Articles tagged "business"

Do you really own your domain?

by Ventura County Now

March 5th, 2012

Over the years I’ve run into this problem a lot. People or businesses think they own their domain name to later then find out they don’t. Let’s say you’ve found this great domain name that fits your business, keyword-rich and great for SEO. It perfectly fits your website’s image and all is going well. It’s your business name, what could happen? Now for some reasons you need to move your website to another host… Surprise, suprise! Your web host is the domain name owner. Your website and/or email could go down or your website could be held hostage. All of these can make for a really bad week. However, your website address or domain name is most likely on all your company publications – business cards, letterhead, brochures, signage, other websites. So for you not to have access to one of your most prized web properties is not benefiting you at all. If you don’t own it, it can be sold or hijacked and all traffic destined for your website will go elsewhere!

FYI – it is common for web agencies, to bundle domain and hosting with website packages and order it for you either as an affiliate or reseller of domain registration and hosting services.  One rule of thumb almost always applies: never register your domain name at the same place you’re hosting your website. I do happen to register my domain names at the same place when the web host offers free registration and I’m 100% sure that I will be owning the domain name. One example of a web host where I would register my domain name is GoDaddy.com. They are one of the largest registrars on the web and they can be trusted.

So, how do you avoid falling into this trap? Simple! Buy your own domain name and keep a record of your account information. Though, I beg you to get help from someone, to make sure you buy the best domain name(s) for your needs.

How do I know if I own my domain name? It’s easy to find out if your domain name is truly yours. Follow this link http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp and enter your domain name. This will display all of the domain data (a Who is report). The one piece of information you should focus on is the Registrant. This should have your information. This is the owner of the domain name. There will also be other information such as who the domain was registered through (ex. GoDaddy.com, Register.com, Network Solutions.com, etc.) and expiration. If you name appears, you’re good to go. Just don’t forget the expiration. If your domain expires your website and any email through that domain will go down. In addition to that, it may cost you a lot more money to get it back.

What if you are NOT the registrant? You will need to contact the person or company that is the registrant. Hopefully they’ll be nice and transfer the domain over to you. Unfortunately, if they choose to be trolls about it, you may need to call a lawyer and have them send a letter.

Unfortunately, this happens more than you would think and I’ve had customers not get their domains back or had to pay premium prices to get their domains back. This can really damage your business online. So make sure you own your domain.

Where the Jobs Aren't: 10 Doomed Industries

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
September 5th, 2011

The recovery may be rocky at the moment, but when it picks up steam, confidence will increase, jobs will return and the Great Recession will become an unpleasant memory (and perhaps a useful subject from which to draw policy lessons).

Even so, some industries will never recover because they're destined to go the way of milkmen and carriage makers. Which ones? Market research firm IBISWorld Inc. recently combed through a trove of data to determine the answer to this question.

The result: A list of the 10 worst industries in America, ones that had a steep decline in revenue in the last decade and are forecasted to further contract even more in the next one. Some of the industries on this list will not shock you, but others will be surprising.

Extinction is a hard word, but unfortunately that's what all these sectors are facing, due to external competition, technological change and lack of innovation. If you're looking for work in one of these doomed fields, you may want to consider a career transition, and quickly.

 


Courtesy: vancouverfilmschool/flickr

 

Calling Cut on Video Postproduction Services

One of the least publicized industries in terminal decline is video postproduction services. This field encompasses everything needed to prepare a film for distribution after the cameras have stopped rolling (or in the current age, after that little red recording light goes dark on the video camera).

Why the decline: Consolidation in the entertainment business is to blame. Movie studios are moving post-production in house. Meanwhile, technological advances have boosted efficiency -- as anyone who has seen the controlled chaos of a traditional celluloid cutting room versus the neat efficiency of digital editing software can attest. The results:

• Decline in revenue last decade: -24.9 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -10.7 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -37.8 percent.

 


Courtesy: Anthony L. Solis/flickr

 

Extra! Extra! Newspaper Publishing on Its Last Legs

While book publishers avoided making the list this time around, another often discussed casualty of our all-conquering obsession with everything digital is on it: newspaper publishing.

Why the decline: The move to online news and the competition from a plethora of new media information sources are obvious culprits. Will paywalls, iPad apps and frantic innovating online save the traditional newsroom even if it doesn't save old-style inky paper? Maybe, but don't hold your breath. The numbers facing the newspaper biz are stark:

• Decline in revenue last decade: -35.9 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -18.8 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -17.6 percent.

 


Courtesy: Kheel Center, Cornell University/flickr

 

Apparel Manufacturing Unraveling Fast

People certainly buy plenty of clothes these days, but with the price they're willing to pay for them, the chances of finding a "Made in the USA" tag is increasingly slim. So it's no wonder domestic apparel manufacturing is on the list of soon-to-be-extinct fields.

Why the decline: Cheap labor costs overseas, combined with consumers' expectation for a bargain at home, have put this U.S. industry in its death throes. Consider this:

• Decline in revenue last decade: -77.1 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -8.5 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -11.3 percent.

 


Courtesy: Vibrant Spirit/flickr

 

Textile Mills Still in Existence ... Barely

No New Englander would be surprised to see American textile mills on this list. In New England, "mill town" is practically synonymous with industrial decay, conjuring images of boarded up factories, sky-high unemployment and the generalized gloom of inevitable decay.

Why the decline: Cheap competition from abroad, which has halved revenue in the last decade alone. That rattling sound? It's the last gasps of an industry:

• Decline in revenue last decade: -50.2 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -10.0 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -12.8 percent.

 


Courtesy: Mr. T in DC/flickr

 

Formal Wear and Costume Rental Can't Disguise Decline

The formal wear and costume rental business is a surprise entry on the list. After all, high school kids continue to need fancy outfits for prom and Halloween rolls around every year.

Why the decline: An influx of cheap alternatives from abroad is the culprit again, with more cost-conscious Americans opting for disposable options each year. Purchasing, rather than renting formal wear is apparently also on the rise, but there is one tiny bright spot for the sector. "The tuxedo rental segment will keep the industry afloat," predicts IBISWorld, "because consumers are still likely to prefer the tuxedo rental service."

• Decline in revenue last decade: -35.0 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -14.6 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -17.2 percent.

 


Courtesy: aechempati/flickr

 

Digital Killed the Record Store

DJs, collectors and hipster enthusiasts may argue, but the numbers don't lie. Record stores are on their last legs.

Why the decline: No mystery here. Consumers have been happily downloading and getting their occasional CD purchase from big box discounters like Walmart. IBISWorld argues that a recovery will slow the industry's decline, but those record stores that fail to get with the modern world and adapt to the new realities of music distribution will continue their downward slide no matter how buoyant the economy gets.

• Decline in revenue last decade: -24.9 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -10.7 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -38.8 percent.

 


Courtesy: yapsnaps/flickr

 

R.I.P. Video Rental

The advance of technology and the internet isn't just a death sentence for the bricks and mortar music stores; it's pretty much the nail in the coffin for video rental business as well.

Why the decline: Why head to the local Blockbuster when NetFlix will deliver or offer for download any film you want? -- and that's not even mentioning the hundreds of movies available on cable TV. The industry's decline has been swift and irrevocable:

• Decline in revenue last decade: -35.7 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -19.3 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -11.2 percent.

 


Courtesy: NYCgal/flickr

 

Death of the Local Photoshop

Another business destroyed by advances in technology: photofinishing shops.

Why the decline: Digital cameras and online image sharing make your local photo developer obsolete. Consumers also no longer need to pay to develop 20 pictures of squinting relatives to get one decent image. Check out the grim revenue figures:

• Decline in revenue last decade: -69.1 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -39.1 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -33.3 percent.

 


Courtesy: haven't the slightest/flickr

 

Homes on the Move ... Downward

Manufactured home dealers prefabricate homes offsite and deliver them ready for installation. You might think they'd be an appealing option for consumers looking for inexpensive alternatives to the usual site-built home, but this is a case where the industry made some very bad strategic decisions and destroyed its market (as well as having the misfortune to suffer plummeting demand due to the housing crisis).

Why the decline: The industry has been squeezed between more innovative competitors and a drop in the price of traditional homes. Attempts to cut costs meant a less appealing product but not prices low enough to lure customers. The result: "Some of the steepest declines in revenue and establishments over the past decade," IBISWorld says.

• Decline in revenue last decade: -73.7 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -62.0 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -58.7 percent.

 


Courtesy: Trace Meek/flickr

 

Unplugging Wired Telecommunications Carriers

When the whole world is buzzing about wireless and mobile communications, it's got to be depressing to be the traditional wired communications carriers. Who wants to be pinned down to an actual physical cord anymore when you can use Skype?

But this is one sector where IBISWorld thinks companies may be able to evolve rather than go completely extinct. There won't be too many traditional telephone companies in the future, but that's because the major players will "close their traditional wired services and direct funds to segments with growth potential, like VoIP and broadband internet."

• Decline in revenue last decade: -54.9 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -37.1 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -15.9 percent.

 

By:Jessica Stillman

State sales tax drops to 7.25%

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 1st, 2011
Angela Morgan, right, takes cash from a customer for a sale at the Rocket Fizz store in Camarillo Wednesday. On Friday California sales taxes will drop from 8.25% to 7.25%.

Angela Morgan, right, takes cash from a customer for a sale at the Rocket Fizz store in Camarillo Wednesday. On Friday California sales taxes will drop from 8.25% to 7.25%.

The owner of the Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop in Camarillo only became aware this week that he needed to change his cash registers to drop the state sales tax by 1 percent on Friday.

Ryan Morgan said notices sent to him by the state usually say he owes money, not that he must start collecting less. But he was eager to look into the situation because he expects it will be good for business.

"By them lowering tax rates, it'll help increase sales, absolutely," he said.

Beginning Friday, the basic sales and use tax rate statewide drops to 7.25 percent from 8.25 percent as a temporary increase, passed in April 2009 as part of a state budget agreement, expires.

In addition, a new state law effective Friday requires large out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes on online purchases made by California customers. If a retailer is not subject to the law, the purchaser still may owe use tax — a levy on the use, storage or consumption of personal property in the state, according to the Board of Equalization.

To notify retailers about the reduced sales tax, board spokeswoman Anita Gore said, a notice was posted on its website, the media was alerted, emails were sent to 680,000 retailers and letters went out to the top 1,000 taxpayers.

At the Bunnin Automotive Group in Oxnard, owner Leo Bunnin thinks the cut in sales tax will be a big win for auto dealers. A 1 percent reduction adds up on big-ticket items such as vehicles, he said.

"We are just figuring out now the best way to get the message out to the people," Bunnin said. "The government is so nice to reduce it by 1 percent that maybe we'll give an extra 1 percent to reduce it by 2 percent (on his auto sales). It's on the drawing board but highly likely."

With the change, buyers should check receipts carefully. Gore said it is the buyer's responsibility to bring up inaccurate taxation with retailers. Retailers who over-tax must either refund the money to the consumer or send it to the state.

"They cannot keep it," Gore said.

Be aware, however, that on top of the state's new 7.25 percent rate, some cities tack on their own voter-approved sales taxes.

In Ventura County, only the cities of Oxnard and Port Hueneme have local sales taxes, bringing the rate to 7.75 percent.

Gov. Jerry Brown tried but failed to convince legislators to maintain the higher 8.25 percent rate to help close a budget gap that stood at $26 billion early this year before severe cuts were made. The Board of Equalization estimated the 1 percent increase generated $11 billion for the state since April 2009.

George Runner, a member of the board, supports the drop. "This is great news for overtaxed California consumers and retailers who bear the sixth highest overall tax burden in the nation," he said.

Besides the sales tax, vehicle registration fees return Friday to 0.65 percent of a car's depreciated value, down from 1.15 percent — another temporary tax increase that was not extended.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has not sent out notices about the change, according to spokeswoman Jan Mendoza. Notices will be sent beginning Friday. People who have to register vehicles in July or August will get a 30-day grace period before facing late penalties.

Also, a 0.25 percent personal income tax surcharge in 2009 and 2010 expired Dec. 31.

Brown wanted to ask voters to extend the three temporary tax increases but could not get Republicans to agree to put them on the ballot.

For a listing of California sales and use tax rates by city and county, go to http://boe.ca.gov/cgi-bin/rates.cgi.

- vcstar.com PHOTO BY ROB VARELA 

Seven Networking No-Nos

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
May 23rd, 2011

Large-scale networking events can help you bolster your Rolodex and make connections that can land you a wealth of new contacts, connections and clients.

Coming across as both professional and engaging to those new contacts, however, isn't as simple as it may seem.

"It takes about 200 times the information to undo a first impression than it takes to make one," says Devora Zack, author of "Networking for People Who Hate Networking," and president of Only Connect Consulting, a career consulting firm in Washington, D.C. Landing new clients or investors at an event requires more than just a pulled-together pitch and some original ideas.

It might seem like a lot of pressure, but remembering the things you shouldn't do may help make networking a bit easier. Here are seven of networking's biggest no-no's:

1. Don't arrive late

To make things easier on yourself, time your arrival so you can maximize the interactions you're most interested in having.

"Especially for people who typically shy away from networking, the inclination is to arrive on the later side," says Ms. Zack. "The opposite is a much better strategy. Being the first person there, it's calmer, laid back, and people haven't yet settled into groups. You won't feel like there's no one to talk to."

2. Don't just stand there

This is not the time to wait around for people to approach you. You need to work the room -- even if you're on the shy side. There are ways to step outside your comfort zone and avoid awkwardness.

Start off by asking questions, Ms. Zack suggests. And don't worry about impressing the person you're speaking with -- just act naturally.

"Many people think they're bad at networking," she says. The key is to work with, rather than fight against, your natural communication style. That way, "what were liabilities become your greatest strengths," she says.

3. Don't feel like you need to talk to everyone

As a budding business owner or executive, you might enter a networking event with a "more the merrier" mentality when it comes to making new connections. However, it might be advantageous to take a "less is more" stance instead.

"It's better to meet fewer people and create a deeper, lasting connection than simply talking to everyone in the room," Ms. Zack says.

Instead of going to a networking event and grabbing 40 business cards in two hours, speak with fewer people for a longer period of time. Give each person you talk to at least five minutes to get to know you -- and you them -- before you move on, she advises.

This way, you'll leave networking events energized by new, true connections rather than tuckered out from meeting too many people.

4. Don't come unprepared

Once a new contact tells you what they're specifically looking for in terms of products or services, you need to be ready to tell them how your specific experience lines up with their needs.

Your goal isn't to hard-sell them right then and there -- instead, it should be to get them interested in you and what you have to offer. To do that, you need to be prepared with an understanding of what everyone from an investor to a potential client will need, and be armed with the most relevant, useful information to show that you have a solution that works for them.

What's "useful," you ask? Results. "Don't stand there and tell them what you do, tell them what results you get," says business coach Craig Jennings in New York. "Have examples of a situation, a problem and a solution that you can say in two breaths." Also, keep in mind that what an investor might find useful is likely different than what a customer wants to hear -- so having a mental catalog of a wealth of your previous experiences will help you fill all kinds of niches.

5. Don't forget the big picture

The bottom line is that, once you leave a networking event, you want the contacts and connections you've made to follow up with you and your services in the future.

"You should know your production and delivery capabilities, and be able to set a realistic expectation for potential customers," says Frank Dadah, general manager of financial contracts with Winter Wyman, a Boston staffing firm. You're trying to maintain the image of your company, and if you're not prepared to answer detailed questions that cover the ins and outs of what you have to offer, or if you can't offer it to them in a timely manner, they'll move on -- fast -- to someone who can.

6. Don't try to multitask

Within the first few minutes of meeting someone new, you probably don't whip out a notebook to write down what they're saying -- and that should be a rule for networking events, as well. Instead of being distracted by a pen and paper, focus intently on the conversation you're having. After you've grabbed a business card and stepped away, jot down a few things that will help you jog your memory when you follow up with them later.

7. Don't forget to follow up

"If you're not following up, you're not networking," says Ms. Zack. "You should stay in touch, without thinking about what you'll get out of the relationship."

Within 48 hours of your first meeting, you should email a note that pinpoints the most important parts of your earlier conversation, so your contact remembers who you are specifically. A timely turnaround will show that you're both interested and available to continue the conversation.

"Send them a link to a project you discussed, or ask them how the game they were going to that night ended up," advises Ms. Zack. "Give them something that is useful to them."

By:Kelly Eggers

Don't Overlook Customer Service Basics

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
May 16th, 2011

The liberal return policies and fast shipping that define Internet marketplaces have made customer service offered by many retailers better than ever, whether they operate brick-and-mortar storefronts or online sites, says Micah Solomon, co-author of Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit. The problem, he argues, is that most individuals don't feel better about the service they receive—because of rising expectations, and because many smaller businesses don't do a good job keeping up with their larger counterparts. Solomon's tips for small business owners seeking to improve customer service:

1. Emphasize hellos and goodbyes. Ever wonder why hotels and resorts pay so much attention to the customer entrance experience? Solomon says it's because psychological studies show that people retain the strongest impressions of first and last encounters. "The ones in the middle are kind of a blur," he says.

Pay attention to where your first interaction with customers actually starts: It may be in your parking lot, on your website, or outside your front door. Wherever it is, make sure you "shine the doorknobs," Solomon says. "There's a superstore near me where people have to walk past all this trash and garbage to get inside. It looks like the store owners never stepped outside their front doors."

Avoid similar circumstances by being your own customer for a day. Park where your customers park, walk past what they see coming into your store. Search for your website and review all the links that turn up. "If Google Maps has your hours or phone number wrong, people will be mad at you before they ever get to your place," Solomon says. Make sure every page of your website includes a welcome message that orients customers to your home page and contact information.

2. Train greeters. Have a friendly employee stationed near your door who has a great smile and is not overly aggressive. "You want someone who can figure out what the customer needs but doesn't give off the feeling they're checking for shoplifters," Solomon says. "I was in a music store recently where I felt like a criminal. I made a $10 purchase and then on the way out they demanded to see my receipt. If your greeter is doing double-duty, at least have them be subtle about it."

3. Speed order fulfillment. The length of time customers expect to wait for orders has changed dramatically. "It's not even that you and I expect it faster than our parents did; we expect it faster than we did last year," Solomon says.

If you're a small retailer, think hard about the inventory you stock and what's available through your website. "Customers will not special order from your store anymore. They'll go online and buy it at your competitor, unless it's something very, very special they can't find elsewhere," Solomon says.

4. Hire selectively. It's nearly impossible to teach employees to have a genuine smile or a natural affinity for people. That's why you must hire optimistic, warm, and conscientious people, Solomon says. This is particularly true for those who will interact with customers in person, on the telephone, or online.

Once you have the right people on staff, give them the autonomy to make things right for your customers, no matter what the circumstances.

5. Get the language right. Even a nice person can unwittingly use words that make customers uncomfortable or insult them. "An employee may want to tell a customer, 'You owe $100.' But it's better to say, 'Our records seem to show you have a $100 balance,'" says Solomon. "That gives everyone a chance to save face,."

Don't be afraid to write some simple scripts for your employees—and make sure you model the language you want them to use. For instance, "May I take your plate?" is better wording for a waiter than "Are you still working on that?" A clerk should say, "You're welcome" or "my pleasure" rather than, "no problem," Solomon explains.

6. Develop a system to make each customer feel that employees care. An area where small businesses can shine is in relationships. Encourage employees to get to know regular customers and greet them personally, if possible. "The problem is," he says, "when a company gets even a couple branches bigger, [it loses] that personal touch."

Employ technology to assist you and your employees in remembering details about your customers, their preferences, and their typical purchases. "When a customer gets that feeling that he is remembered when he comes back, that's the best," says Solomon.

 

By: Karen Klein

5 Fatal Mistakes That Hold Back Start-up Business Owners

by Ventura County Now

May 9th, 2011

The definition of a sale is when preparation and opportunity meet on the same day. In business, it helps to understand that customers are working to minimize risk when they enter into contracts with small businesses.  Some small business owners often loose opportunities because of bad habits and not recognizing that certain things must be in place before they start marketing their products and services.  These issues speak directly to trust and credibility for a business owner.

Here are the top five mistakes that hold back start-up entrepreneurs:

1) Not Appreciating Social Intelligence

This is the mistake that small business owners make the most.  Having proper social skills and being in tune with your surroundings will take you a long way in business.

Here are some examples of poor social intelligence:

  • Do you have a tendency to talk too much at networking events, or worse, share too much personal information? No one except the banquet manager cares about how hard it was to find a parking space. Keep your networking chat smart.
  • Are you dressed like someone that has an executive presence? Or, like you should be serving the meal at the event. Everyone should have signature colors and at least three killer outfits. Men, the tie color and the shoes are very important.
  • Do you have a strong elevator pitch or do people need to ask you questions to help you define what you do? Great elevator pitches hit on three key things: explain the type of business, explain the target customer and close with a question.
  • Do you appropriately follow-up new leads and contacts or are you a stalker?  Be smart with follow-up. You can send an email, personal note and make a phone call within three months of meeting a contact unless instructed otherwise. Calling every week will not bring opportunity to your business.

2) Have a Professional Business Website

It’s surprising to me how many business owners still do not have a website.  I can’t remember the last time I used a paper directory or phone book to find a vendor. Many people will perform an internet search before they ever call you, so if your customers can’t find you online, you are missing out on opportunities. Nowadays, pulling together a business website is much easier.  Have an idea of what you want, and if you plan on incorporating a blog I strongly suggest you start writing blog posts at least three months prior to the launch of your website, so that you do not get backed-up trying to develop content once your business starts rolling.

 

3) Make Sure Your Email Address is Branded With Your Company Name and That the Email Address Works

I love my gmail account too, but that’s not the one I use for customer contact. Your emails should come from a branded account that promotes your business.

4) Not Investing in Your Brand

Yes, all of you out there using business cards that you can get for free online are really hurting your business brand.  Invest in a professional logo and a two color business card. Do not hand out business cards that have it printed on the back that they were free.  That tells a prospective customer that you are not serious about your business.

5) Have a Real Phone Number for Your Business

Your small business should have a dedicated phone line with voicemail.  Do not use your cell phone as your main business line.  You’ll never to do business with a major corporation with that as your brand image.  Also, please do not use those answering machines that come with the phone. No matter what you do, the message will never sound professional.

 

By Melinda Emerson