Category Archives: Business

Important Ethical and Unethical Business Practices

“I have always recognized that the object of business is to make money in an honorable manner. I have endeavored to remember that the object of life is to do good.” – Peter Cooper, American Inventor, Manufacturer and Philanthropist

Business ethics are moral values and principles that determine our conduct in the business world. It refers to commercial activities, either with other business houses or with a single customer. They can be applied to all aspects of business; from generation of an idea to its sale. Businesses use the society for its resources and functioning, thereby obligating it to the welfare of the society. While the objective of any business is to make profits, it should contribute to the interest of the society by ensuring fair practices. However, greed has led the present business scenario towards unethical business practices, legal complications and general mistrust.

Code of Ethics
Many organizations now implement the code of ethics in their company polices, which they implement during induction and regular training. A Code of Ethics “is generally a more blanket statement of values and beliefs that defines the organization or group” (Brandl and Maguire). It is primarily for the following areas:

– Company’s assets, funds and records
– Conflict of interest
– Management and employee practices
– Information on competition
Ethical Business Practices
Following are a few ethical business practices that should be followed to build an honest reputation and ensure smooth running of the organization.
Employee offering gold coins to investor
Investors: Ensuring safety of their money and timely payment of interest.

Boss talking to a service professional/vendor
Employees: Provision of fair opportunities in promotions and training, good working conditions, and timely payment of salaries.
Advertising loud and clear
Customer: Complete information of the service and product should be made available. Personal information of the customers should not be used for personal gain.

Businessman on cycle going ahead of other standing businessmen
Competition: Unscrupulous tactics and methods should be avoided while handling competitors.
Businessman denying dollar/bribe
Government: Rules and regulations regarding taxes, duties, restrictive and monopolistic trade practices, and unlawful activities like corruption and bribing should be adhered to.
Clipboard calculator spreadsheets compliance forms
Environment: Polluting industries should ensure compliance with the government norms regarding air, water and noise pollution.
Unethical Business Practices
The financial sector is abuzz with acts of violation of norms to amass wealth in an unethical manner. Following are some of the activities that come under the ambit of unethical practice.
Troubling a small businessman, trickery, deception
– Resorting to dishonesty, trickery or deception.
– Distortion of facts to mislead or confuse.
– Manipulating people emotionally by exploiting their vulnerabilities.
Two people making a deal hiding knife in hand behind back
– Greed to amass excessive profit.
– Creation of false documents to show increased profits.
– Avoiding penalty or compensation for unlawful act.
– Lack of transparency and resistance to investigation.
– Harming the environment by exceeding the government prescribed norms for pollution.
– Invasion of privacy used as leverage, for obtaining personal or professional gains.
– Sexual discrimination

A Guide to Cottage Industry Laws

So you knit an awesome afghan/bake a great cake/whittle a beautiful headboard. Wanna start a business? Sure! Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day again in your life, right? But starting a business requires money. Which you don’t have. Or you wouldn’t need to start a business.

There exists, in the good ol’ U.S. of A., a business type called a ‘cottage industry’. It’s basically a sole-proprietorship that you run out of your home. Sounds perfect, right? Let’s roll! I’ll start today!

Not so fast. Business in this country is regulated, heavily in some cases. There is a set of laws involving cottage industries, and pleading ignorance will not keep you from being heavily fined or shut down if you’re found in violation. Laws vary from place to place, so check your state, county and city websites for the particulars. But the most common issues concern what you make and where you make it.

Your Home
As mentioned, cottage industries are run from the home. But that’s not all there is to it. First, you have to check with the city to make sure your home is zoned for cottage industry (which is entirely separate from being zoned for business or residential use). Then, you have to check with your neighborhood association to make sure they’ll allow signage, the expected traffic, and everything else that comes along with business.

Will customers come to your home? Better have ample parking. Many places require that no more than 25 percent of your home’s square footage may be used for business purposes. Plan on selling food? Your kitchen usually has to be separated from the rest of the house and kept in Health Department-approved cleanliness.

Licensing
Depending upon where you live, you may have to get a business license for your cottage industry. At the very least, you’ll have to register a fictitious name, unless you are doing business under your full, legal name. Even if local laws don’t require a business license, some other sales outlets do – many trade shows, fairs and green markets require your business to be fully registered before you can purchase a booth.
Your Process
If you are producing food, you need to run your home kitchen like a professional kitchen. That means that Fluffy and Fido are no longer allowed in, and anyone who even stands near a prep area must wear a hair covering. In some places, you may even need to install special equipment (like the triple sink) that is used ONLY for your business, not family-related cooking.

Choice of answers Services that benefit Small Business

Answering services assume importance when the employees find it difficult to keep a track of unattended messages and revert to the callers. Many times, a business may lose revenue despite attending to messages on a prompt basis, since a number of callers may hang up instead of leaving a voice mail. It’s time to turn to a professional service when messages start piling up, and delays in answering customer queries translate into lower business revenue. A 24-hour service, that is geared towards handling customer queries, ensures that a business provides the desired level of customer service, and retains clients while roping in many more.

Preferred Answering Services

These services may be virtual or live. The latter is preferred since the caller has the opportunity of talking to an operator who can render the desired assistance.

Virtual Services

A virtual answering service or a virtual receptionist is programmed to answer calls in the name of the company, take the message and inform the recipient by email or SMS. This is an automated service that is set-up to handle either select calls or all calls that are not answered within 15 seconds. These services also allow the caller to obtain a series of information based on responses to prompts. It may also divert calls to a call center in case a busy signal is detected. The caller, whose call has been routed, is typically given the option of speaking with an operator or leaving a voice mail.

A virtual order taking service can be useful for a business, when clients typically call after normal business hours to place an order for a specific product or a service that has been advertised on television. Businesses can also use computerized telemarketing to advertise products. This is done by connecting a computer to a standard phone and programming it so that numbers are dialed automatically.

Live Services

These services give the caller the opportunity of talking to operators, who assess the urgency of the call and decide on the course of action. If the call is not urgent, it may be transferred to an automated service. This is useful for entrepreneurs who would like to provide a service that is personalized to suit the needs of the clients. An operator is desirable, when the business would like to set up appointments with potential customers or would like to conduct surveys to gather public opinion.
A number of such service providers invest a great deal of money for setting up systems that provide virtual answering services in addition to meeting 24/7 call handling requirements. Telecommuters and solo entrepreneurs benefit from using these services that help render a professional appearance to their enterprise.

Reduce Overhead Costs in Small Business

Those who’re trying their luck in the field of entrepreneurship, and are already doing some small businesses, must be aware of a decently vague term, called overhead cost. Though this term may appear vague inherently, it can have a great impact in saving you some precious money when you’re running your business.

Stated in simple accounting terms, overhead costs are business expenses, that are not directly involved in contributing to the profit, but they’re vital to run your business. This may include anything like office space, office stationery, office furniture, cafeteria, etc. For small businesses, extra expenses matter a lot, because capital investment is limited and so maximizing profit and preventing loss is the only key to survival, especially in times of harsh economies and destabilized markets.

Guide to Cutting Your Operating Costs in Business

Regular expenses that are not directly involved in producing goods or providing services are known as overhead costs. It is obvious that you can’t keep your overhead expenses zero. Let us take one example. Electricity is a basic need in the offices, and so you can’t prevent employees from using it! Yes, you can manage electricity usage effectively, and even ask employees to use resources in the office premises frugally. This will in turn lower the overhead costs for your business, saving huge resources of money. Here are some more tips to manage the extra costs.

Enlist Your Business Expenses
Starting a business is not easy, and if you have been in the business world for sometime, you must be aware of the fact that it is a daily battle you need to fight to survive. Hence, you got to manage your overhead costs and be proactive in listing all your business expenses. Now, what you list requires business judgment and understanding. To put things in perspective, consider the fact that you own a small printing press, where the need of computers and electricity is essentially 24 x 7, and so you can’t list electricity as your overhead cost. Some tangible overhead costs in business field are as follows:
Taxation, audits and penalties that, changes in government rules and laws can bring.
To maintain efficiency of employees and provide them all comforts to work, known as ‘downtime costs’, you need to be willing to spend some extra money.
Any changes in bureaucratic and regulatory changes.
Any legal battles and disputes that can result in some court room cases.
Natural disasters and economic downturn, that are inevitable, can cause you to spend some money on the damage done.
In cases of theft or damage of products, you got to pay the extra money.
Any unplanned and unexpected development in infrastructure of the building.

An Effective Marketing Strategy in Itself

Cross merchandising is nothing but a clever display of closely related products from different categories, that encourages the customer to purchase all of them. In turn, it also lifts up the sale of products from different categories. Cross merchandising can be done by displaying the products on a mannequin, or by actual positioning of merchandise on racks or shelves.

In this Buzzle article, learn more about the concept of cross merchandising, in case you are thinking of employing it in your store, or just to show you how supermarkets manage to make you spend more than you intended to.

Before you think of employing the strategy of cross merchandising in your business, consider the following points:
Products must have a logical connection between them
For cross merchandising, the merchandise must naturally go well or complement each other. The customers should be able to relate them together. I’ll elaborate this point with a few examples:
✜ A shoe retailer can benefit by displaying socks, shoe shiners, shoe insoles, laces, and odor-controlling foot creams and powders together.

Electrical appliances
✜ If a retail store houses electrical appliances, like mobiles and laptops, then displaying accessories, such as mobile cases, laptop bags, headphones, memory cards, audio and video CD’s, etc., may help increase the sale of accessories.

Men wears
✜ For men clothing retail outlets, accessories like ties, cuff links, belts, and perfumes do the trick, whereas with woman’s clothing, fashion jewelry, handbags, sunglasses, perfumes, etc., could be displayed.
Plant and gardening equipment
✜ For nurseries, displaying fertilizers, gardening gloves, and decorative pots next to the plants will help increase sales.

Snacks and drinks
✜ Chips or any other salted snacks, if kept next to soda, soft drinks, or liquor, may boost the sales of both items.
Ice cream
✜ Pairing ice creams with sweet sauces, like chocolate or strawberry, are a great way to increase the sale of sauces.
✜ Mayonnaise, salted sauces, and salad dressings could be kept next to the fresh produce of fruits and vegetables.
Fresh breakfast
✜ Breakfast cereals could be bundled up with packaged milk, and fruit and vegetable juices, to create an image of a complete breakfast.
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✜ Utensils pair well with cereals and pulses.
Gifts, toy and stationary
✜ Gifts, soft toys, and stationery usually go well together.
So, now do you know why mannequins are decked up in a full ensemble, complete with a scarf, sunglasses, a handbag, and matching jewelry, instead of just plain clothing? It is done to make you look at the complete picture, and induce the desire to make you buy all the stuff to recreate the same look on you.
Strategic Placing is Very Important
In case of a stand-alone retail outlet, the owner should make it a point to place the items in a way that would make spotting and buying the related products easier. Cross merchandising will bear results only if the customer spots the related items. If everything is just kept haphazardly without any logical sequence, the customer will not be able to differentiate, and the shop may lose a sale. Make proper sections, and keep the related products together. Even if you group things together, the overall appearance should be neat and uncluttered.
For supermarkets, the gondola ends/end caps could be a great location for cross merchandising. These are easily visible and also do not stand in the way. At the billing counters or checkouts, small racks could be placed that could display the ‘on-the-go-pick-me-ups’ like candy, chocolates, and mouth fresheners, crossed with daily essentials like scissors, nail clippers, and clothespins.

These Home Business Ideas for Men

Nowadays, some men prefer staying at home and working. There can be many reasons for an increase in this trend. Not everyone has the money to buy a new property for business, or maybe pay the rent even. The best option in these circumstances is to start a business from home, and look for some work from home ideas that might interest you. There are many home business ideas for men that require less investment, in terms of money and property. While most men usually know what they want to start as their business, some just want to try their hand at something new. For those of you who want to start something new, here are five options that you can choose from. These will help you start with legitimate work from home. Check them out!

Some Home Business Ideas for Men

Writing Studio
A writing studio is one of the easiest ideas for both men and women. In this work from home business, you don’t have to write anything yourself, if you wish to. You don’t even need an office to operate from. All you need to do is take orders from websites that deal into content writing, and give them to freelance writers to complete. Once the work is done, you can send it back to the company and collect the payment. Then you can pay the writers and keep a share for yourself per order. By doing this, you are taking money for only being a mediator and nothing else. However, contributing always helps, doesn’t it?

Travel/Insurance Agent
You can open your own travel consultation firm from home where you can advise people where they can travel, how, and in how much. Basically, you can plan the traveling part of a holiday for people, who want to go to specific destinations, in specific prices. This will just need some contacts, and a good, extensive search from your side. On the other hand, you can also be an insurance agent where you get commission depending upon the number of people you get insured. The payment, commissions and incentives in these jobs are very lucrative.

Tuition
Tutoring children will help you make a lot of money. This is undoubtedly one of the best home business ideas for men. Most of the time, people take this up as a summer job, but it is one of the best ways to make money from home, for students too. However, this job would demand commitment for the entire year. But, you are then financially secure for that duration. Isn’t that great? If you can make little space in your home for these tuition classes, you can earn a lot. Also, commercially starting tuition under a name, can give it a boost. If you get tired after teaching for some hours, or if the students increase considerably, you can hire teachers to teach.

Start a Small Business

Objective of Your Business
The first step is to decide whether you intend to start a non-profit venture for a community service or a technology-related business. This will help you apply for the type of grant you require for the business start-up. Read through the government websites that provide information on innumerable government grants or loans available to start small businesses. Ensure that you have gathered updated data on an everyday or weekly basis.
Kind of Grants Released
Initially, one has to gather information on the kind of grants available pertaining to a business. You may not be able to procure the grant or loan provided by the government, if you are not well-informed about it. You can also approach the special programs directly that provide financial assistance, specific to a particular venture. Some of the grants that are offered by the government are rural economic development loans and grants. The intended goal for such a program is the creation of employment and business opportunity. Other grants include loans for women business entrepreneurs. For instance, if a woman plans to start a daycare center or a home-based business, the chances of getting a grant or a loan to start such small businesses are the highest. You should not write a grant proposal for a non-profit venture to the government agency which aims at technology-related business. If you do so, your proposal will be rejected. This draws the importance of being well-informed about the kind of grants released by different government agencies.

A Course on Grant Writing
A course on grant writing will help you write a very noticeable proposal. You would want a response on every proposal that you write. To ensure that your proposal is accepted, it has to be effective and stand out from other proposals. Your writing has to be personalized, since different government agencies have different criteria for acceptance. For instance, if a government agency offers grants for technology-related businesses, you will have to write your proposal with facts and demographics to establish the need of such a business in the economy. This can be aided by a course on grant writing. The grant proposal is the first impression of the individual applying. As it is rightly said, “First impression is the last impression”. Hence, a course on grant writing will help you cater to this need.
Continue to Apply for New Grants
You can apply for new grants on a weekly basis. Make sure that you apply as soon as the new grants become available. You can choose the grants that would best suit the business you plan to start. If your grant is being rejected very often, you will have to work on framing your proposal.

Business for Women

To help you understand better, a grant is a financial assistance for a specific purpose or for a predetermined target group. For example, some institutions provide aid for starting day care centers, whereas others provide assistance to minority women. People have this misconception that grants are excess funds lying in government coffers, waiting to be taken advantage of. However, that cannot be further from the truth. These funds are provided only after careful scrutiny, and only to the truly deserving and challenged.

There are two avenues: federal government grants and private funding organizations. Like any financial assistance program, you are required to fill out an application form, state your purpose, and provide details about your background. Most people get discouraged by the application process itself. However, it is advisable to go through the formalities because the outcome can be rewarding. Here are some ways of getting aid to start your business.

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA)

You should have a look at the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) which provides grants for women under different categories; they have over 2,000 assistance programs listed in their database. These grants help women from different walks of life and backgrounds.

Small Business Administration (SBA)

Another resource is the US Small Business Administration (SBA). They also offer grant programs to organizations, that render small business management or technical assistance. The SBA mostly provides grants to those who operate for profit and have some equity to invest on their own.

You need to apply on the government grants site. Once you do this, you will get a funding opportunity number (FON). You can then track your application on their site. When you apply, you will be required to furnish information about the project details and your background.

State Governments

State governments are a good resource to look for grants closer to home. The federal government allocates development funds for each state, and the state in turn provides a part of these funds to individuals to start or expand their business. They provide grants to businesses that will benefit the community in the long term. Projects dealing with saving energy, child care, and tourism are supported by them.

Nonprofit Organizations

There are many nonprofit organizations that provide financial aid to women-owned businesses. They have cause-driven grants and they help women as a target group. Some organizations specialize in providing aid to minority women.

Whenever you want to apply for a grant, keep information about your financial background, business plan, marketing strategy, and forecasted growth ready to stand a better chance of qualifying.

Interpersonal Skills for Maintaining Good Relations

Interpersonal skills are simply a reflection of your inner self. The subconscious mind is where these values are conceived, which animate your social and personal outlook. These skills are not taught deliberately, they develop gradually right from our birth. They concrete with observing and learning through our upbringing, social environment, and through abilities to define the good, bad, and ugly, in our lives. Basic interpersonal or social skills can be portrayed as communication skills, soft skills, they define how we carry ourselves, the way we talk, the kind of respect we have for ourselves and others around us. Our abilities are to listen and understand. These skills are precisely the riggers of our attitude. The qualities of listening, leadership, understanding, appreciation, and interacting with others, contribute to interpersonal skills.

How do Interpersonal Skills Help You?
Assertive communication skills make you approachable and positive, give you a better image at work and in your career, help you grow, and reduce stress and conflicts.
They make you comfortable and leave you with a sense of ease to new exposures and interactions with people.
You will have a better self control, and the ability to make quick and apt decisions, with good interpersonal skills.
Building social skills will gradually help in enhancing your relationships with the world around.
List of Interpersonal Skills

Positive personalities and interpersonal communication skills are a requirement in most of the organizations and companies today. Go through these roots of development, you can improve or implement these ideas within yourself.

Generous Greetings

Be a sport and greet whenever you enter your organization or any other social event, it creates a cheerful and lively impression. In corporate offices, it is mandatory to do so, however, even if nobody else bothers to, you do it. Wish your colleagues, whenever there is an occasion, and if you work in a multi-cultural environment, make sure you exchange wishes. People would appreciate your respect and wisdom of thought.

Facial Expressions and Body Language

Reflect a positive image and attitude when talking or meeting people. Always keep a smile on your face! Nobody likes a sulky, or a depressive and odd face. Stand and sit confidently, do not sulk or stand with a hunch. Stop twiddling with your hair, toe-tapping and fidgeting, maintain a decent body language. Make eye contact whenever you talk to somebody, it sure creates an impressive and confident mark. Relax and even if you are stressed with an important meeting, take a deep breath. Don’t be nervous and stay calm.

Visual Communication

If you think about it, we are bombarded with visual information of some sort every minute of our life, unless we are sleeping. From the commercials in our favorite TV program, to the little dials on the dashboard of our cars, everything is trying to convey something visually, and hence, falls under visual communication.

Most commonly though, it refers to the colorful graphs, charts, and other graphics used when making a presentation for a business meeting. In this article, I have listed the various pros and cons of using visual aids to put across a point.

Advantages of Visual Communication

Visual communication is very fast as far as conveying a message is concerned. A graph for example, showing company expenditure in a financial year, can be understood just at a glance, compared to paragraphs of text or a speech to convey the same information.

A picture is retained in our memory longer than words or quotes. Research shows that people remember visuals the best, followed by speech, accompanied by reading.

Impactful – A graphic of any kind can elicit a stronger reaction from the reader. Compare saying “Nature is a wonderful thing” to an audience, to an image of young, cuddly animals. The image will move people emotionally and be more effective.

It is a much more efficient way of communicating – not just in time required for relaying information, the effort is much less too. For example, if I had to describe the usage of a pen to a group of people, it would be much easier for me to do so with a pen at my aid, and the point would get across better when those present actually see the pen being written with.

Ambiguities are more common with only oral communication, especially now with globalization, as people from diverse backgrounds and linguistic abilities are working together. A visual, on the other hand, makes everything very clear. For example, if I say “The Kremlin is a colorful, domed structure”, some would imagine it to be like a grand cathedral, whereas a few others would think of it shaped liked an igloo. But with a picture, everyone would instantly know how it actually looks.

When visuals are used instead of a simple speech, it makes a person more involved and connected, as visuals are able to pull down most barriers of communication, and open up people.
Disadvantages of Visual Communication

The major drawback for using visuals is their higher cost. High quality images, pictures and graphics, require additional resources to procure and make, driving up the cost. Besides, using lower quality visuals has been proven to reduce credibility, having the opposite effect of that intended.