How To Start A New Business

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by Amanda Bowman of crowdspring

It’s not easy to start a new business. About two-thirds of businesses with employees survive 2 years and only about half survive five years.

Businesses that survive and thrive have an unfair advantage. They’re started and run by people who are prepared for what’s ahead of them.

If you want an unfair advantage, we’re here to share 4 of the 12 steps you’ll need to know to get started. And if you like what you read here, be sure to read the complete 12 step guide on how to start a business.

Develop and refine your idea.

You probably already have some idea of what kind of business you’d like to start. But does your idea fit your strengths, weaknesses, and interests?

Think about how you can integrate your natural skillset into your business so that you can stand apart from your competition. Ask yourself:

  • What skills set me apart?
  • What is the purpose of my business?
  • Who am I providing a service or product to?
  • What is the maximum figure I can safely spend on this business?
  • Do I need outside capital? How much?
  • What kind of work/life balance am I looking to achieve?
  • What are my expectations of being an entrepreneur?

You’ll also want to consider what specific niche is right for your business.

You’re more likely to succeed if you start your business with a specific product or service designed for a particular group of people.

Here are some niches to consider:

  • Restaurants – Narrow your focus with specific patrons in mind.
  • Clothing brand – If you’re interested in the apparel industry, here’s a terrific guide on how to start a clothing brand.
  • Real Estate – Are you a brokerage catering to retirees? Are you selling vacation homes? Are you an expert in short sales?
  • Retail – Are you selling novelty toys? Rare automobiles? All natural candles? Vintage candy?
  • Legal – With so many areas of law to practice, it’s helpful to position yourself as an expert in a specific field.
  • Landscaping – Are you more of a mow and go company, or are you catering toward elaborate garden design? Maybe you work extensively with patio building. Pick an area and play it up.
  • Consulting – Do you have a ton of expertise in an area and want to help others? Here’s a terrific guide on how to start a successful consulting business.

Whatever niche you choose, make sure you’re passionate about it. That passion will come through in everything you do, and your customers will appreciate and embrace the authenticity of your brand.

Write a business plan.

A business plan can help you to crystallize your ideas. It outlines the financial and operational goals of your business. It defines the objectives of your company and then provides specific information that shows how your company will reach those goals.

Your business plan doesn’t need to be 100 pages long. Keep it short and concise and focus on the key details.

Studies show that entrepreneurs who take the time to write a business plan are 2.5 times more likely to follow through and get their business off the ground.

But don’t get obsessed about getting every detail right in your business plan. Barry Moltz, a small business expert, speaker, and author, tells us that:

The business never turns out exactly as it seems when you get started. There are always unexpected hurdles. The biggest ones are typically a sales pipeline, people, cash and productivity.

For more information about how to create a business plan, the Small Business Administration has you covered.

Create a strong brand identity.

A strong brand identity is the most effective way your new business can gain a competitive edge in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Ask yourself these important questions:

  • What identity/personality do I want my business brand to project?
  • Who will want or need my products or services?
  • What can customers get from my products or services that they can’t get anywhere else?
  • What can customers get from working with me that they can’t get anywhere else?
  • What are my brand values?
  • What is the most important part of my customers’ experience?

Your answers to these questions (and others like them) will build the core of your brand. All of your future branding decisions should expand on these ideas. Your company name, your company logo, and your website design should all grow from the concepts you laid out here.

Build your team.

For your business to scale and grow, you’ll need help.

At first, you should only hire for positions that provide the most immediate benefit to your business.

There’s no one right answer for what those positions might be – every business is different. As you plan what positions to hire, consider what aspects of the company pose the greatest challenge. It’s also crucial to consider your own limitations.

You may want your first hire to be a part-time assistant. Look for someone who is a jack-of-all-trades, eager to learn new skills, with a strong work ethic. You’ll sleep better if you have someone in the trenches with you that you can rely on.

If you’re new to marketing, a marketer can help you strategize your business.

If you’re not confident with the manufacturing process, hire a manufacturing liaison.

If you’re finding it a challenge to keep up with orders, a fulfillment manager might be just what you need.

If you need help with employment or contractor agreements or agreements with your vendors, take a look at Quickly Legal, which offers entrepreneurs, small businesses and startups an easy and inexpensive way to create, sign and manage legal contracts and agreements, with many agreements that you can start using right away.

Conclusion.

There’s a lot to think about when you’re starting your own small business. These steps will give you an unfair advantage and will help get you started on the road to owning a successful business of your own.

 

Amanda Bowman works in customer service at crowdspringone of the world’s leading marketplaces for crowdsourced logo design, web design, graphic design, product design, and company naming services. Amanda helps guide crowdspring customers through the easy process of obtaining affordable, high-quality custom artwork and content for their business.

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Employment Gaps Raise Red Flags, But They Can Be Overcome

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by Steven Starks, Senior Career Counselor at University of Phoenix

Throughout the course of a career, working professionals may experience brief or extended gaps of unemployment between positions. While hiring managers understand that these gaps can be caused by a variety of reasons – such as illness, family situations, travel or the inability to find a new job – they can be viewed as red flags. It may be inferred that applicants do not possess the proper work experience or that they were unable to maintain consistency in their careers.

As a senior career counselor at University of Phoenix, students and alumni often ask me how to deal with employment gaps on their résumés when going through the application process. There are ways to work around unemployment periods that still prove to hiring managers that you were focused on your career growth, even when unemployed. I often share two key components of overcoming employment gaps that may help effectively explain these situations: filling the gap and explaining it during an interview.

If you have unemployment gaps on your résumé or are anticipating a future gap, the first plan of action is to fill them with experience-generating activities that will further your career. One thing to consider when looking for an activity to fill a gap on your résumé is to pick something that will align with your past education and professional experience and also speak to the future trajectory of your career. At the same time, you do not want to get involved in something that will take up so much time that will leave you unable to effectively search for a long-term position.

There are a number of activities to consider. The most important of which, I believe, is education. You should never stop learning and gaps provide an opportunity to return to school or learn something new. Volunteering can also serve as a viable filler. There are countless worthwhile organizations that are in need of volunteers for professional functions.

Freelance consulting is another option if you have a skill set that can be applied on a freelance basis. Even if you only have one client and work part-time, it should be enough to fill a gap. As an added benefit, freelance consulting usually offers the flexibility you need to go on interviews and attend networking meetings.

Consider also reaching out to temporary agencies for work. It is often best if you can secure this type of position with an employer that you would consider as a long-term career option. If you are successful, it will give you the inside track on what departments to pursue, how to apply and which individuals you need to speak with to make long-term employment a possibility.

If you happen to be out of a job for just a few months, you might eliminate months from the résumé altogether and instead include just your years of employment in various positions. Obviously, this will work more effectively if you were employed for a full year or more. This strategy will detract attention from any time gap because it will not be as evident on your résumé.  However, if you are required to fill out an online application with a chronological history of your previous employers, you would want to include the months on the application, as in many cases those are mandatory fields.

While filling unemployment gaps displays your dedication to sharpening your skills and gaining necessary experience, hiring managers will still often ask you to explain why gaps occurred in the first place. During the interview process, job seekers must come prepared to explain the employment history on their résumés. If you left the workforce to raise children, care for a family member, engage in self-care activities or pursue additional education, you should not be afraid to share this. However, it is essential to inform the employer that the situation was resolved and to emphasize (with enthusiasm) that you are ready to get back to work.

Explaining unemployment gaps can be more difficult when it was the result of a layoff or termination. If you were laid off or fired, honesty is essential, despite the temptation to stretch the truth. If a layoff occurred because a company closed or a position was eliminated, most interviewing managers will understand that reality. However, if you were terminated, honesty is still the best policy, but you want to avoid speaking poorly of your previous organization or volunteering too much information. You can keep it simple by stating, “It was not a good fit” and sharing what you personally learned and could have done better. This will allow you to demonstrate your commitment to being the best employee you can be.

After you have dealt with the reasons for leaving your last job, bring the conversation around to what you have been doing in the interim. Whether it is continuing your education, volunteer work, unpaid work, freelance work, or internships, each opportunity can be spun into a great story about the forward progression of your career. Furthermore, these types of career experiences can be included in the “Professional Experience” section of your résumé. Remember that these experiences “count”, even if they were unpaid.

Above all else, remember that unemployment gaps can be essential to a happy, healthy career and can, at times, lead to better opportunities. Often times, these are necessities – like raising a child or taking a mental health break – or are aspects of your career journey, like returning to school to learn a new skill. Regardless of why an unemployment gap occurred, the important part is to be prepared to make the most of it by using the time to improve your life and career.

 

Steven Starks is a Senior Career Counselor at University of Phoenix. He has been with the University for 11 years, also serving as a career coach for five years and a senior academic counselor. Starks is a National Certified Counselor and a featured career coach with TheMuse.com. Previously, he worked in the mental health industry providing individual and group therapy for clients struggling with severe mental illness, abuse, and trauma.

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[Infographic] Reinventing The Internet With Blockchain

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The real mission of the blockchain revolution, for many experts, is to re-decentralize the internet. Believe it or not, the internet was decentralized at one time. To launch a website then, you had to buy a server and host your website on your own. This means that for each website, there may have been a separate server. Fast forward to current day, we now use centralized hosting services to host our websites, and other services from large corporations such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others which are essentially huge servers, centralizing the web.

Blockchain technology presents a new way to completely separate from the internet as we know it, and start over.

Internet vs Blockchain: A Simple Comparison.

The traditional internet is built on open-source protocols, such as TCP/IP, HTTP, or SMTP. SMTP, for example, stands for “Simple Mail Transfer Protocol”. In the past, sending an email was very difficult because you had to be quite technical to interact with SMTP. Now, we use Gmail, Outlook, or other services to send an email. These services are very convenient for our daily life, but they have grown so large that they effectively centralized the internet, which has negative side effects we all know.

Analogous to these HTTP or SMTP layers are the blockchains themselves. Blockchains are the open-source data layer protocols that will act as the basis for the new, decentralized web. Furthermore, instead of developers hosting code on a centralized server which interacts with the web, developers will now host their backend code on smart contracts, which interacts with the blockchains. In the coming years, new frameworks and user interfaces will be created just like the modern day web where users only need to interact with simple-to-use applications.

The Truth About Blockchain

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21 Expert Tips to Take Your Business to the Next Level

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It’s not unusual for business owners to feel stuck at times. Sales are leveling off, it’s gotten hard to find employees to staff up, or you just feel like you’re in a rut. When this happens, you may need a new set of eyes to help you find ways to reenergize and grow your business.

Your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is a great place to turn, as it offers free consulting, along with training that is often free or low-cost. SBDCs work with a variety of small business owners and will see opportunity where you see obstacles.

Here, 21 SBDC experts share strategies for any business looking to grow:

1. Reach customers in more ways than one

If you are a retailer with no online presence, consider setting up a web store as another way to capture sales. Once you have captured enough customer emails, consider an email campaign to keep your message in front of your customer base. And don’t forget about social media.

If you’re an online-only business, consider a direct mail campaign, including a catalog featuring your best sellers for prospecting to new potential buyers. After testing a multichannel approach, you will be able to determine how to best spend your marketing dollars based on which channels were most effective in reaching your sales goals.
—George Fotis, Business Consultant, Michigan SBDCWest Michigan Region, Grand Valley State University

2. Find employees eager for a second chance

Often, we hear that businesses want to go to the next level, but can’t for lack of workforce. Explore opportunities such as “justice involved” individuals, who often have received some training and/or certification while they were incarcerated. They expect entry-level positions, are eager to work, and may have extra motivation to “show up and deliver,” due to reporting to probation/parole officers. For businesses, there may be extra incentives for hiring these individuals, such as tax credits, and there are assistance programs to further develop these new workers.
Kelly Asbury, Director, SFCC Small Business & Technology Development Center

3. Use a 60/20/20 approach to time management

Instead of spending 100% of your time knocking out tasks via the “Whack-a-Mole” method, I suggest a strategic approach to time management. First, use 60% of your time to proactively focus on tasks that truly add value to your business or cannot be done by others. The other 40% of your time should be divided into two categories: 20% on planning and 20% on strategizing. Planning is dedicating time to resources and schedules for the operation of the business; strategizing is time evaluating how you can improve your business performance, your customer experience, or your profit model.
Shawn Lynam, Business Advisor, South San Diego SBDC

4. Dig deep into your numbers

As an established business, you should be using accounting software. Once you understand the basics, what else can you measure? Understand your inventory turns and dive into your cash flow. Now is the time to start to measure your business and use metrics to take your business to the next level.
Kayla Rossiter, Business Development Specialist, South Central Minnesota SBDC

5. Build and leverage strong cybersecurity

Businesses need to prepare and strengthen their cyber infrastructure, not simply to be ready for the next threat, but more importantly, to position their companies to take advantage of the opportunities provided by a strong information security posture. The overwhelming cascade of messages communicated to small business owners emphasizes the ongoing threat that malicious software and cybercriminal elements pose to the security of their digital information.

Businesses need to challenge themselves now to harden their business’s information security infrastructure, positioning and strengthening their business to be ready for the requirements expected from larger corporate and government entities. Consider information security not so much a protection against a threat, but as an investment to grow in a digital economy.
Mark Lupo, Business Education/Resilience Specialist, University of Georgia SBDC

6. Make strategic acquisitions

As a business, you grow by controlling cost and maximizing profits. As you acquire small businesses that are ancillary services, you not only control the cost of your primary business, but you gain the clients and customers of those ancillary businesses—not to mention the introduction into new areas of business or industries not originally served by you, through a partner they already have grown to trust.
—Donald C. Robertson Sr., PTAC Counselor, Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, St. Louis County office

7. Create a business toolbox

Every company should have a business toolbox. Your business toolbox should include:

  • A business plan to keep you on track on business progress to avoid setbacks.
  • A marketing plan that will give your company a presence on the marketplace and build a loyal client base.
  • An employee manual to maintain an informed workforce, outlining rules and regulations and assuring your business is in compliance with labor laws.
  • An accounting software that can produce current financial reports at the touch of a button, to keep track of all business activity.
  • Computers, computers networks, and an IT infrastructure.

—Julio Estremera, Business Consultant, Florida SBDC at Florida Gulf Coast University 

8. Stop using social media the wrong way

Businesses need to stop the bad habit of constantly selling on social media. Marketing and sales are two different things and a sales-only strategy on social media might as well be a fail-only strategy. Create and document content that provides value to your audience and builds a relationship with them. This could be industry insights, tips and tricks, or even entertaining behind-the-scenes videos.

Giving more than you take is the basis of all relationships. Give away your knowledge, your industry trends, your insights. That way when it comes time for a potential customer to make a purchase, they can turn to a brand they both know and trust: YOU.
Wes Otto, Business Advisor, South Central Minnesota SBDC/CEO & Co-founder, Otto Media Group

9. Leverage Google

Google My Business pages are an amazing and free tool for local small businesses. Claim your free Google My Business page, then:

  • Complete it (especially the business description).
  • Master the dashboard.
  • Post regularly.
  • Respond to all reviews . . . especially the bad ones.
  • Keep the page current and up-to-date.

—Brian DuBoff, Center Director, Santa Fe SBDC

10. Attract the next generation of workers

Many businesses are not adequately prepared for hiring today’s younger workforce. You need to plan ahead and learn about the potential strengths and weaknesses of the age group, then rework your interview questions to best highlight the talent you are looking to hire. It is also important to learn how to speak to workers in a way they understand the importance of their responsibilities, tasks, and place in your organization.
Kim McLerran, Business Advisor, University of Houston Texas Gulf Coast SBDC Network

11. Build in downtime

In farming, Mother Nature gives us some downtime; in other businesses, you need to create your own downtime. This is not vacation or “off” time. This is time away from working in the business to work on the business, to review  data, streamline systems, plan for the next day, week, quarter, yearwhatever timeline makes sense for your business. Carving out even an hour will allow you to strategically plan and have insight into small problems before they become major issues.
Stepheni Norton, Food & Farm Small Business Advisor, South San Diego SBDC

Other Articles From AllBusiness.com:

  • The Complete 35-Step Guide for Entrepreneurs Starting a Business
  • 25 Frequently Asked Questions on Starting a Business
  • 50 Questions Angel Investors Will Ask Entrepreneurs
  • 17 Key Lessons for Entrepreneurs Starting A Business

12. Be a know-it-all

Know your numbers: your gross margin, net profit, credit scores, days cash, etc., so you know where your business is financially at all times. And know your customers: who they are, where they are, and what you need to do to attract and retain them.
Ronda Hawkins, Business Consultant, Arkansas SBTDC at Arkansas Tech University

13. Form an advisory board

Forming an advisory board can be one of the best moves you can make to boost your business performance. An advisory board customized to the challenges and opportunities facing your company is a powerful management tool that can provide access to experts at low or no cost, offer fresh ideas, and help you run your business better. Hand pick a small team to meet with you quarterly to address issues, formulate a strategic plan, and continually assess your progress. Having an advisory board can increase the value of your business, accelerate growth, and provide mentors to keep you focused on achieving your goals.
Jill Kaufman, Assistant Director, Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida

14. Don’t fall into a common tax trap

Don’t make important business decisions by trying to lower your taxable income. Your business purpose should not be to win a game against the government, but instead to make a profit.
Bri Torborg, Business Consultant, Minnesota Central Region SBDC

15. Ask and share

Never hesitate to ask questions from other business owners for fear of looking like you’re not the expert. Truth is, you’re not the expert, you’re the entrepreneur! Be willing to share business knowledge; it’s in the exchange of information that others perceive your confidence in building a business and new partnerships are discovered.
Merly Thomas, Director, Illinois SBDC at ICNC

16. Plan to sell your business

There is no other next level for your business that is greater than succession planning. The silver tsunami of baby boomer business owners (with over 50% of small business assets) means that now more than ever, and over the next decade, a conversion to employee ownership as an ESOP or worker cooperative should be considered.  

Transitioning to employee ownership preserves your legacy by keeping your business operational and providing willing and able buyers who know your business the best. It also keeps your workers employed while providing them assets in ownership equity, and helps keep a community stable from a maintenance of jobs and taxes. Passage of the federal Main Street Employee Ownership Act in August 2018 provides for mandated outreach and technical assistance from SBDC staff to advise for employee-ownership transitions, and for the SBA to expand loan access to employee-owned companies.
Frank Cetera, Advanced Certified Business Advisor, Onondaga SBDC 

17. Develop a strategic plan

Develop short-term goals: quarterly, semi-annual, or annual, and create a plan that will help you reach those goals. Make sure your plan considers the resources you may need: cash, people, equipment, inventory, and additional operating costs, and make sure the end result will be a service or product that customers are looking for. Set the metrics you will use to monitor your progress towards attaining that goal; adjust your plans as needed based on how close or far you are from your goal. If you aren’t meeting your goal, determine why you are not meeting it: Is it lack of resources? Is marketing not working? Are you targeting the right customer segment?
Terri Urbanek, Consultant & Business Outreach Specialist, Wisconsin SBDC at UW-La Crosse

18. Numbers don’t lie

Creating sound systems and processes are essential in finding anomalies in costs and revenues to refine profitability. Point of sale systems, inventory management, and bookkeeping practices, processes, and procedures will help ensure you can find out what’s wrong faster. It’s often easy for business owners who have been in business for a while to rely on qualitative data and therefore neglect quantitative data that is easily found. For example, a retailer may think that a particular product is flying off the shelves, but after looking at the numbers, realize that’s not the case.
Joshua Billington, Senior Business Consultant, Michigan SBDC-Upper Peninsula Region/Michigan Technological University

19. CFIMITYM

The business world loves acronyms: ROI, URL, EIN, SMART, SWOT. But CFIMITYM is the most important one—it stands for “Cash Flow Is More important Than Your Mother.” Lack of cash is one of the biggest reasons small businesses fail. “Inadequate cash reserves,”aka “running out of money,” will shut you down faster than anything else. You can’t pay your bills. You can’t make payroll.

It’s possible for your business to make a profit, but have no cash. Profit is an accounting concept, while cash is the amount of money in the business checking account. You can have assets, like inventory or accounts receivables, but if you can’t collect on what’s owed, you won’t have cash. And if you run out of cash, you’re out of business.
—Cliff Robbins, Senior Business Advisor, Massachusetts SBDC

20. Ignore this cost at your peril

While it’s not a line on the profit and loss statement, it is important for business owners to be intentional about identifying and quantifying opportunity cost in their business. Opportunity cost shows up in number of ways. The most common example is a business owner who spends time on tasks or areas of the business that are not the best use of their time or talent. While they may be saving on the cost of hiring for or outsourcing that work, they are actually costing themselves more by tying up their time, and often doing the job poorly. Another example is businesses that take on clients who aren’t the best fit. This may cause reallocation of resources, which in turn slows growth or dilutes the company brand. Growth will happen faster when opportunity cost is addressed.
—Harriet Parker, Manager, Illinois SBDC at Waubonsee Community College

21. Don’t try to go it alone

Owning your own business can create a lonely world: You make decisions on your own, you might find a few successes that no one else sees, and you worry all by yourself. Build your tribe of advisers, counselors, guides, and good friends who can offer input, join your celebrations, and help you find the light at the end of the long dark tunnels.
—Kevin Lust, Director, Illinois SBDC at Lincoln Land Community College

RELATED: 3 Big Ways the SBA Helps Small Businesses (That You Might Not Know About)

The post 21 Expert Tips to Take Your Business to the Next Level appeared first on AllBusiness.com

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Retailers who invest in the Experience Economy are gathering momentum

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Last week I joined AfterPay talking about the future of retail. 

Here is a startling fact (for anyone over 30), 50 percent of the world’s population is going to be under 30 by 2025, and will make up two thirds of the global workforce. Baby Boomers are passing their wealth onto younger generations (or spending it as fast as they can), and younger consumer spending patterns are changing away from cars, TVs and ‘stuff’ in general. People born after 1980 represents $31 trillion in annual purchasing power.

This group are not just powerful spenders but they are more socially aware, more environmentally conscious and are looking for brands to buy from that reflect this – authentically. Socially conscious native brands are on the rise and businesses that understand the importance of the experience economy, for employees and customers alike, will take centre stage. This is all supported by a growing body of academic research that reveals that materialism – ie spending on physical items – is proportionally on the decline as young people believe there is a negative impact on both personal wellbeing and the planet. (Think of the rise of the Marie Kondo minimalism movement).

At the Big Red Group we have set about putting all this research about the Experience Economy in a whitepaper (to get a copy go here). What we established in the Experience Economy whitepaper is that Australian’s are even more switched on to experiences than the US counterparts  – with 83 searches for experiences per capita in Australia, versus 62 in the US last year.

Young people are beginning to cohabit generationally. In simple terms this means they are not leaving home. As such the basics of food, shelter and the rest of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are being met… so what the research shows is that discretionary money spent on experiences like travel and eating out is on the increase – and is considered to ‘boost’ happiness in a more lasting and meaningful way.

Millennials are less trusting – especially of institutions; and they watch very carefully the way that businesses ‘behave’. The brands that align with their values are authentic and consistent about the customer experience are the ones they are loyal too. (It can take up to 10 brand interactions to create this bond). Loyalty cannot be bought, it is to be earned by consistently delivering on the ‘experience’.

BRG experience economy whitepaper

The sociability of these experiences is important too. Experiences help make social connections and build personal identity, and this reflects on the brands they associate with.

There is no doubt that the good life is better lived by ‘doing things’ rather than by ‘having things’. This is paramount for Millennials foremost, and also for Baby Boomers – both of which are driving the growth of the experience economy.

Millennials are emerging as the largest economic and socially aware group in history, which is perfectly timed as they join the workforce – and experiences at work are as important as the non work life.

The research has been telling us for half a decade that experiences and events is what 78 percent of Millennials choose to spend money on, over buying something material. What this means is that expenditures on experience-related services have grown nearly four times faster than expenditures on goods in only five years.

Retail is becoming all about the experience. Work is becoming all about the experience – it is infiltrating many parts of our economy.  There’s an ever-increasing number of music festivals, foodie events and tastings of all sorts… many of the big brands have opened ‘experience stores’.

This passion for experiences is impacting retailers both online and offline – customer journeys are far more complicated. On average a Millennial will seek 10 pieces of information about a brand before making a purchase. Here is the Digital Customer Journey Whitepaper, and how AI is being used to manage the trillions of data points that all form part of a brand’s digital reputation.

Thanks to Holly Ransom, Nick Molnar and Bryan Raymond for the great conversation. And to Afterpay for hosting the inaugural Afterpay Live for their retailer community.

————-

Naomi Simson, entrepreneur co-founded The Big Red Group in 2017 which includes brands such as RedBalloon, Adrenaline and Redii.com. She has been blogging for a decade at NaomiSimson.com, is a professional speaker, author of Live What You Love & Ready To Soar, and a “Shark” on business reality show Shark Tank Australia.

To Follow Online:

  • Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/naomisimson/
  • Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/naomi.simson
  • LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/naomisimson
  • Twitter: http://twitter.com/NaomiSimson
  • Website: http://naomisimson.com/

 

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Speaking Of Crypto with Shannon Grinnell

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Episode 31 of the Hacker Noon Podcast: An interview Shannon Grinnell, host of Speaking of Crypto Podcast.

Listen to the interview on iTunes, or Google Podcast, or watch on YouTube.

In this episode Trent Lapinski interviews Shannon Grinnell where they discuss blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and Shannon’s background. You can also check out Trent being interviewed by Shannon on her podcast, where they discuss crypto visionaries, tech for Trump, and why Apple bites.

“I thought I would do a podcast on Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies but it ended up being more on blockchain technologies because the people that I met were really focused on building something with this really incredible technology.” — Shannon Grinnell

Speaking Of Crypto with Shannon Grinnell

P.S. If you dig the new Hacker Noon Podcast, consider giving us a 5 star review on iTunes.

Also check out March top stories, the latest stories and today’s homepage.

Production and music by Derek Bernard — haberdasherband.com/production

Host: Trent Lapinski — https://trentlapinski.com


Speaking Of Crypto with Shannon Grinnell was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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AI to Transform The Financial Services: Six Examples

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Artificial Intelligence is not a new kid on the block, but rather an integral part of a growing number of industries. Forward-thinking executive managers and business owners actively explore new AI use in finance and other areas to get a competitive edge on the market.

First used mostly in computer science, AI now has advanced to the most important areas of our life, e.g.:

  • Transportation
  • Education
  • Health care
  • Financial services.

The rise of AI in the financial industry shows how fast it’s gaining traction, even in traditionally conservative areas, and how quickly it’s changing the business landscape. Here are just some of the most popular examples of AI in finance.

1. AI and Credit Decisions

Artificial Intelligence provides a faster, more accurate assessment of a potential borrower, at less cost, and accounts for a wider variety of factors, which leads to a better-informed, data-backed decision. Credit scoring provided by AI is based on more complex and sophisticated rules compared to those used in traditional credit scoring systems. It helps lenders distinguish between high default risk applicants and those who are credit-worthy but lack an extensive credit history.

Objectivity is another benefit of the AI-powered mechanism. Unlike a human being, a machine is not likely to be biased.

Digital banks, loan-issuing apps and online mortgage platforms use machine learning algorithms to use alternative data (e.g., smartphone data) to evaluate loan eligibility and provide personalized options.

Automobile lending companies in the U.S. have reported success with AI for their needs as well. For example, this report shows that bringing AI on board cut losses by 23% annually.

2. AI and Risk Management

It’s difficult to overestimate the impact of AI in financial services when it comes to risk management. Enormous processing power allows vast amounts of data to be handled in a short time, and cognitive computing helps to manage both structured and unstructured data, a task that would take far too much time for a human to do. Algorithms analyze the history of risk cases and identify early signs of potential future issues.

Artificial intelligence in fintech is a powerful ally when it comes to analyzing real-time activities in any given market or environment; the accurate predictions and detailed forecasts it provides are based on multiple variables and vital to business planning.

A US leasing company, Crest Financial, employed artificial intelligence on the Amazon Web Services platform and immediately saw a significant improvement in risk analysis, without the deployment delays associated with traditional data science methods.

3. AI and Fraud Prevention

For a number of years now, artificial intelligence has been very successful in battling financial fraud — and the future is looking brighter every year, as machine learning is catching up with the criminals.

AI is especially effective at preventing credit card fraud, which has been growing exponentially in recent years due to the increase of e-commerce and online transactions. Fraud detection systems analyze clients’ behavior, location, and buying habits and trigger a security mechanism when something seems out of order and contradicts the established spending pattern.

Banks also employ artificial intelligence to reveal and prevent another infamous type of financial crime: money laundering. Machines recognize suspicious activity and help to cut the costs of investigating the alleged money-laundering schemes. One Case study reported a 20% reduction in the investigative workload.

Aggregators like Plaid (which works with financial giants like CITI, Goldman Sachs and American Express) take pride in their fraud-detection capabilities. Its complex algorithms can analyze interactions under different conditions and variables and build multiple unique patterns that are updated in real time. Plaid works as a widget that connects a bank with the client’s app to ensure secure financial transactions.

4. AI and Trading

Data-driven investments have been rising steadily over the last 5 years and closed in on a trillion dollars in 2018. It’s also called algorithmic, quantitative or high-frequency trading.

This kind of trading has been expanding rapidly across the world’s stock markets, and for good reason: artificial intelligence offers multiple significant benefits.

Intelligent Trading Systems monitor both structured (databases, spreadsheets, etc.) and unstructured (social media, news, etc.) data in a fraction of the time it would take for people to process it. And nowhere is the saying “time is money” truer than in trading: faster processing means faster decisions, which in turn mean faster transactions.

Online investment platforms offer more accurate predictions for stock performance due to the fact that algorithms can test trading systems based on past data and bring the validation process to a whole new level before pushing it live.

AI puts together recommendations for the strongest portfolios depending on a specific investor’s short- and long-term goals; multiple financial institutions also trust AI to manage their entire portfolios.

The business news outlet, Bloomberg, recently launched Alpaca Forecast AI Prediction Matrix, a price-forecasting application for investors powered by AI. It combines real-time market data provided by Bloomberg with an advanced learning engine to identify patterns in price movements for high-accuracy market predictions.

5. AI and Personalized Banking

Artificial intelligence truly shines when it comes to exploring new ways to provide additional benefits and comfort to individual users.

In the banking sector, AI powers the smart chatbots that provide clients with comprehensive self-help solutions while reducing the call-centers’ workload. Voice-controlled virtual assistants powered by smart tech like Amazon’s Alexa are also gaining traction fast, which is no surprise: boasting a self-education feature, they get smarter every day, so you should expect tremendous improvements here. Both tools can check balances, schedule payments, look up account activity and more.

A number of apps offer personalized financial advice and help individuals achieve their financial goals. These intelligent systems track income, essential recurring expenses, and spending habits and come up with an optimized plan and financial tips.

The biggest US banks, such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase, have launched mobile banking apps that provide clients with reminders to pay bills, plan their expenses and interact with their bank in an easier and more streamlined way, from getting information to completing transactions.

6. AI and Process Automation

Forward-thinking industry leaders look to robotic process automation when they want to cut operational costs and boost productivity.

Intelligent character recognition makes it possible to automate a variety of mundane, time-consuming tasks that used to take thousands of work hours and inflate payrolls. Artificial intelligence-enabled software verifies data and generates reports according to the given parameters, reviews documents, and extracts information from forms (applications, agreements, etc.).

Employing robotic process automation for high-frequency repetitive tasks eliminates the room for human error and allows a financial institution to refocus workforce efforts on processes that require human involvement. Ernst & Young has reported a 50%-70% cost reduction for these kinds of tasks, and Forbes calls it a “Gateway Drug To Digital Transformation”.

A leading financial firm, JP Morgan Chase, has been successfully leveraging Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for a while now to perform tasks such as extracting data, comply with Know Your Customer regulations, and capture documents. RPA is one of ‘five emerging technologies‘ JP Morgan Chase uses to enhance the cash management process.

What to Expect in The Future From AI in the Financial Industry

Predictions for the soon-to-come AI applications in financial services is a hot topic these days but one thing is for sure: AI is rapidly reshaping the business landscape of the financial industry.

There are high hopes for increased transactional and account security, especially as the adoption of blockchains and cryptocurrency expands. In turn, this might drastically reduce or eliminate transaction fees due to the lack of an intermediary.

All kinds of digital assistants and apps will continue to perfect themselves thanks to cognitive computing. This will make managing personal finances exponentially easier, since the smart machines will be able to plan and execute short- and long-term tasks, from paying bills to preparing tax filings.

We can also expect to see better customer care that uses sophisticated self-help VR systems, as natural-language processing advances and learns more from the expanding data pool of past experience.

A new level of transparency will stem from more comprehensive and accurate know-your-client reporting and more thorough due-diligence checks, which now would be taking too many human work hours.

Conclusion

As we can see, the benefits of AI in financial services are multiple and hard to ignore. According to Forbes, 65% of senior financial management expects positive changes from the use of AI in financial services.

This said, as of late 2018, only a third of companies have taken steps to implement artificial intelligence into their company processes. Many still err on the side of caution, fearing the time and expense such an undertaking will require — , and there will be challenges to implementing AI in financial services.

However, one can’t shy away forever from technological progress and not facing it now may cost more in the long run.


AI to Transform The Financial Services: Six Examples was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Top 8 Emerging Trends That Define the Future of Mobile Applications

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8 Emerging Trends Defining the Future of Mobile Applications

Smartphones: devices with the ability to provide us with updates across the globe, right to the palm of our hands.

All this would not be possible without mobile applications. According to a recent report, there are more than 2 million Mobile Applications available on the app store and Play Store.

Both IT organizations and government have understood the need for Mobile Applications, investing their time and money to develop apps to satisfy the needs of the users by hiring professional Android and iPhone Mobile App Development Companies in Gurgaon, India, US, UK or anywhere in the world.

Mobile App Development Company in India

Pretty much everything that we do through Smartphone we can do through a Mobile Application. Earlier every company had a dedicated website, but now much of that communication is done via a Mobile Application. Mobile Application Development has become the default way to get things done these days but in future, will app remain a true way to do anything and everything? I doubt it!

Mobile applications are quite good and make our life simple, at the same time too many apps make our life a bit of a hassle too. A consumer has to keep installing new apps to get the advantage of its features and the developers have to keep designing it. Though there’s no denying that, Mobile Applications are definitely a power-packed interface between consumer and the provider, however, the future Mobile Applications may be replaced by AI-Super Applications or Chatbots or Virtual Assistants.

This is a futuristic initiative as the world may soon move from having the data stored in a file cabinet to having the data in the cloud. This situation compels Top Android and iPhone Application Development Companies to hire the best skilled Mobile App Developers.

Let’s look at few Mobile Applications which use promising technologies targeting the future.

1. Shopping and mWallet

Visiting different shops to buy things and the need to carry our wallet to shop for things is no longer mandatory! Thanks to the Digital wallets (mWallet) like Amazon Pay, PhonePe, PayTM etc, we can shop from wherever we’re and whatever we need right from our mobile phones. E-commerce Market has grown rapidly over the last few years and it is expected to grow even bigger in the future. Mobile applications like Amazon and Flipkart are among the leading e-commerce giants today who bring in the shopping experience and mWallet feature right to our mobile devices. Amazon uses an inbuilt m-wallet called Amazon Pay and Flipkart uses PhonePe.

2. Internet of Things (IoT)

Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the the relationship between various computing devices in daily-use tech, enabling them to talk to each other. For example: your Smart TV, Fridge, and AC, etc., can be controlled and managed as a single infrastructure by you, the authorized user.

3. Home/Office Automation

Home and Office automation are installing smart devices that convert your home or office space to a smart environment. With this setup, your daily tasks such as opening the door for your visitors or controlling the brightness of lights in your home etc can be controlled by a simple click of a button from your phone. With this automation, you work at home or office is simplified.

4. Identity (BHIM, UPI)

Before the launch of Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM), users had to wait for 2 to 4 hrs or the next business day to send or receive the payments to their bank account. Now with the launch of BHIM, users can send or receive money from bank accounts almost instantly from their mobiles. The App uses Unified Payments Interface (UPI) developed by the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI).

5. mAadhaar

Since Aadhaar Card is the most widely accepted identity proof in India, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) developed a mobile application called “mAadhaar” which allows the users to carry their demographic information on their smartphones. “mAadhaar” replaces the need to carry physical identification proof and it is hassle-free to use.

6. MLicense

MLicense is a virtual driving license we create through an app called “mParivahan”. The major feature of this app is that it provides the ability for a user to report any road offense or accidents and also provides the ability to create their virtual driving license which they could use instead of carrying their physical drivers’ license.

7. Car Papers

Car Papers are the digital copies of four wheeler insurance, RC book, and vehicle papers. These digital copies will be treated as legal documents and accepted by all government agencies as genuine. We no longer need to carry physical papers.

8. Networking

Mobile applications’ performance purely depends on the performance of their networks. Two people using the same app may have a different experience depending on where they are. To get a better understanding of this, let’s consider 4G network coverage in India, where the range of network speeds vary among different areas. So every App must be developed for a Range of Network Environments, the result is that developers can focus on delivering amazing experiences, knowing that their app will work properly in real time.

Wrapping up

Mobile Applications rely on the constant, real-time exchange of information between servers and users in different geographical locations, and networks power this communication. From a quality of life perspective, technology continues to offer us, more, better, faster environment.

About Author

Lisa Watson is a blogger who is working with a leading Android and iPhone Mobile Application Development Company in Gurgaon, Delhi NCR, India. If you have anything specific in mind, you can contact for all your Mobile App Development projects.


Top 8 Emerging Trends That Define the Future of Mobile Applications was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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SXSW may be over, but now is the time to start prepping for next year.

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What People Are Talking About at SXSW 2019

6 podcast episodes recorded at SXSW this year.

SXSW may be over, but now is the time to start prepping for next year. If this was your first year it may have seemed overwhelming, and even if you have been many times before going without a plan can mean lots of missed opportunities. Don’t worry, the Next Action Podcast has plenty of tips and tricks to help you maximize your time next year at SXSW.

SXSW Veteran: from Musician to VC: Brian Penick

LinkedIn profile of Brian Penick, used with permission

SXSW 2019 marked Brian Penick’s 12th year visiting — but it was the Music side of SXSW in which he got his start. As a musician turned VC, Penick has amassed over a decade’s worth of tips and tricks to not just survive, but thrive during SXSW. We discuss time management, tactical tips, and of course, the best places to eat.

SXSW: Press and What’s New in Tech: Jeffrey Powers

Jeff Powers Twitter bio pic — used with permission

This chat features Jeff Powers, owner of Geekazine and Geekazine Live. Coming from the perspective of the press and what stands out to the journalists of SXSW, we get interesting insights from Powers as he recalls the five previous years he’s attended. From the best kept secrets in lounges to the best places to capture video content, this discussion helps us understand the media perspective of SXSW.

SXSW: How Emotional Intelligence Wins the Day: Wesley Faulkner

Wesley Faulkner LinkedIn bio — used with permission

From the tradeshow floor all the way to exclusive after parties, sometimes the brands at SXSW can begin to overshadow the individuals. At an event like SXSW where networking is so important, maintaining personal authenticity is key. Wesley Faulkner addresses this by emphasizing the value of sincerity and genuine excitement in networking.

SXSW: Crypto and Social Impact: Cleve Mesidor

Cleve Mesidor — used with permission

This was the first year for a Crypto and Blockchain track at SXSW, where guest Cleve Mesidor was be one of the speakers. She joins me for a chat about the social impacts of crypto and blockchain, as well as what to look for in this space at SXSW.

SXSW: Spotting the Right Speakers and Sparking Outlasting Energy: Lynae Cook

Lynae Cook — used with permission

Amidst the rush of SXSW, your time spent there is valuable down to the very minute. Lynae Cook joins me to discuss the art of time management and building the schedule that works for you. She shares her insights on how to expertly choose events to attend, how to prioritize speakers, and when it’s ok to walk out on one.

SXSW: How to Maximize Your Knowledge Through Planning: Angelique LaRue

Angelique LaRue Twitter profile pic — used with permission

Angelique LaRue is a SXSW planning guru and schedule hacker. She successfully operates one of the most helpful SXSW planning groups with over 2000 people. In our podcast, LaRue details the importance of having a solid game plan behind you and how it can help ensure you’re at the right events, you’re meeting the right people, and you’re spending your valuable time wisely.

If you’d like to hear more from the Next Action Podcast — subscribe here


SXSW may be over, but now is the time to start prepping for next year. was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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How the Blockchain Could Help Those Struggling With Addiction

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Image courtesy: Pexels

Drug addiction is a huge problem in the United States. From alcoholism to nicotine dependence to addiction to more serious drugs like opioids, the health implications and human/financial costs are significant. According to Regis College, deaths related to heroin overdoses increased dramatically from 2010 to 2016. By 2016, synthetic opioids took center stage in overdose deaths, with heroin trailing. The opioid crisis has reached the point where now opiate overdoses are the number one cause of death in individuals under the age of 50.

The healthcare costs of Illicit drugs alone exceed $11 billion annually, and overall costs including incarceration, crime, lost work, and productivity are $249 billion. Drug use is not just found in poor neighborhoods or among the homeless, but many middle class and wealthy Americans suffer too. Often these addictions are a result of over-prescribed narcotics or misuse of prescriptions following trauma.

The search for answers has been going on for years. From 12-step programs and addiction support groups to drugs used to ease the side effects of addiction or offer tapered dosing, many options are available. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but the solutions that are out there have some things in common:

  • Access Restrictions
  • Random Testing
  • Peer-to-Peer Accountability
  • Lifetime Support

Thanks to new advances in technology, there are new ways to implement these solutions. While there have been experiments with apps and virtual/augmented reality, one game changer is the blockchain. Thanks to new developments, the software originally designed for cryptocurrency is able to help those struggling with addiction.

To review, or for those who don’t understand it, the blockchain is essentially a shared ledger stored on the computers of all parties involved in a transaction. Once a block is created, it cannot be modified or tampered with, and the system is both transparent and secure.

Image courtesy: Pixabay

Access Restrictions

If you know a recovering alcoholic, they typically do not have booze in the house, and may even request that you put yours away or lock it up when they come to visit. Still, access is hard to restrict entirely, and a lot of willpower is involved because alcohol is legal.

When dealing with illicit drugs and opioids specifically, it’s a different story. Many pharmacies now do not stock the pills or lock them up if they do. Where can blockchain help? By helping to secure the pharmaceutical supply chain. There are several factors involved in this, and blockchain can help with all of them:

  • Prescription Abuse: The current prescription system is flawed, and while e-scripts are on the rise, it is still possible to forge prescriptions fairly easily. Using a blockchain prescription system, this can be nearly eliminated.
  • Production and Distribution: There is increasing pressure for companies to simply ensure that no one gets their hands on these drugs other than those who should have them, and there are gaps in the production and distribution part of the supply chain. New programs like BlockMedx has been working on an end-to-end supply system using the Ethereum platform and crypto tokens to validate transactions.
  • The Supply Process: Programs by Pfizer and Genentech have teamed up for the MediLedger project, an effort to use the blockchain to provide tamper-proof records of the drugs moving through the supply process, preventing counterfeit drugs from making their way into the system or for fraudulent theft.

Because of its immutable record keeping, the blockchain systems can also be used to alert doctors and pharmacists if something just does not look or feel right, and prescriptions can be easily revoked.

The principle is to keep opioids and other narcotics in the hands of those who legitimately need them and have legal prescriptions for them, and no one else. It is still important for individuals to safeguard these medications at home, but the process will make limiting illicit access easier.

Image courtesy: Pixabay

Random Testing

While the cat’s away, the mice will play. Often if no one is watching or checking on them, an addict will have a relapse. However, random testing, unless required by an employer or rehab, only works for a limited amount of time.

Enter the new app Hayver and the cryptocurrency Duitcoin, issued on the Ethereum platform. The app actually does a variety of things, but one of the most important is that it rewards users with cryptocurrency they can use to make purchases on the Hayver app. Users are selected at random to submit a urine sample using a home test kit. They must show the results to another person in their circle of support who then verified and records the results. Once the test is verified, the individual receives coin credits.

Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer John M. Copenhaver M.D. told CoinJournal the idea came from his own struggle with addiction: “I had retired my medical license years earlier so I was no longer in a physician’s monitoring program, meaning that I was no longer subject to random drug and alcohol screens,” he told them. “I knew that physicians and pilots have a five-year recovery rate, often in the ninety percentile, and the rest of the general public, now like myself, had around a 3 percent chance of abstinence for five years.”

The app is designed around the blockchain and its own coin offering to help others get that kind of accountability and support, increasing their chances of extended recovery.

Image courtesy: Pixabay

Peer-to-Peer Accountability

What the app is not designed to do is to replace traditional 12-step programs, and Copenhaver makes that clear. While these programs are necessary, Hayver is designed to be an additional support system that provides additional peer-to-peer accountability.

Each user has what is called a circle of support, with between 5 and 20 people who help keep them accountable. These can be family members or other addicts who are there for support. The user is required to check in to the app every day, and they can see how many days they have been sober, their check-in history, and the rewards (Duitcoins) they have earned to that point.

The idea is to broaden the peer-to-peer group to those beyond a physical group in one’s hometown. Of course, there is no real penalty for not checking in other than peer pressure, but if someone disappears from the group for too long, they can request that someone anonymously go check on that person.

Nearly every program will tell you that, like with any other chronic disease, daily maintenance is one of the keys to lasting recovery. The Hayver app provides that opportunity for users in a peer-to-peer environment.

Image courtesy: Pixabay

Lifetime Support

Recovery never stops. No matter how many years an addict is sober, the right circumstances can send them stumbling back down the road to addiction. With more powerful drugs like opioids, the odds of relapse are even greater.

The Hayver app and others are not really about the technology and the blockchain. Those are merely modern tools they use to reach and support people. The connections made on the app through the circle of support are intended to last a lifetime. There’s no expiration date on random drug testing. Dr. Copenhaver says it best: “My wife is the person I show my results to,” he adds. “And the impact it has had on rebuilding trust in our relationship is priceless.”

From helping to prevent wrongful access to peer-to-peer accountability and lifetime support, the blockchain helps those struggling with addiction, a welcome disruption in an area where we need all the weapons we can muster if we are to win the battle we wage against the opioid epidemic and other addictions


How the Blockchain Could Help Those Struggling With Addiction was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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