Small Business News

Office Furniture Cheaper in China?Think Long and Hard...

Things are changing. Over the past few years, the office furniture industry has shifted much of the manufacturing to China. U.S. manufactures too small to produce their own products in China, often purchase ready made "off the shelf" components or parts.

The segment of the office furniture industry that is most dramatically affected by China is "office seating," however, things are changing. Production costs are up in China due mainly to the world price of oil and increased pressures in China to raise the wages of the average worker and improve an individual's lifestyle. The Chinese government reduced the previous tax refund from 13% to 5%; to compensate for this effect/loss an 8% net price increase would be necessary. Additionally, the dramatic impact on the weak value of the US dollar/exchange rate effects foreign trade. Also, the cost to ship a container from China to the U.S. has increased almost 30% over the past two years.

Any manufacturer that has done business in China knows the risks involved. Often things seem too good to be true. Upon attending industry trade shows in China, products are displayed and priced in such a manner that any U.S. based manufacturer would think they have died and gone to heaven. Then comes the cruel reality of doing business in China once an order is placed and received. Of course, one would initially think the Chinese would do business in the same manner as in the United States; hardly the case.

Factor the following:  Increases in prices  Reduced Chinese tax rebates  Increased ocean freight costs  Inferior or suspect quality  Exchange rate margin reduction

With that said, there are a few office seating manufacturer's that have bucked the Chinese trend; manufacturing in North America utilizing North American made components.

Choosing an E-Commerce Provider

For business owners going into the realm of online e-commerce, it can be a very exciting and yet, daunting task. IT can make and break even the sturdiest or hearts. In 2006, a report estimated consumers spent over $102 billion online at e-commerce sites in the U.S. alone. This does not include online auction sites, travel or other corporate entity sites. This is the best time, if ever, to be on the receiving end of this global "gold rush". All though the economy is on the down turn, online sales are still solid.

Having an online store requires a lot of planning and research of potential products and services to be made available. Setting up and maintaining inventory, taking orders from customers and making delivery on time requires more the rule than the exception today and requires more than a traditional web hosting provider.

Focusing on the right e-commerce solution and one that fits your business and not the other way around is what I am brining to the table. There are approximately 400 different shopping carts for e-commerce and with such a wide choice, where do you begin?

The first thing you need to figure out is whether you want to purchase a license or have a hosted solution for your shopping cart. There are pros and cons to both but it all boils down to time and resources. Do you have time and resources to implement your cart on your own or do you want someone else to bear that burden?

Licensed carts - having a licensed copy of a shopping cart requires you to choose among the masses of products, install it on your web server and configure it to integrate with your website. You own the software (code) and can modify it in any form or fashion to your hearts content. It also means that all features and upgrades, you have to perform yourself which can become a double edged sword.

Any problems with the security or features of the shopping cart, falls the business owner to rectify and in a timely manner also. Remember, time is money! If there is a team that is assigned to this task, they have to be "spot" to ensure that it is ALWAYS functional. Shopping carts must also be PCI (Payment Card Industry) DSS (Data Security Standard) compliant.

Hosted carts - a hosted solution handles all aspects of the cart for you. From setting up and integrating it into your site, maintenance issues, security during check out, 24/7 monitoring, tech support and free software upgrades. Any bug fixes and emerging situations, they will handle. It is maintenance free and allows you, the business owner, to focus other more important aspects of your business.


Bottom Line: Buying Or Renting - Costs plays the dividing factor in most, if not all online businesses. You are here to make money, right?!! The tricky question here is to decide which is cheaper and how much control do you want to retain.

Having a licensed cart means a significant up front capital invested in the product initially but small monthly fees for the months ahead. A hosted cart requires higher monthly fees for its use.

A licensed cart is like having a car. It is yours and you can go anywhere, drive anyhow (once you stay within your country limits) and do anything with it, because it is yours. But as with an asset, when problems arise, you are the one to fix it. A hosted cart is similar to renting a car. You are limited on how you drive and most times where you go with it but and problems that arises, you can carry it in and you suffer no out of pocket expenses.

For the "greenhorn business" man (now starting out entrepreneur), a hosted shopping cart will be easier to manage and with success later on, a licensed cart will be an option. This will allow the business to grow and acquire experience.

These are just the bare essentials an e-commerce web site must have to start off online. There are many more features but you can start of from these four points.

1. Your website must be PCI DSS compliant. This was developed by the major credit card (CC) companies (notably: Visa, MasterCard, American Express) as a guideline for processing online payments using CC to reduce online fraud and various other security vulnerabilities. This is critical for your business success.

2. Secure checkout procedures. If your clients have a bad experience at your checkout line, it can mean earning a bad reputation and eventual little or no bottom line. Using SSL certificates on your website will reassure your customers experience a safe and secure environment. Actually, no one will want to shop at your store id it does not have a SSL certificate. Well, unless the card was fraudulently obtained.

3. If you are using a hosting provider, ensure that they also reliable. Do your home work and look for reviews from any hosting provider before you sign up with them. Most important is their support line! If they say it works 24/7, call at some on Godly hour once, for "assistance" and ensure it is a real person. It may sound bad but it will save you a lot of problems in the end.

4. Customer support. This builds upon the last point. If your hosting company has poor support, how can you provide an exceptional service to your customers?

Why Not Try Franchise Opportunities?

If you are thinking of setting up a small business but you are perhaps still unsure of what exactly you want to do, or are scared of not being able to generate good business, then you should try looking into franchise opportunities and pick the one that will most suit your taste and budget. You should assess your ability to actually run your chosen franchise opportunity efficiently and successfully; this is an important consideration.

The "EmbroidMe" franchise opportunity is one of the most popular nowadays, whereby you can create custom-made apparel as well as merchandise which has embroidery on it. EmbroidMe is outfitting their customers with creatively customized apparel for both work and play. They have the tagline "Casually Dressing the World" in their retail showrooms and they aim to make their company known through all forms of medium, in corporate marketing programs as well as online. EmbroidMe also offer all sorts of promotional merchandise as well as advertising specialty items.

The EmbroidMe franchise opportunity has gained a sudden commercial boom and this is its biggest selling point. It is a highly new and fresh revolutionary industry concept; its organized system allows the brilliant opportunity of being your own boss. According to the president of the EmbroidMe company (Ray Titus), they are looking for willing entrepreneurs who are hoping to run and manage their own business but in spite of just having a small business, they are well equipped with many benefits that a stable global company can offer them - not to mention, great advertising, and in particular, mass purchasing power.

EmbroidMe has grown significantly and now has over 250 stores all over the world. It has been rated as the number one in the industry for four consecutive years and Entrepreneur Magazine has voted it as one of the 50 fastest growing franchise opportunities.

In regards to staff training and support, the EmbroidMe company will assist in the demographic studies of the area that you are hoping to put up your franchise. A study on your site selection as well as assistance on lease negotiations will be conducted. The EmbroidMe company also organize with you about renovations that will be done on your store. This franchise opportunity also provides a 4-week training program for you and your staff. The franchise opportunity will assist you in conducting interviews, hiring and training perspective employees. As this is a service oriented franchise opportunity, every employee must be able to comply and adhere to EmbroidMe's strict rules and regulations.

Advantages of this franchise opportunity are as follows: turn key, it is not a seasonal type of franchise opportunity, no experience is needed, it is not a seasonal type of franchise opportunity, it needs only two employees, it is a business to business franchise opportunity and it is part of a $20 billion plus industry.

Another excellent franchise opportunity is the "SIGN*A*RAMA" franchise opportunity which is the largest and full service sign franchise in the world; it has over 700 stores in 30 countries and Entrepreneur Magazine has rated it number one in the industry for six years running. "SIGN*A*RAMA" is very similar to EmbroidMe and is also headed by Ray Titus. "SIGN*A*RAMA" is scouting for willing and able entrepreneurs who wish to have their taste of being their own boss whilst also having the amazing opportunity of being part of a well-known company.

This franchise opportunity will assist franchisees in choosing their desired franchise location, the marketing aspect of the business, and their lease.

Business Credit Article #2

Big Mistakes to Avoid When Building Business Credit There are countless entrepreneurs today operating their businesses in a manner that puts them at great personal risk of being hounded by creditors, poor financing offers on new cars, and even losing their homes. The risk stems from poor money and credit management. Many business owners are completely unaware of the mistakes they are making, and those who are aware may not understand what they need to do to change. Fortunately, the answer to these problems is simple: avoid these 5 Big Mistakes and start paving the way toward building good business credit, with little or no personal risk.

 Mistake #5: Putting Personal Assets at Risk If you personally guarantee any credit extended to your business, you seriously risk your personal assets, such as your car, savings account, and your home. The most common way entrepreneurs fall into this trap is by setting up their businesses as a Sole Proprietorship. If you have not set up your business as a C-Corporation, S-Corporation or a LLC, then you most likely do not have a tax i.d. number; instead your business is tied to your social security number. This also means you do not have the legal means to separate your corporate credit from your personal credit. If you incorporate your business, you can protect yourself from personal liability.

Mistake #4: Not Paying Bills on Time100% of the Time Everyone who has some type of credit file also has a credit history attached to it, and having just one late payment on a line of credit can be held against you for years. This is vital information for entrepreneurs who are working toward building good business credit. Even if you have separated your personal and business credit lines, one late personal payment could affect your corporate credit, and your business growth.

Mistake #3: Not Building Corporate Credit the Right Way Incorporating your business should be a first step toward separating your personal credit from your business credit, but it does not automatically qualify you for corporate credit. Your goal for building business credit is to secure lines of cash credit, not just vendor credit. You will need money to grow your business, and lots of it. The best way to start the process of building business credit is to maintain a physical office (not a PO Box!), obtain a local phone number and 411 listing, and secure a business license. After these steps have been taken, you can begin to build a credit score with business credit bureaus.

Mistake #2: Rushing the Process of Building Business Credit Just as it took time to build your personal credit, so too does it take time to build good business credit. The goal for building credit is to get cash, but added to that goal is to get cash without a personal guarantee. The industry standard for building business credit and securing cash loans without personal guarantees is two to three years. Do not rush your ultimate goal.

Mistake #1: Using Personal Credit to Finance Your Business The absolute biggest and most common mistake business owners make is using their personal lines of credit to finance their businesses. This includes paying business expenses with personal credit cards, money from personal savings and investment accounts, and securing personal loans to finance business expenses and expansions. This big mistake lowers your personal credit score because every lending inquiry into your credit history lowers your credit score; it reduces the amount of credit available for personal use because your debt-to-income ratio skyrockets. And should your business fail (as 95% do in the first five years, according to the Small Business Administration), you will be personally liable for all those  loans. You do not have to risk your lifestyle for your livelihood. Corporate Credit Concepts makes it easy to establish business credit.

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