing. The U.S. dollar has recently gained strong downside momentum as the BoJ intervened to stop the rally in USD/JPY. Weaker U.S. dollar is bullish for stocks as it increases profits of multinational companies and makes U.S. equities cheaper for foreign investors.

The leading oil services company Schlumberger is up by 9% after beating analyst estimates on both earnings and revenue. Schlumberger’s peers Baker Hughes and Halliburton have also enjoyed strong support today.

Vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna gained strong upside momentum after Pfizer announced that it will raise the price of its coronavirus vaccine to $110 – $130 per shot.

Biggest losers today include Verizon and Twitter. Verizon is down by 5% despite beating analyst estimates on both earnings and revenue. Subscriber numbers missed estimates, and traders pushed the stock to multi-year lows.

Twitter stock moved towards the $50 level as the U.S. may conduct a security review of Musk’s purchase of the company.

From a big picture point of view, today’s rebound is broad, and most market segments are moving higher. Treasury yields have started to move lower after testing new highs, providing additional support to S&P 500. It looks that some traders are ready to bet that Fed will be less hawkish than previously expected.

S&P 500 Tests Resistance At 3730

S&P 500 has recently managed to get above the 20 EMA and is trying to settle above the resistance at 3730. RSI is in the moderate territory, and there is plenty of room to gain additional upside momentum in case the right catalysts emerge.

If S&P 500 manages to settle above 3730, it will head towards the next resistance level at 3760. A successful test of this level will push S&P 500 towards the next resistance at October highs at 3805. The 50 EMA is located in the nearby, so S&P 500 will likely face strong resistance above the 3800 level.

On the support side, the previous resistance at 3700 will likely serve as the first support level for S&P 500. In case S&P 500 declines below this level, it will move towards the next support level at 3675. A move below 3675 will push S&P 500 towards the support at 3640.