What business must learn from 2016 investments

2016 provided a dramatic year for everyone, especially those concerned about their finances and future. World markets took a massive hit, as superpowers like America and Britain ended up going in directions no one thought they would. Even China watched as its economy weakened. The question you need to ask is what can you, as an individual and business, do to help reduce any negative financial impact that might happen. There’s no predicting the future perfectly, but you can begin taking steps to curb whatever negative impact might hurt you. It’s important then to consider what happened in 2016 that negatively impacted various markets.

China in 2016

After the last economic crash around 2008, the world was reeling from the sudden reduction in jobs and income opportunities. Banks closed, business people were taken to court and governments had to use taxpayer money to bail out banks. After all, if banks failed, then an entire country would find itself in a dire situation. China, however, found success after the last crash. As John Ross, a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, pointed out years ago:

“For the last 30 years China has enjoyed the world’s most rapid economic growth not by accident but because its policies conformed to the basic laws of economic development.”

Thanks to various policies, such as having largely state-owned companies, China could influence its own markets without relying on other, external factors. The country has unique aspects that allowed it thrive, such as a high proportion of exports. However, 2016 saw the opposite of success. As Forbes notes, this heavy reliance on state-controlled assets is what led to reduced growth.

“The bulk of the services sectors, such as transportation, healthcare, information technology and transmission, scientific research, education, and entertainment, remain mostly restricted to state-controlled firms, which are often uncompetitive and mired in inefficiencies. Even though China’s transformation to a service-based economy is in nascent stages, not enough energy has been devoted reforming the tertiary economy, resulting in ongoing lagging growth.”

The lesson here is relying too much one area, even if it’s complicated. China’s belief that it could rely on the properties which brought the country out of the recession in order to combat the international crisis was misplaced. Naturally, there was probably no way to change as rapidly as before – since, for example, it relies on exports but exports are determined by countries which are suffering their own issues. International (and Chinese) demand for construction materials and production inputs dropped off, leaving factories with excess supply. This slows production and has a domino effect.

Businesses must look at how Chinese firms have responded too slowly, too narrowly, and begin expanding their own outlook. Whether this means attempting to obtain more funds, such as machinery asset finance, or reducing supplies, anything should be considered to help improve business security.

Prepare for the worst

Too much of 2016 was a result of disappointment and disbelief. No one took Donald Trump seriously; few believed the majority of British voters would opt to leave the European Union, when no good reasons had been provided. Yet both of these subverted expectations of much of the so-called liberal media, resulting in a collective distant nightmare scenario uncoiling itself into a reality.

Businesses are advised to prepare for the worst, not what they think is likely to happen. This isn’t even a condemnation of optimism but rather pointing out even the “likely” scenario isn’t what happens. 2016 proved that all the smartest people’s opinions in the world won’t change the shape of the planet.

By looking ahead at what the worst outcome would be, you’re better prepared than anyone to help combat what might happen. This secures your and your staff’s future, in ways that benefit everyone. Your business can thrive while others, acting on a false sense of security, will suffer.

Even objective measures can be twisted into a narrative that fits our sense of security, as Fast Company highlights.

“Statistics, to many people, equal objectivity. And often business decisions are bolstered by a datum that supposedly speaks quantitatively to the issue at hand. But designer and writer Ash Huang cautions people to avoid using statistics spuriously, and make sure that numbers cited help the business long term. Additionally, some statistics people use aren’t the most illustrative of the goals at hand. We can even look at this year’s presidential election to see how statistical analysis went awry. Instead, Huang argues, data should be used as a tool and not as an end.”

2017 can be a better year for everyone, including you and your business. There’s no reason to give in to despair, when the future is unwritten. One way to do that is to learn from recent history. Even the strongest can have weaknesses they do not realise until those weaknesses are the very things that bring them down. To that end, you must look hard and reflect deeply – it’s only in this way you will succeed.

What should you spend your savings on

Wealth is the accumulation of efforts we’ve put into our financial lives. It’s essential that it is spent the right way or we’re merely putting it down the drain. There are multiple ways for us to acquire wealth and build it up from small amounts. The most popular way to build wealth is with a savings account, since this allows the bank account itself to simply work for our benefit. This doesn’t require active engagement, as something like the management of investment requires. Nonetheless, there are things to consider when it comes to what precisely we should spend our savings on. Merely having savings is meaningless in itself – it’s used to help us in the long term, providing a safety net and foundation that allows us to continue living comfortably. This is especially the case when income is uncertain.

Why savings is important

Managing a savings account is both easy and important on a broader level. A savings account’s primary purpose is to maintain whatever money you keep in it. But, by the mere virtue of having money in an account, we can generate interest. Even more impressively, we can benefit from the magic of compound interest. To understand compound interest, this is what Money Mini Blog says:

“Interest generally compounds annually, so that means you earn 6% on your principle. Keeping with the above example, the first year your principle is $100,000, but at the end of that year, you earn 6%. So that means the second year you’ll be earning 6% on $106,000.”

The famous definition of compound interest is “interest on interest”. That is, the new interest rate works on the increased amount that came about (because of interest), not the initial amount you had. That is, it keeps growing and growing, because it revises what the principal amount is. There’s nothing a person needs to do to make compound interest work – in fact, we need to do the opposite of “something”, letting the money stay where it is in the bank.

We might wonder how a bank benefits, when it seems obvious clients are the ones benefitting. But all transactions work on a basis of mutual benefit or else they would never take place at all. Banks benefit because banks need money to deliver on services and products. A bank without money is like a petrol station without petrol. People forget that they money doesn’t sit there untouched because clients themselves aren’t touching it. The bank uses our money for other clients. That doesn’t mean we should expect to suddenly see our bank accounts drop (though that can happen during a recession, when banks are not trusted, and so on.)

It’s not only good, but essential that people begin taking savings seriously. As Investopedia points out:

“If you have a high income and low expenses, you might accumulate enough to retire in 10 years. For most people, it takes closer to 40 years. But at some point, if you save and invest regularly, you should be able to live off the income generated by your investments – the saved money that’s working for you. The earlier you start, the more time a small amount of money has to grow large through the miracle of compounding.”

Investments

The most obvious items to spend savings on are investments that themselves net better returns. Whether that means high return short term investments, property or others, we must look at what would benefit us the most. There are so many options but we must approach an expert, finding out what is the most suitable option for us – given our income, savings, goals and so on. Of course, we could diversify, putting our money into all sorts of stocks and options so that we’re almost guaranteed to reap benefits. Everyone knows the problem with putting all the eggs in one basket.

Property: one of the best places to put our money is property. Whether this is for ourselves, a way to generate further income or simply to watch property rates increase, so we can sell higher, property is a good idea if we can afford it. As accountant and lawyer, Mark Kohler points out:

“I meet with a lot of successful entrepreneurs, and almost every one of them has taken profits from their businesses over the years to invest in rental property. Based on this fact and the list above, I have consistently urged my clients to buy one rental property a year and already have clients with rental properties earning them money they never imagined they’d have.”

Stock: Playing the stock market is obviously the road to success, but doing it well is a balance of luck, skill and timing. This is why we must know the facts early and work with the right people to get it done. Speaking to brokers and financial advisors, we can put our savings into the right investment vehicles to get the best returns.

Tips to reduce business expense

In order for businesses to generate a profit, the simple realisation is that their expenses must be less than their income. That means, what we spend money on needs to be less than the amount we get for services or products we provide. This is obvious to any business person, but doesn’t reduce how hard this can actually be. To that end, it’s worth considering small ways businesses can act to help reduce expenses they may not even realise they can reduce. Let’s examine what these are.

Go green

The idea of going green is often associated with more expenses, due mainly to stigma as opposed to reality. Businesses that opt for environmentally-friendly policies will start to benefit from reduced expenses. After all, it’s not merely about buying green items but a whole way of acting that is beneficial to the workspace and world as a whole.

As CNBC points out:

“One report from 2012 found that hospitals that reduce energy consumption and waste product could save $15 billion over a decade. Another study that year, by the UCLA and the University of Paris-Dauphine, found that employees at eco-friendly companies are 16 percent more productive than average. The authors wrote that these workers were more motivated, better trained and formed more than interpersonal relationships, which in turn increased efficiency.”  

Consistently, implementing environmentally-friendly actions benefits the individual and the company. For example, we should encourage employees to opt for public transport rather than vehicles – this uses less petrol, meaning employees save and are more likely to get to work on time. Additionally, we could encourage more days for staff to work from home. The Harvard Business Review highlights why, merely, from a business sense this is ideal. Speaking about just one company, one researcher highlighted the incredible benefits the business saw.

“We found that people working from home completed 13.5% more calls than the staff in the office did….meaning that Ctrip got almost an extra workday a week out of them.”

The researchers are quick to point out this doesn’t apply to every business. But many have the foundation in place to get workers to do their jobs, even from home. The point they make is that if someone isn’t doing their job, they shouldn’t be hired in the first place. Whether they’re in the office or at home, if there is work to be done, location shouldn’t matter (if they have internet access, computers and so on). In terms of the environment, the benefits are obvious: staff are not using vehicles. Triple Pundit points out:

“Driving a car is just about the most air polluting activity an average person can engage in (aside from air travel). And yet this is how the vast majority of workers commute back and forth to their offices every day. A study commissioned by Sun Microsystems pinpointed the daily commute to and from work as being responsible for more than 98 percent of an employee’s work-related carbon footprint. The same study also found that employees on average save more than $1,700 per year in fuel and wear and tear on their vehicles when they work at home just 2.5 days a week.”

Look at unnecessary expenses

If a business person does need transportation, they should examine exactly how does a business lease a vehicle. There are numerous expenses when it comes to deciding between leasing and buying car, if we’re doing it for a business. As Lifehacker highlights, just one point of consideration is taxation: “When you lease, a portion of the car’s depreciation and financing costs can be deducted on your taxes. Interest on loans to buy a car, however, aren’t deductible.”

Another unnecessary expense in today’s world is paper. There are few documents that require paper input. Businesses from all over the world can conduct themselves using digital markers and signatures. The law even recognises electronic signatures on forms. In South Africa, the Electronic and Communications Act of 2012 made allowance for e-signatures as legitimate. As IT News Africa points out:  

“The ECT Act specifically makes allowances for the legality of electronic signatures, and in fact the Supreme Court recently recognised an email signature as a valid electronic signature. This is because it meets the two most important criteria – there is an association or relationship between the document and the signature, and the person intended it to be a signature.”

Thus, even for signatures, there is no need for someone to put pen to paper. Paper costs enormous amounts to the planet from an environmental perspective and in terms of finance. Further, electronic data is more easily edited and managed – thus, if there are any mistakes, we can more easily amend any problems. This also extends to clients, since they do not need to print out papers, for example. This also speeds up production time, if we’re waiting on the go-ahead from managers since they can simply sign right away or point to what they need changed on the documents themselves. All this improves production time, meaning we do more work, earning us more profits.

All this shows that by eliminating unnecessary costs, we can expect to gain far more.

(Photo credit: Joe The Goat Farmer / Flickr)

The biggest factors that might influence finance in 2017

The financial world is complicated. Even those who spend years learning about how it operates won’t claim to be perfect predictors of what will influence the markets. All anyone can do is prepare. That doesn’t stop proper analysis, however. To that end, it is a good idea to think about the kinds of things already occurring that could influence the financial world in the years to come.

Politics is global

The nomination of Donald Trump, a TV-personality and professional inheritor of other people’s wealth, to the President of America shocked large parts of the world. Despite losing what Americans call the “popular vote”, Trump went on to take the office. This has had enormous consequences for the global financial market, both good and bad. As the Guardian points out:

“Trump could be good for geopolitical stability, at least in the short term. Trump’s preference for transactional realpolitik over Obama’s liberal interventionism should stabilise relations with Russia and China as the world is divided into spheres of influence. Trump could give Russia freer rein in Ukraine and Syria in exchange for restraint in central Europe and the Baltics. China’s inevitable dominance in Asia could be accepted, provided it avoids outright wars with Japan, Taiwan, and other countries whose security is, in theory, guaranteed by treaties with the US. The Middle East is bound to remain a cauldron of geopolitical unrest; but, even here, Trump’s preference for local strongmen over ‘democracy promotion’ could restore a degree of stability (at the cost of human rights).”

Of course, as with so much of human action, there’s bad news, too. Trump is a leader who has  a zero-sum game approach to trade. With incredibly protectionist campaign rhetoric, he promised severe curbing on international trade. Naturally, as the saying goes, when America sneezes the whole world catches a cold. To that end, any kind of financial moves from the new administration will have lasting consequences.

There’s also the shocking reaction to United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. As the Financial Times reports: “According to officials at the Bank of England and the Treasury, the big concern is that the uncertainty of having no functioning government, no effective opposition and no plan for Brexit means households and companies will put spending decisions on hold, prompting a steep downturn that threatens to become self-reinforcing. They also worry about Britain’s current account deficit of 7 per cent of national income which requires the nation to rely on external finance to prevent sterling from sinking.”

This tells us that the future focus for global finance initiatives must look globally. No longer can you look at local markets. Everything is affected by everything else, some more than others. Superpowers like America and Britain are obviously casting a wider net than, say, African countries – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t complications that will arise regardless.

New South African tax laws

Recently, President Jacob Zuma signed new bills into law. These are all part of ongoing discussions regarding how people manage their finances. As Business Tech reports, one of these new laws is about unemployment: The Unemployment Insurance Amendment Act.

“The main purpose of the legislation is to amend the Unemployment Insurance Act so as to provide for the extension of the unemployment insurance benefits to learners who are undergoing learnership training and civil servants and also, among other things, to adjust the accrual rate of contributor’s entitlement to unemployment insurance benefits and to provide for the process of application for maternity benefits.”

Other legislation tackles finance in various forms, all of them therefore will have an effect on everything from insurance to corporate finance. It is wise then to speak to financial experts to figure out precisely what this means for you and your business. Even if you’re not a business owner, you will be affected by what businesses do and what the law says they’re now allowed to do.

Purchases

Cars are some of the most expensive items anyone owns. And recently the sales have not looked good for the industry. As Wheels24 notes:

“Naamsa says its 2017 projections for South Africa reflect an expected improvement in GDP growth to around 1.5% (from 0.4% in 2016). Local political tensions are likely to reduce business confidence and the expected increase in taxes in this years’ budget will erode real purchasing power. Internationally, volatile and uncertain conditions are likely to prevail during 2017.”

In America, the situation isn’t much better. Wallet Hub reports: “it is unlikely that the U.S. auto industry’s boom can continue much beyond 2017. So we can expect sales volume to begin regression toward the historical mean of just over 15 million vehicles sold per year.”

How to make extra cash while having a full time job

Working full-time is often not a sufficient way to secure a financial future. People have to work hard to get to a place where they’re earning enough. Yet, even working hard is no guarantee of a successful amount of income.  To that end, it’s worth considering what you can do to earn extra cash, while still having a full-time job. The difficulty of course is that you might not have the time beyond the job you already have. Sometimes it might mean working on weekends. Whatever the case, it’s wise to consider your options. In this way, you can see what best suites you and your current situation, so that if the opportunity arises, you can leap to it. Everyone can benefit from having more disposable income, allowing them to save and create a more stable financial future.

Freelance writing

Many people think that because everyone writes, anyone can write. But this is obviously not the case, as some people are professional writers but most are not. Freelance writing allows you to work for those places and people who are of interest to you. A good way to start writing freelance is to tap into those areas of interest you care about. For example, almost everyone already cares about politics, but what other areas are you uniquely qualified to speak on? Businesses leaders can offer advice and become thought leaders; coders can provide details to students about why they should learn coding as a new, important language for the future. Consult various sources to find freelance job opportunities.

Importantly, you must make sure you don’t get cheated. Too often, freelance writers are told they can work “for the exposure”. This is an immoral practice where those with more leverage take advantage of new people. Watch out for this and don’t be swayed, since your time is valuable and worth investing in. If you don’t value your time, how do you expect others to?

As The Establishment noted: “There are many freelance writers who have found themselves in [exploitative] situations. Because of the precarious line freelancers walk, we often have a flexible income, earning much more some months than others. Predators like the one I encountered know that a guaranteed monthly check, or even a particularly well-financed article, can make all the difference in our financial security. They use this unpredictable financial reality to find ways to outmaneuver even the most cautious of freelance writers.”

Second-hand sale

Everyone accumulates items they no longer need. Too often we keep these for sentimental reasons rather than rational ones. But emotions are a sure way to make bad financial decisions. Consider, for example, your car. Have you really thought about why you need one? Is it completely impossible for you to find cheaper, alternative options – even if they’re slightly more inconvenient? Public transportation exists and millions of people around the world is it everyday.

As About.com notes, according to their estimates in America, the answer of what is more expensive is obvious: “Clearly it is beyond question that owning an automobile is far more expensive than taking transit, and that people who find transit to be expensive probably do not know that much about either transit or how much it costs them to drive.”

Of course, that is not for everyone. There could be very good reasons why you need a car. But even here, you should rather look at private car sales. Second-hand cars are not only cheaper, they’re also more valuable for you as the buyer. That is, when you buy a car brand new, it loses a lot of its value as soon as you leave the showroom. Secondly, second-hand cars these days are often packaged with the latest technology and what you would expect from brand new cars. After all, second-hand cars are still within this generation. They have power steering, ABS, central locking and so on.

Investments

Another way to start earning more money is to look at investments and the stock market. There are ways to start without leaving your home, for example. As Stocktrader notes:

“Find a good online stock broker and open an account. Become familiarized with the layout and to take advantage of the free trading tools and research offered to clients only. Some brokers offer virtual trading which is beneficial because you can trade with play money (see #9 below). A great tool for comparing online brokers can be found at StockBrokers.com.”

You can begin playing for the future. In this way, though you might not get money immediately, it does set up a system for your benefit later.

Creating a financial basis for a secure future is the entire point of earning more while working. As noted, even full time jobs can’t compensate for the uncertainty and messy nature of the financial world. There’s also no guarantee that being employed full-time means your job will still be there later. Jobs are scarce while those who want them are many. It’s time to begin looking further and deeper in terms of what you should do to help secure your future.

Considerations when looking to acquire equipment

As South Africa claws its way out of a recessive economy, manufacturers are gaining confidence once more and investments are returning to fuel growth. But other responsible financial decisions need to be made if owner or shareholder capital is to be preserved. Financing equipment, for example, through a lease or loan can help save precious capital that can be put into other areas of business.

So, how does equipment finance work? It’s important that you, as a business owner, know as much as you need to about financing through a lease or loan. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. In evaluating your options, you’ll need to look at each to determine how balance between usage, cash flow and your financial objectives can be struck. To determine the most appropriate option, consider a few choice questions.

How long with you need the equipment for?

As a rule of thumb, equipment that you’re only expecting to use for the short term (36 months or less) should be leased. If you’re using equipment for a longer period of time, then either lease or loan are viable options.

How much can you afford to spend?

As with any ongoing business expense, you’ll need to consider the monthly costs to running, maintaining and storing your equipment and how that fits into your budget. In general, leasing will leave you with affordable monthly payments.

How quickly will the equipment become obsolete?

Leasing equipment protects you against obsolescence, since the risk of obsolescence is assumed by the lessor. Certain lease financing programmes allow for upgrades or maintenance within the terms of the lease agreement.

How versatile is the equipment you’re using?

The question here is whether or not the equipment is going to be used across multiple projects. Equipment’s purpose is to enable revenue production. Therefore, if a piece of equipment has limited use within a specific contract and isn’t necessary for other projects, then it’s not ideal to have it sit idle while you continue to make payments on it. A lease allows you to stop the equipment expense when it ceases to be used in a project.

What’s the upfront asking price?

Leasing is usually quite flexible in its financing options, covering expenses involved with transportation, delivery, installation, testing and training. Loans are typically more rigid than this, often requiring a down payment that excludes other cost benefits. It’s important that you know the cost of the down payment and consider the cost to benefit for using company capital on this.

How will your working capital be affected?

Many businesses will have a line of credit through a bank to use on inventory purchases, business improvements and similar capital expenditures. Depending on the lending terms, it’s often possible (and even preferable) that this working capital remains isolated from equipment costs in favour of receiving finance through a third party equipment finance provider.

How flexible are the financing terms?

A lease certainly provides greater flexibility, since it can be structured around a plethora of contingencies. A loan is far less flexible, inasmuch as it’s subject to the lender’s rules. In addition, a lease will stop expenses when the equipment is no longer necessary.

Will you be needing additional equipment?

If you’re planning on growing your business, then a lease may be a more favourable option since it’ll allow you to acquire multiple pieces of equipment under a number of schedules with the same basic terms and conditions. Again, this offers for more convenience and flexibility than a conditional loan contract, which will almost certainly need to be renegotiated in the event that more equipment needs to be acquired.

Who can help me decide which is the better option for my business?

A decision between a lease and a loan is certainly a big one and should be approached responsibly. It is recommended that you consult your business’ accounting department/person and draw on the resources of your bank or equipment financing provider to help you secure the best possible terms for your lease or loan.

So, what’s the difference?

Equipment leasing is basically a rental agreement. Essentially you lease equipment for a predetermined monthly cost. At the end of the lease, you’ll have the option to purchase the equipment for longer term use.

An equipment loan, on the other hand, is similar to a business loan in that a lender approves you to receive a lump sum loan, based largely on the value of the equipment. You’ll then need to pay back this loan (and then some) over a period of time.

So if you have money to throw around and intend to use the equipment for a long time, then a loan may be the right way to go. But if your wallet is strapped and the equipment you intend to finance will quickly become obsolete, then you may want to consider leasing instead. Hopefully this article shed more light on your questions surrounding equipment finance and that your business choices are beneficial.

What non-business skills should you use in your small business

Running a business is difficult. No one has a perfect formula for doing it successfully, guaranteeing income for themselves and employees. What is clear, however, is that there are a number of characteristics a person should have that can improve the chances of success. These are not all taught in business schools or courses, but are sometimes found in other areas. Some of them might seem completely unrelated to running an organisation but, in fact, when considered from a broader perspective make sense. To that end, it’s worth thinking about what these kinds of skills are. No one benefits from not expanding their skillset or at least considering how different skills can be implemented. People are not robots. They learn and acquire new skills as they grow, they get knowledge through reading. All of this must be considered when looking at what you might need to run a successful business.

People

The main focus for any business is people. This is due to employing them and getting money from them. You need people for supplies, management, deliveries, payment and every other aspect. No business can exist if it doesn’t care about people, fundamentally. This is reinforced in two ways, both of which matter but still require separate skillsets.

  1. Empathy (for employees)

As Forbes notes:

“Some may think they see the results they want from doggedly pursuing their goals without much thought for other people, or others’ successes along the way. This attitude works for some, but at some point – often sooner rather than later –everyone needs to rely on their relationships and established personal and professional connections. These relationships are the product of taking an honest and dedicated interest in others and their businesses. Successful people do not operate alone; each of us needs the support of others to achieve positive results that push us toward our goals. True empathy combines understanding both the emotional and the logical rationale that goes into every decision.”

Ignoring what makes people tick and what matters to them will mean severely undermining your business. Just from a basic level: if you didn’t care about what is important to people, you would never be able to make any business. After all, people are paying for something you are offering – whether a service or product – they clearly require. Thus, by becoming a business person, you are doing so because you already realise people require something. But this fact must be expanded. You should learn how to listen to people without interrupting, ask sensitive questions with tact and be able to record these answers in a way that can let you assimilate it into proper management. This can mean something small like remembering someone’s birthday or their child’s school. Or it can mean something bigger, like what is affecting the market or problems that are making the work environment toxic (such as racism, sexism and so on). All this can be made into a proper business strategy that can enhance productivity.

Part of this also means being good at human resource management (HR). This can mean taking human resources and legal courses training to help you, but it could just mean taking it seriously in future.

  1. Understanding (customers)

Knowing people means you can give them what they want. As we noted, you get into business because you provide something people need. This means you need to be able to listen to all sorts of sources. Learn how to read faster and broader, even in areas you wouldn’t suspect. Social media provides a good platform to hear the opinions of many people, including your customers. Indeed, part of a good social media strategy is knowing how to listen to customers – whether they’re talking to you directly or referring to something that is of interest to you and your industry.  

Writing

One of the most underappreciated skills in the world is writing. This might sound strange but because everyone does it all the time, few bother to actually improve on it. Unless your job is professional writing, no one takes classes to improve writing because they assume being able to speak a language fluently is sufficient. Yet this is not true. At the very least, learning basic grammar rules improves your appearance to prospective clients or employees. For example, it might be helpful to go through websites that teach grammar rules. Do you know the difference between when to use “who” and “whom”? Lit Reactor discusses this in its list of common grammatical errors.

‘This one opens a big can of worms. “Who” is a subjective — or nominative — pronoun, along with “he,” “she,” “it,” “we,” and “they.” It’s used when the pronoun acts as the subject of a clause. “Whom” is an objective pronoun, along with “him,” “her,” “it”, “us,” and “them.” It’s used when the pronoun acts as the object of a clause. Using “who” or “whom” depends on whether you’re referring to the subject or object of a sentence. When in doubt, substitute “who” with the subjective pronouns “he” or “she,” e.g., Who loves you? cf., He loves me. Similarly, you can also substitute “whom” with the objective pronouns “him” or “her.” e.g., I consulted an attorney whom I met in New York. cf., I consulted him.’

It might be time to take a writing class, to improve your own abilities and encourage employees to do the same.

These are just some skills to consider when running a business.

Tips for small business websites in Africa

Making it as a small business is hard work, regardless of where you are. But, in Africa, the stakes are somewhat higher, especially if you hope to make an impact in the digital sphere. Remarkably, Africa has become an increasingly connected region. This is not true of the entire continent of course. As the Mail and Guardian pointed out: “The level of connectivity on the continent is low and highly unequal and, while potential access through mobile-phone subscriptions are higher, as of November 2015, 71.4% of Africa’s population did not have access to the internet.” Of course, the modern business is global. Just because Africa is such a small market doesn’t mean you should only be looking at Africa. What’s made African small businesses successful has been expanding their appeal to other areas, within the African region, but also overseas. To that end, it’s important to take stock and consider what will make an African company’s website successful, especially in 2017.  

User-friendly

One of the most important properties to your website is making it easy to use. People don’t want to fuss with trying to get information or contact details for example. One of the worst things you can do is making it hard for people to find such details. As Jeff Bullas points out:

“When UsabilityTools published the results of a case study that analyzed and tested the websites of 8 universities, it became clear that the people preferred websites with clear menu labels and transparent information. We have all come across a website or blog that simply does not work, or takes forever to find the right thing, and it is honestly a hassle. This either makes us, consumers, want to quit in frustration or swear we will never come back. The official website for the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, for example, is not user-friendly at all. That’s one of the greatest reasons for bad reviews this impressive destination gets from tourists.”

Making a website user-friendly isn’t a science, so much as art. However, experts do recommend a number of options. As indicated, you need to make your website such that people can find what they need easily. This points to making navigation an essential part of your user-friendly focus. Have easily noticeable markers, leading to relevant parts of the site. Always have your contact details or shortcuts available, so customers aren’t struggling for ways to reach you. And depending on your business, you might want to put your prices up front and easily available – allowing for listing options. For example, you can allow customers to change their listing options, so they rank from high to low in terms of prices.

Also, when customers arrive on your homepage, you should let them know about the latest deals that can benefit them.

Content

Your site needs content. This has increasingly been seen as highly essential to keep a website relevant and noticeable to Google. As SEO Site Checkup notes: “the more frequently you update your website with articles, downloads, and new web pages, the more frequently a search engine will stop by to visit your website.  When search engines look at your site more frequently, you have the opportunity to achieve higher rankings based on the content you provide.”

Creating good content requires good writing and creative thinking. Tapping into topical issues, pointing to interesting ideas and highlighting your site as a thought leader in your relevant field helps to elevate the site to relevant spaces so that it can be noticed by Google, and therefore new customers. More customers of course means more profit. All this stems from writing and creating good content that can be hosted on your site.

Hosting

As a small business in a growing country, even considering what hosting means in South Africa is important. As Studio 5 Innovation points out:

“The performance and security of your new small business website largely depends on your website host. You must make sure that your hosting company is reliable, and your data is safe. Performance (speed) is also a key consideration. Here are the different types of business website hosting you should consider.”

All of these factors are often forgotten when you create a website for your business.

Mobile

Africa is known as the mobile continent. Therefore it is important for you to focus on making your website able to work properly and responsively on mobile screens. This is not the same as working on a computer, for reasons beyond merely the screen resolution. Mobile screens are responsive to different kinds of inputs, such as touchscreen. This must be kept in mind as you go about creating the site, keeping it consistent across the board with logos, colours and so on.  

By focusing on all of these kinds of interventions on your site, you can make the best small business site for your local company.

What types of healthcare will exist in future

Healthcare will always be an issue people concern themselves with. It’s been a concern for society since people realised there were methods to treat themselves. Today, we are far more sophisticated than ever before, in prevention, cure and treatment. Healthcare, unfortunately, is still dominated more by policy than pills. Nonetheless, policy is still influenced by technology and what we’ve achieved as a society. To that end, it’s worth considering what healthcare will mean in future.

Outlining healthcare

As The Medical Dictionary defines it, there are many types of health care services.  

“The term [health care system] usually is used to refer to the system or program by which health care is made available to the population and financed by government, private enterprise, or both.”

Broadly speaking, there are a number of elements within a health care system: Personal health care services focus on individuals and families, located at hospitals, clinics, GP’s private offices and so on; Public health services focus on service delivery for the wider population, meaning everything from water and food supplies to drug and safety regulation; Education related to prevention and treatment of disease; Finally, coverage of these services.

All this indicates how complex the system is which focuses on keeping people alive. Naturally, it is important to consider what goes into these. As should be obvious, technology plays a major role in maintaining all these systems. From doctors being able to record and consult, using the internet and the latest devices, alerting necessary services and issues individual patients might be experiencing – all of this tells us that technology matters within a health care system.

What will the future hold?

As with so much of technology, it’s hard to know precisely what effect something will have on particular systems. Nonetheless, there are some clues as to what awaits us if we consider what people are working on to try help patients around the world.

  1. Improved sensors with nanotech

As Medical News Today notes:

“Constructing a sensor using nanotechnology to mimic human immune cells that circulate around the body, indicating when something is wrong and responding positively to any problems that surface may be possible one day in the future, but for now, it remains a big step to take.
Instead, [researchers] have chosen to transform conventional medical devices that are implanted into the body by giving them sensors – nanosensors – that can determine a problem and respond to it if and when it arises.”

In this way, there is less pressure on individual doctors to see more patients. People themselves are provided more options to help themselves.

  1. 3D-printing

A major issue with a lot of medical care is the price of medical products. One way to help curb this could be with 3D-printing. Due to it being incredibly complex, 3D-printed products can be created to specific requirements, benefitting patients who have various complications. After all, it’s being considered for everything from skin to hearts, in terms of what can be designed. This will aid the healthcare system in terms of reducing costs of production and waste.

  1. Telemedicine

By combining smartphones, trackers and a range of devices, patients can use telemedicine. This lets data livestream to specific health centres, negating geography and therefore travel. As Forbes notes:

“Telemedicine may alleviate some of the struggles currently facing the health-care industry. We have an aging population, a shortage of physicians and an increasing need to manage chronic diseases. We also need to keep burgeoning health-care costs in check. Thanks to ‘constant technological innovation, increasing remote patient monitoring and rising use of treatments that require long follow-ups,’ Mordor Intelligence predicts that the global telemedicine market will reach more than $34 billion by 2020.”

  1. The internet

The internet has transformed the world in ways no one could’ve predicted. While doctors dislike patients self-diagnosing thanks to looking up ailments on Google, it does provide more knowledge. Patients can be informed about their condition more than ever before. This means they can find out if the treatment they receive really is up-to-date and scientifically sound.

The internet allows people to find nearby hospitals, specialists and so on, helping them recover from whatever ailment they happen to suffer from. This reduces the amount of time medical professionals have to spend explaining issues to patients, since patients can now see firsthand and at their own pace what the particular problems of their case (if any) they need to concern themselves with.

The internet has also allowed collaboration, since doctors from all over the world can work together. For example, surgeons can work in collaboration with others from around the world, even operating in different cities on specific operations. The tool of the internet has opened up many opportunities for greater health success.

Business trends in insurance for 2017

Everything is affected by business. No matter how people would like to look at important institutions, many operate on business standards and according to operations that result in their continuing to exist. As much as you’d like to think of a university as a pure place of learning, people still need to pay for it and educators still have bills to pay. Similarly, the insurance industry itself is one of the biggest business industries in the world. Considering how people are affected by what their insurance covers, it may be important to think about the trends affecting insurance.

Technology disruption

As in all areas of industry, technology will disrupt the insurance industry. As startups from all over the world have already devoted themselves to revolutionising everything from medicine to finance, it makes sense to think this would affect insurance.

The sharing economy is a prime example of progress and tech disrupting everything. The poster child, Uber, has radically changed how people transport themselves and the entire taxi industry, to the point where fights have broken out around the world. Indeed, so much has changed because of a simple app, that economists are wondering what this means for other industries. By leveraging an always online consumer, with easy-to-use technology that operates with a click of a button, innovators can create everything from deliveries of food to cars. People are no longer restricted by geography, since they can simply pay others to do the heavy lifting for them.

Unfortunately, this idea of opening up an industry to the sharing economy isn’t finding foothold in the insurance industry, as Investopedia points out:

“The emergence of the sharing economy has disrupted almost every industry, from hotels to maid services to education. The insurance industry, which usually protects all other commercial exchanges; however, has been slow to adjust to such massive and widespread change. The static nature of the insurance industry has left many sharing economy workers in the dark concerning coverage. Thus, an opportunity presents itself for newcomers to take the place of traditional insurance companies, or for the traditional insurance companies to adjust.”

In 2017, the insurance industry can expect to see technology change how they engage with their policies. For example, the massive rise in Uber use has meant that people won’t be themselves driving as much. How then should an insurance company calculate or estimate its risk and attached expenses?

Medicine

As noted, technology has disrupted medicine. But medicine has always been improving and changing how people live. This means it affects how insurance operates, since diseases and conditions which were fatal before have become liveable – if not curable – today. That means, for insurance companies, they have to rethink what risk means in terms of different conditions and medical insurance plans for individuals.

As Benefits Pro points out:

“With the rise of the on-demand, social media-driven world, companies of all sizes want tools and technology that will enable them to better serve a workforce accustomed to simplicity and anytime, anywhere access to information. For health benefits brokers, this means their role must evolve. Quickly. To remain competitive, brokers may have to move beyond selling traditional health insurance and become both a technology consultant and strategic counselor to their clients on a range of related regulatory compliance issues and voluntary benefits.”

This means, just as tech directly affects insurance, it’s influence on other sectors will have a by-product of affecting insurance. Deloitte has highlighted its own issues, which it predicts will be deeply affecting of the industry in 2017.

“Life sciences sector growth is closely tied to global health care expenditures which, in 2017 and successive years, are expected to be fueled by increasing demand from an aging population and the burgeoning prevalence of chronic and communicable diseases.”

There’s no way to predict just what will happen in 2017 that can change the world. However, given how radically the world has changed within the last few years, it’s reasonable to expect that businesses are better served by being prepared to change, too. There’s no good reason to get comfortable with policies even if they’ve worked in the past.

Businesses that are willing to not only change but use the changes occurring will benefit from forward thinking. In this way, they not only stay “alive” as a business but relevant. This puts them in a better position for customers who need to stay up-to-date with their own lives.