Crucial Elements of a Successful Trade Show Experience

Posted on 11. Mar, 2014 by .

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setting up a trade boothThis is a guest post

You are going to your first trade show and it is the first time you are exhibiting. You’ve probably already been to thedisplayoutlet.com and gotten all your convention display gear and paraphernalia, but understandably you have a small case of nerves and are wondering if you are prepared. After all, there’s a big difference between strolling the aisles and actually exhibiting. Here’s a brief checklist to see if you’re up to the challenge.

Plan Ahead

This means you start early—some say six months out—and really do your homework. Know who is attending, plan your logistics, plan your goals. (More on that in a minute: think sales.) Have everything worked out in advance as far as your team: who will man the booth, break times, scheduling re: arrival and set-up, everything. Plan your message and have a strategy to attract visitors into your space with an interesting and visually-arresting set of displays. You only have six seconds to grab their attention at a show. Make the most of those six seconds.

Emphasize Sales

Make sure your team knows the number one goal is to secure sales. That’s why you are getting leads, harvesting contacts; that’s why you’re going to follow up on the leads. The number one priority is to get your maximum ROI (return on investment) on that pricey trade show and that means sales. Selecting the right people for your booth is important, too. In fact, it’s absolutely critical. Not everybody is up to it. Sales are not everybody’s cup of tea, especially in a fast-paced, chaotic convention atmosphere. You rise or fall on their efforts, so choose them well.

Prepare for Follow-Ups, BEFORE the Show

Everybody knows it’s important to develop new leads at shows, but it’s how those leads are followed up that separates the big boys from the also-rans. You should prepare kits (and strategies) in advance for the booth personnel that will help develop the leads, answer customer’s questions, and establish a basis for follow-ups. Your home base staff should be coordinated with this effort so it is a complete effort. You don’t want an isolated, weekend “maximum effort” show by your show staff alone. Your pre-game and follow through are equally important here.

You’ve prepared, you’ve done your homework. Now, get out to those shows and grow your business. You can always find an excellent selection of trade show materials, all at great prices, simply by visiting http://thedisplayoutlet.com.

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Paralysis By Analysis: Improve Your Odds of Financial Success With These 5 Investment Tips

Posted on 13. Feb, 2014 by .

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Analyse trading stock

You’re new to the stock investing game, and you don’t know where to begin. There are so many “experts” out there – all of them claiming to have the perfect formula for investing. What you need are basic principles, though, not hard and fast rules. And, for that, you can study the greats.

Always invest with a margin of safety

The margin of safety is a concept first pioneered by value investors Benjamin Graham and David Dodd. It’s the principle of buying a security at a significant discount to its intrinsic value. This is thought to minimize the downside risk of an investment while providing exceptional returns.

In other words, Graham’s approach was to find stocks that he thought were worth $1, but were selling for just $0.50. He was very good at finding those discounts in the market.

Know what kind of investor you are

One thing that online discount brokers can’t tell you is what type of investor you are. That’s something that requires a little bit of introspection. Do you scare easily when the market drops? What about when the market rises – are you overly excited about the companies you invest in?

Some investors don’t like to pour over financial statements or go on fishing expeditions in search of excellent management. If this describes you, you’re probably well-suited toward being a passive investor. In other words, you’re probably better off buying an index fund than you are researching a company.

But, even if you like analyzing stocks, it doesn’t mean you’re an investor. You could be a speculator. The famous Benjamin Graham believed that an investor looks at a stock as a part of a business. The stockholder is the owner of the business. The speculator looks at company stock as expensive pieces of paper with no real value. The speculator trades on price. The investor buys companies.

Consider a company’s products or services

Does the company you want to invest in have products or services that have sufficient market potential? In other words, is the company manufacturing goods, or providing services, that make sizable increases in sales possible for at least several years?

A company seeking long-term growth needs to have products that address a large and expanding market. Those products and services have to solve a problem for people, and people have to want to pay for it.

For example, a company like McDonalds seems like a sure thing. But, when it first opened its doors, it wasn’t. The McDonald brothers and, later, Ray Kroc, had to come up with an idea that would be both profitable and have staying power. Today, it’s almost unthinkable that McD’s would go out of business. But, as an investor, you had to have that vision when the company launched its IPO to realize the full profit potential of the company.

Consider the company’s sales organization

One of the things Philip Fisher focused on was the company’s sales organization. Fisher wrote that few products or services are worth buying in their own right – they needed exceptional merchandising and sales plans. Marketing is another aspect to look at. How does the company get its product to market?

Does it have a wide distribution chain? Does it have a competent sales force? Is it prepared for growth? Does it have the ability to scale on demand? These are all things to look for in a company.

Buy companies with good employee relations

This is something a lot of investors just plain don’t pay attention to, or they don’t know how to assess this. According to Fisher, a company with good labor relations tends to be a lot more profitable than one with mediocre relations. That’s because happy employees are likely to be more productive. There’s no single criteria to measure this, but there are a few things to look for.

First, how does management view its employees? A company with good labor relations tends to value its employees highly. Executives don’t hide in their office, and employee morale is usually high. How is the company’s profit margin? How about its employee pay? Companies with higher than average profits and higher than average employee pay tend to be more profitable, overall, than companies with high profits but average or below-average employee pay.

Companies with good employee relations will always try to settle employee grievances quickly, with a focus on making everyone involved happy. That way, everyone wins.

Jarryd Harden is a veteran in finance. He often writes about smart investing and money management on financial blogs.

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How I Spend a Holiday

Posted on 04. Jan, 2014 by .

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Guy happy about spending at Christmas

As someone who writes a personal finance blog, you would probably expect me to have a whole bunch of ideas about how to have a really cheap holiday over the Christmas period and some extra tips on how to save money on everything from wrapping paper to New Years Eve crackers.

I’m sorry, I don’t.

I’ve spent more money in the last couple of weeks than I care to think about. I’ve bought a bunch of lavish gifts, gallons of alcohol (mostly for myself :)) and a metric ton (that’s right, I’m Australian) of food that didn’t even go close to fitting into my shopping budget.

Know what though? I’m happy.

Sure I get the odd twinge thinking about how quickly my family and I have been able to burn cash and there is a good chance that there might be some belt tightening in the weeks to come, but all in all I’m pretty damn happy.

Holidays are for holiday-ing

I’ve got to confess that 2013 was a pretty shitty year. There were a few highlights, but generally it was pretty much a write off. I didn’t really take a break from work, I lost focus and motivation for a lot of projects that I had planned for the year and I let a lot of very minor things bother me far more than I should have.

This Christmas break has been exactly what I needed. I needed to switch off, I needed to relax and unwind and I needed to feel like I could reward myself and my family for making it through a pretty tough year.

Unfortunately it took such a long time and such a significant personal impact to realise that holidays are for holiday-ing!

No one can withhold personal reward forever, it just isn’t healthy. Slaving away at work, on budgets, monitoring savings plans, developing side hustles and doing everything else you can to save money is hard work. Far too hard to go un-rewarded for an extended period of time, which is why holidays need to be extravagant and regular.

My New Years Resolution

I like to think that I get smarter as I get older, often it takes a while for me to realise things, but I usually take notice eventually.

In the last two weeks I’ve felt like I’ve been transformed. I feel better, more alert and my motivation is returning (I’m still in holiday mode). Somewhere in the last couple of years of trying to push as hard as I can, I forgot how good it can be to simply stop doing everything and do the complete opposite.

Unsurprisingly I had absolutely no resolutions for the New Year, but as I start to warm up again I’ve got at least one that I plan to keep as reoccurring.

Take more holidays.

Not just time off, but holidays. Go places I don’t regularly  go to, buy things I don’t regularly buy. Throw concepts of productivity out the window, sleep during the day, read fiction, watch videos, or even really crap television, download massively time consuming apps on my iPhone or forgo technology altogether.

Do different stuff and forget about the restrictions!

I’ve got to say that having a real holiday has been the best thing I’ve forgotten how to do in quite some time and I plan to do more of it far more regularly in the future. That doesn’t mean I’m throwing everything out the window, I’m just going to be more mindful of life wealth instead of just financial wealth.

Here’s to a great 2014! 

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The Parent Dilemma: Public or Private Education

Posted on 26. Nov, 2013 by .

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Public or private school busses

There comes a time in every parents life when they reach a cross-roads in their decision making abilities.

Private or public schooling?

What appears to be a relatively trivial choice from the distance and warm glow of your child’s birth, becomes a very distressing and real life dilemma (albeit a first world one) in far less time than you first thought possible.

The great debate

As someone who tends to watch their money reasonably closely, my initial reaction to the whole debate is to dismiss private schooling and opt for the public option, firm in my willingness to provide active support and assistance in my children’s education.

Unfortunately things aren’t so cut and dry. While the idea of effectively paying for a brand new car every 1-2 years doesn’t sit too well with me, there are far more considerations to take into account than just the financial ones.

Public schooling has a lot going for it these days and may are even becoming quite elite in their own right, but private schools still hold a certain amount of sway when it comes to educational opportunities, social preparedness and extracurricular activities. My wife and I are both very keen to see our children have the best education we can provide for them, so this decision has been quite a difficult one.

Although some suggest that private schooling is effective at all levels and particularly so during the early development years, we are leaning towards a public primary school followed by a private secondary school for both of our children.

Hopefully this choice proves to be a good. While we will be doing everything we can on the home front to ensure we support our kids, only time will tell. In any case, we like to think that being actively involved will be worth far more to the development of knowledge and good habits than working longer hours to fund the required cost.

Funding an education

While it’s nice to have the decision made and a plan in place, we know that we need to be mindful of the illusion of breathing space that our decision has created. Secondary education will roll around in a short amount of time, so we need to get to work on establishing an education fund for both of our girls.

After finally settling on a decision and a plan of attack, I thought that we had our long range planning under control, but as with most well laid plans our foresight got the better of us.

Although it is still early days, my wife and I both feel that we would like to encourage our children to attend university. Given the importance we have placed on education, it is a logical progression. Of course this means further tuition costs, which we need to build into the education fund.

I’m in the process of investigating education savings plans and although I live in Australia, I’ve been quite interested in reading about the US 529 saving plans and similar options like the RESP grant in Canada. Things are a little different for us here, but there are a few different strategies I could use to leverage regular savings and grow this over the next 8-10 years (before it starts to get used!).

A little help?

As you may have guessed, my wife and I have very little to base our judgement on (we both attended public schools), so any additional thoughts and comments are welcome, particularly if you have experienced a similar situation yourself.

Please feel free to add a comment below and weigh in on the debate!

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The Easiest Way to Make Money from Your Business (Even While You Sleep)

Posted on 08. Nov, 2013 by .

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Business banking

Starting a new business is both incredibly daunting and exciting all at the same time. Finding customers, developing and refining your products and services and working out how to further spread the word are amongst some of the most pressing issues to concern yourself with.

When the money finally rolls in, you give a huge sigh of relief and then prepare yourself to rinse and repeat. But before you get carried away with the next customer or project, it is worth giving some thought to how you handle the much sort after funds you have finally received.

Business banking isn’t often at the top of most to do lists, but having an organised system for you business finances can make your business transactions a whole lot easier and significantly decrease your financial risk at the same time.

Many new businesses process a great deal of their transactions online these days, which makes receiving money very easy. The only trouble with this is that the funds received may not necessarily end up in the right place.

Paypal might make things simple and leaving funds in your account makes your own payments easy for you to process in return, but there is a big risk involved in leaving large sums sitting in your account. The possibility of someone hacking your Paypal account is very real, but even more importantly Paypal is not a bank which means you will miss out on your money making you money.

This is also true for an everyday business accounts offered by your bank. Having payments made to a working account keeps this easy to follow from an accounting perspective, but leaving all of your funds in the one account isn’t the best use of the asset.

No matter the size of your business the importance of business saving accounts should not be underestimated. It is important to realise that your unspent business capital can be safely used to make you money in the background, while your business continues to tick away and be foremost in your mind.

Putting aside a small amount of time to calculate the sum of working capital you require to run your business is a very worthwhile exercise. Not only does it help you better understand the amount of cash flow you require to operate, it also means you can confidently make decisions about moving money from within your business into a separate high interest savings account.

Your business accounts should be no difference to your personal accounts, so setting up separate accounts to manage your money is never a waste of time.

Everyone loves it when their money makes them money, is yours working for you?

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