Small Business Management Software Tools – Levelling the Playing Field

Small to medium sized business are vital to any economy as they provide the backbone of service and product provision, create much needed revenue for government in the form of taxes and provide job opportunities which contribute to a low rate of unemployment. The creative side of small businesses is highly valued, as many innovations in product and service design start from these humble beginnings. Additionally, small businesses, as a function of their structure and flexibility, are able to react to market trends and changing consumer preferences and behaviour. This results in many gaps in the market being identified and commercially provided for by small business.Small businesses generally form at the invention of one person’s ideas and actions – an entrepreneur. Commonly entering the market as a result of turning an opportunity into a marketable product or service, entrepreneurs are valued as they are prepared to take risks, are driven by achievement and self motivated, who are not put off by potential failure while driving to be ahead of the competition.Small businesses are well placed to build personal relationships with customers, employees and suppliers. With a small business, you know who you are dealing with, as the face you are commonly seeing is usually the owner. As there is little, if any, hierarchical chains of authority, they are much better positioned than large businesses to develop and respond in a flexible manner to any problems and challenges that may arise. Large companies often have set ways of operating and establish procedures which are often hard to change.Due to their size and flexibility, SME’s are well positioned to introduce and develop new ideas and concepts in a commercially viable manner. This is empowered through the owners not having to seek approval for any immediate changes to the business, its offering or how they operate. In contrast to larger firms where their overheads must be offset with high levels of output to spread the costs, small businesses, through their ability to make a profit on much lower sales figures, are able to sell to smaller markets, establishing a niche where they have competitive advantage over larger firms.However, it is not all rosy for the SME, as they face many barriers in the delivery of their products and services and the owner is usually at a financial risk with the monetary investment required to open the operation. Additionally, financials and economies of scale that larger firms enjoy are not achievable, resulting in the purchase of materials that form the businesses offerings to market, being of a higher price. The owner often lacks many of the necessary skills required to successfully operate a business, which is reflected in the high number of failures within the first year of operation. The lack of experience and knowledge is often hindered by the inability of the business to afford consultants which have expertise in the areas of accounting, marketing, stock control and other essential elements of performance.In reaction to this, software developers have created a suite of small business software management tools that level out the playing field, with affordable and workable management solutions that assist the small business in the development of business financial reporting, financial budgeting and planning, stock control, employee payments and tax responsibilities. Don’t let your lack of experience hold you back from streamlining your operation.A small business software management tool will allow you to take back control of your business, reduce costs and allow you to spend more time at what you are good at… identifying more opportunities in the marketplace to be fulfilled.

Is There a Travel Consultant on Your Team?

Ok, I have to admit… I book my own travel. I’ve been vacillating back and forth for months and months on whether to add a travel agent (aka travel consultant) to my team of experts that help make my life easier and I just haven’t done it yet. Now don’t get too impressed that I have a ‘team of experts’ – the list is short. It includes the lawn guy who’s also now the pest control guy, the maid, my hair stylist, my all-important driver to and from the airport, and that’s about it. But they’re all people who can save me time, save me money and can make recommendations based on their experience with me and my preferences. Hmmm… sounds like a travel consultant also.So to help me make my decision, I thought I’d pretend that you’re asking me questions and I’m giving you the answers. It makes the writing so more interesting than just talking to myself.Q: So why in these days on online booking of everything should I use the services of a travel consultant?A: Online booking of travel may be the best way to go if you have a simple flight to book, have no long list of special needs, and know what you’re doing. I like to go to Travelocity or Expedia and search out my options and prices, but then I book my ticket on the airline’s direct site. I just trust that if I have any issue with my ticket that their airline will be more helpful to me.I’ve only ever booked a ticket on one of these online sites when I needed a flight that had one airline on the outbound and another airline on the return.Because I routinely fly to the same city, I just jump on that airline’s site and can have a ticket booked within seconds. But when my husband and I are both flying and we’re originating in different, then a travel consultant makes much more sense. I spend an excessive amount of time searching multiple airline sites trying to get us to arrive and depart at somewhat the same time.If you have special needs (allergic to peanuts, pets, people, etc.), then a travel consultant can help ensure that your seats and/or flights are suitable for you. If you’re traveling internationally and are concerned with connecting flights, tight connections, passport or health requirements, go to the expert on your team.Q: What can a travel consultant really do that I can’t do myself?A: Besides what I just mentioned above, they can also:Scout out lower prices than you may be able to find.Help you with recommendations and prices on cruise bookings and most other forms of travel packages (guided tours, all-inclusive resorts, safaris, etc.) based on YOUR needs and desires.Keep you in the know about luggage fees, luggage limits, TSA, travel rules in other countries, best times to travel based on weather and more.Help resolve travel issues (cancelled flights, oversold hotels) and complex travel itineraries.All with personal service and expert knowledge.Q: What does a travel consultant charge to use their services?A: The fee depends on the consultant. While some of the more luxury agencies have higher fees, the average fee is quite marginal. Some travel consultants will even drop the fee or offer a discount once you have finalized your trip with them. Plus, you can always ask an consultant upfront what their fees are and decide for yourself if it’s worth it. Your time is valuable also… so consider the value of the hours that you’re searching for your own travel and the fee for the travel consultant then looks very reasonable.Q: So what are the requirements for a travel consultant to become part of your ‘team of experts’?A: Just a few minor requirements to fulfill:
They recognize who I am when I call and say “Hi, it’s Carol.” I do not want an agency where I speak to someone different each time I call.
They know my preferences and my type of travel. When I say “Bruce and I both want to get to New York City around 6pm on a Thursday,” they’ll know to put me on Continental, him on Delta, and get us both aisle seats (exit row for me, any row with a power outlet for him).
They know our 1,000 places to see before we die, know where we’ve already been, and call us when they see a great deal to a place we’ve yet to go.
They book our cruises and our hotels and airfare. No more cruise-only people that leave the rest up to us.
They provide recommendations for places to see, things to do, restaurants, etc. because they’ve already been there!
If they’re not an expert in a certain area, such as finding us a house to rent in Santorini, they’ll find someone who is.
They offer reasonable fees and throw in a freebie now and then because we use them so much (is that too much to ask??).
Q: So are you still going to book all of your own travel?A: Heck no! I’ll take resumes starting today from any travel consultant who can meet my requirements! — I’m interviewing!

Are You Insured For Your Travels?

Planning a trip abroad?Things can go wrong when you go on holiday. You could have an accident or get sick. Your luggage and money could be lost or stolen. Your trip could be cut short by injury or illness or it may even be necessary for your family to fly out to be with you in the event of a serious illness or accident. Get insurance!It is surprising how many people don’t take out adequate travel insurance or any at all when they go away, most believe that other insurance policies they hold will cover them but this is simply not be sufficient. For example having credit card accident cover, private health care, or home insurance is not adequate enough travel insurance cover for your trip.Travel insurance is vital. Be sure you are covered in your travel insurance policy for any hazardous activities you could possibly take part in. Some travel insurance policies do not cover some of the riskier activities such as bungee jumping, scuba diving, skiing, horse riding, jet skiing and more (these can vary from insurance policy to policy). Check your travel insurance policy details for anything you are not covered for. Go online and do your research to find the best travel insurance deal. With policies that do provide cover for these activities, it may be that they do not cover you for liability and personal accident. This should be provided by the company hosting the activity.When taking part in activities such as golf, it is wise to have travel insurance that will cover you if there should be an accident which involves you causing an injury to another player. Most standard travel insurance policies may not provide cover in these situations.Health cover should be included in your travel insurance, always check it is adequate for your destination. Medical insurance and health insurance is your responsibility. Most people are aware that medical care in USA is expensive, but many other countries also have expensive medical services. You may have to pay thousands of pounds in medical costs if you fall ill or have an accident if you do not have adequate travel insurance. The level of medical cover should be at least £1million for Europe and £2million for the rest of the world. Be honest when declaring your medical health to your travel insurance provider or you may not be covered by your policy.Other exclusions that might apply in a travel insurance policy include injury or death through acts of terrorism or nature and accidents caused through drinking alcohol. So it is wise to do some research on your destination before you travel to avoid common travelling traumas, risks and dangers. After the World Trade Center and the Bali bombing insurers are careful about the level of travel insurance cover they offer and what they will pay out for. Also check with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that they have not advised against travelling to the country you are planning to travel to. Some Insurers will not provide cover for these countries.Drink – related incidents will usually not be covered in a travel insurance policy so be aware in the event of an incident you will have to pay your own medical costs and also for any injury or damage caused to others.Loss, damage or theft of luggage, possessions and money can be covered by your travel insurance policy. If you are unfortunate enough to be a victim of theft report it immediately to the police who will provide you with a statement to show your insurer when you make the claim. Travel insurance policies will generally limit claims for single items – the limit can vary from as low as £200 up to £1000 or more. There is likely to be a similar limit on the total paid to replace valuables, such as cameras or jewellery. Check that these limits are sufficient for your needs. If you end up losing your luggage on route make sure you are covered and do not rely on compensation from the airline. It is recommended that you buy the necessary replacements which you will be able to claim for after your trip if you are properly covered by a good insurer. With money, passports, important documents and any valuables it is a good idea to carry these items in your hand luggage in case of luggage loss. Do not take large quantities of cash with you on a trip; try to take a mixture of cash and travellers cheques. Which you should keep in a safe deposit box or in the hotel safe when you arrive. This will limit the chance of having anything stolen. It is also wise to leave your travellers cheque information at home with your family in case of loss and also leave a credit card at home in case of emergencies.Cancellation is one of the most common reasons for claiming on your travel insurance. Your travel insurance policy has to have been started a couple of weeks before your departure date for you to be able to claim for this. Your insurance policy should also cover you if you fall ill and have to cut short a trip and come home. travel insurance should cover pre-paid expenses, such as excursions, and any extra costs incurred in getting home. Check your policy documents to see what would be covered – accident, illness, and pregnancy unknown when you buy the policy, jury service, etc. some even go as far as covering you if you are being made redundant or if a strike or bad weather affects the departure of a ship or flight. You will need a insurance policy with sufficient cover to refund the full cost of your holiday. Always check your policy for details.When buying a Travel Insurance Policy you may want to consider how many times a year you are likely to travel. If you do travel more than once a year it would be worth buying an annual multi-trip policy. It may seem more expensive outright but when spread out over your holiday’s day per day it is far cheaper. An annual multi-trip travel insurance policy should also include cover for Winter Sports activity as well as a standard holiday policy. So there is no need to worry about adding extras for each holiday.