Start Your Real Estate Business with an Effective Business Plan

The real estate industry has faced a number of hurdles in the past couple of years. Now, this is an obvious trend in any emerging business sector. However, after 2 consecutive ruthless years the market has sprung back and there have been quite a few real estate firms that have participated in the rebound. With the rising number of refinance and loan modifications, the activity in the real estate market is obvious. In fact, if we start thinking from the basic point of view, then starting a real estate company itself isn’t that easy. It requires a lot of careful research and hard work.

business plan

Latest news reveals that Vornado Realty Trust is said to have acquired about 59 percent interest in Manhattan. This real estate basically happens to be a residential complex and the value of the deal is estimated to be somewhere around the likes of 844.8 million dollars. With the kind of money that’s raked in, it’s important that you have a grand plan before getting into real estate business.

Strategies to formulate a real estate business plan

It’s a fact that the real estate business is literally thronged with eager entrepreneurs. All of them are searching for the right niche. If you happen to be one of those innovative business people, then in spite of the housing and commercial estate being volatile avenues, there’s a lot of profit to be made as well. Formulate an effective business plan to take your first step into real estate business.

Study real estate trends

The ideal thing would be to educate yourself thoroughly on the real estate trends before starting a real estate business. Amongst other things that you need to write on the business plan, you should include the new techniques that you’d like to employ for reaching out to the customers. You can get updated information from online magazines like Realty News and various other such sources to get started with your business.

Lay out the principals

It’d be wise for you to lay out the principals as far as your advertising and marketing plans are concerned. There are quite a few real estate businesses that make use of guerrilla marketing tactics like say for instance street teams. On the other hand, there are other businesses which make use of traditional media to cater to the established property owners. Be careful and research thoroughly the promotional costs involved. At the same time, you should keep in mind the fact that there are advertising costs too.

Explain staffing needs

Your real estate business plan should include proper explanation for the staffing needs as well. Initially you should make sure that you’ve got a small group of agents who’ll take the onus of actively scouting for locations and taking care of customer service. Graphic designers, contractors, web consultants are others you should always keep in mind.

Include relevant biographies

For each member of your ownership team, make sure that you include a biography. This is important for those who read your business plan should be aware that the daily operations of your real estate business are actually managed by innovative and highly qualified professionals. Now, if it so happens that your team had participated in real estate ventures in the past, then you should include that in your real estate business plan as well. Highlight the certifications and real estate ventures clearly.

List the costs involved

You must have envisioned certain operational costs for your agency, at least for the next 2 years. Make sure that you include real estate investment costs, wages and the facility costs amongst the major aspects in your projections. Make sure that this section is put right at the beginning of your plan, so that investors can see it clearly. Remember, if you’re unable to adequately fund your operational costs, then there are high chances that you might have to refinance your real estate business some time down the line.

Another important fact is to include the costs that might be required for expansion in future. If you plan for new branch openings, then they should be there as well. Nevertheless, keep in mind the fact that refinancing doesn’t really come without its costs. Many businesses are known to salvage their businesses by refinancing undoubtedly, but there should be enough money to do so.

Finally, it’s for you to steer your real estate business, and if you feel that you need the anchor of refinance some where in between, then you have to take its help. However, make use of an effective plan and get going with your own business before anything else.

Creating a Brand-Aware Employee Culture-Six Tips

Brand-awareness among employees is essential for any company that hopes to succeed. Every employee is critical to the success of a company, and everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to company values and goals. An employee culture that is brand-aware is going to be that much more effective at achieving success. Here are some tips.

brand awareness
Image by smi23le / Flickr

Clearly Communicate Brand Values

In order to foster brand awareness among employees, it’s important to make sure all employees understand exactly what the brand is all about. A brand’s core values must be clearly communicated to all team members. There should be literature that details the character and values of the brand, and this information should be reiterated in all of the company’s communications with employees, such as newsletters, emails, meetings, and training materials.

Reinforce the Brand

The character of a brand should be reinforced at every opportunity that presents itself, because employees will gain greater awareness of the brand through repetition and consistency. Brand symbols should appear in many places, and everything your company does and every policy that employees follow should be in line with branding efforts.

Provide Ongoing Training

Training and education can help employees become more brand-aware, and they will also become better brand advocates. If your brand’s core values include being environmentally-friendly, for example, employees should receive regular education and training on news regarding the environment, recycling policies, energy-saving tactics, and more. The more your employees know, the better, as it will help them relate to your brand more closely.

Encourage Brand Advocacy

Your employees are all brand advocates, and it’s important to encourage them to represent your brand in a positive, accurate way. There should be detailed social media policies and guidelines related to your brand, and employees should be encouraged rather than discouraged to discuss your brand online. When employees are outstanding brand advocates, their commitment should be recognized and praised, because it represents their understanding of your brand.

Hold Fun Employee Events

Fun employee events that relate to branding and the company are great for fostering a tight-knit community of workers who feel a common bond with each other and their employers. For example, parties to celebrate milestones like anniversaries or grand openings are great. Fun events encourage employees to feel a sense of pride for their company.

Examine the Competition

Employees who are brand-aware help give a company a competitive advantage over similar companies. Employees should receive training and education on the key differences that exist between their company and their competitors. An increased understanding of the uniqueness of their company will help boost their loyalty and pride in the brand they represent. A little healthy competition is always good for business, so involve your employees in the race.

A well-defined brand with employees that feel connected to it should be the goal of every company, no matter what its size. Small and large companies can benefit from boosting brand-awareness in the workplace and rewarding employees for their commitment.

Laura Kitner is a brand awareness consultant.

Duplicate Content Analyzed: What about Block Quotes?

Google has been cracking down on duplicate content rules and penalties more and more each year, so it’s important to really understand what does and does not count as duplicate content. You never quite know what Google is going to pull next, so you can never be too careful or ask questions that seem too obvious. In other words, if you’ve ever wondered about quotes and how they pertain to duplicate content, don’t hesitate to ask.

block quote

Matt Cutts Explains Quoting and Duplicate Content

Someone finally did ask Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, this question, and he had a few different things to say and rules to explain:

    Always link back. First, you must always include a link that will send readers back to where the quote was originally published. If you do this, you’ll likely never have to worry about getting penalized. Cutts explained that they have good ways of detecting if you’re doing this without any issues.
    Keep the quotes short. Although linking back to the original source is great, that won’t be good enough if you’re quoting an entire article from a site. You want to keep your quotes short to avoid changing your sites reputation in the eyes of Google.
    Offer your own thoughts. You don’t want to have a quote, a few words, another quote from somewhere else, another few words, etc. You have to have “attribution and insight” as Cutts would say. You need to have your own opinion that is more than two or three words.

The moral of the story is that appropriate quoting is completely acceptable. Many great sites do this and Google has said it’s extremely legitimate. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the video that Cutts created in response to this exact question:

About the Author: Amanda DiSilvestro is a graduate of Illinois State University. Although she graduated with an English Education degree, she found herself working as a full-time blogger in the SEO/social media department at HigherVisibility SEO, a leading franchise SEO company.

How do courier companies deal with cold weather

Running a courier company is a lucrative business opportunity which is not without its own set of challenges.  Apart from keeping time, working like clockwork and detailed planning one of the major challenges you could be faced with is dealing with the weather.  The blazing heat in summer, rain in the monsoon and the cold in winter, each season presents its own set of challenges.

courier service
Image by flgr / Flickr

How do you deal with the challenges posed by cold weather?  Here is a list to help you and your employees cope with the vagaries of winter…

Keeping Your Vehicles in excellent condition

Your vans, cars and other vehicles help you get around and deliver the goods (literally).  You should regularly check your tyres, oil and water. This will prevent you from getting stuck with a break down in the cold.

Getting a screen wash is an essential when you work outdoors in today’s air and environment. Keep it topped up. Going without ensuring that you have a full tank of gas could be something that you would want to avoid.  A good move also is ensuring that road salt is applied to any surfaces exposed to the elements.

A smooth and trouble free commute will help you deliver the goods on time in any weather!

Stay on Call

Keep cell phone woes at bay.  Keep your cell phone fully charged, and because batteries have a life of their own and die without much warning, it is always a sensible thing to carry a second battery and your battery charger.

Ensuring Your Employees Stay Warm and Safe

A courier company is work force driven and it involves using people at all stages including delivery.  This is why your employees must remain safe and warm.  Here is a checklist you need to hand over to them and tell them to ensure that they use it:

Blankets and warm clothes:  Blanket to keep warm becomes necessary if you happen to over use your auto’s heating system.  Not only do people suffer in the cold but you will also put an enormous strain on your vehicle. Blankets and warm clothes are absolute life savers in such a situation.

In case you are trapped overnight in a snow storm or worse a sleeping bag a useful item. Keeping your body temperature high enough to stop you from freezing is important and the good thing is a sleeping bag doesn’t take much room.

Shovel: Carry a shovel just in case you get trapped in by the snow. For courier jobs that take you delivering goods in the colder zones, when snow falls while you are taking a short break or grabbing a bite you might come out to your van and find it surrounded by deep snow.  A shovel will come in handy.

Food and Supplies: Spare food and drink supplies are always to keep you warm and alert.

Cold weather is often challenging for your on-the-road staffs, but with proper precautions, you can be sure that your business is up and running, even in winter.

Is Your Business Wired Into Success?

With the New Year coming, what on your list have you checked twice to see if this year has found your small business naughty or nice?

If your customer service habits need a little improving around the edges, one of the ways to do this is by offering consumers more options to pay for their products and/or services. Quite specifically, having a wireless credit card machine gives you the opportunity to conduct more business at an efficient and quicker pace than your standard traditional landline option.

For those who may be new to such devices, they have shown to make more customers buy on impulse for starters, something that you as a small business owner can’t complain about.

wireless payment
Image by justin / Flickr

In order to find the right wireless credit card machine for your small business, consider:

How it works

With such a device, you slide the customer’s credit card through the machine, inputting the amount of the sale. The terminal hooks up with a radio tower, transmitting the credit card data and total bill. Once the processor has the details, they are passed along to the financial institution which provided the card. After the card is determined to be valid and the sought after amount for the transaction is deemed available, the amount of purchase is set aside for the business owner. At the time the settlement process is undertaken, the funds are moved from the card provider and deposited into the business owner’s checking account, typically within 48 hours from the original transaction;

Shop around

You wouldn’t buy from an office supply company without checking them out, nor would you purchase office furniture from a company without reviewing them. The same holds true with your wireless credit card machine purchase and network provider selection. Review a handful of companies to see who offers the best product and service at the best price, who is financially stable, and who has a track record that is void of large numbers of customer complaints. Also, take note that a number of merchants selling used terminals may not know the network the terminal works on;

Know the fees and terms of conditions

The last thing you want to do is sign up with a provider who will hit you with various fees, not to mention make it difficult to get out of a contract if need be. Make sure you know up front what fees are for both hardware and service, thereby avoiding shock when your first merchant statement bill arrives. It is also usually wiser to go with a shorter term agreement with the provider to test them out and see if you are happy with both the product and service;

Plan ahead

Finally, make sure you plan ahead when going for a wireless credit card machine and provider. If you do business on the road and/or at trade shows, you don’t want a nasty surprise that your wireless product is not ready to go the day you need it. In the event you operate a seasonal small business, let your provider know that your business has busy and slow periods during the year. Among other things, this helps negate the idea that a sudden amount of activity is the result of a swiped terminal.

If doing more business is one of your prime goals for 2013, adding a wireless credit card machine may be the best gift you can give yourself.

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers small business topics for various websites, including finding the right wireless credit card machine for your company.

Main Trends in Business Communication

Business communication can mean many things, but in this article, it refers to the communication between a business and its customers, whether the business is selling to the general public or business-to-business. There are various passive platforms that a business can use to communicate with their customers, such a TV adverts and leaflets, but this article considers direct contact, such as person-to-person and over the phone etc. Technology is having a large impact on business communication in the same way that it always has. Technology has always been the driving force behind change in business communication.

business communication
Image by Baltic Development Forum

The olden days

Technology was the reason why people stopped communicating via telegram and went onto the telephone. It was the reason why person-to-person communication became more prevalent as people bought vehicles. The trends will always be dictated by technology.


There is no denying that traditional person-to-person communication has taken a nosedive in the west. Businesses seem to be using passive communication (advertising) more. This is partly due to the fact that there are now more places to advertise than ever. There were four TV channels and now there are four hundred. People no longer need to visit stores when they can order things to their house. This also means that complaints and other forms of communication are going to be done less via person-to-person communication.

Written literacy

For some reason we live in a time when the written word is as popular as ever, and yet so few people are any good at using it. Never has the written word been so popular, to the point where all sophisticated technology revolves around it, and yet literacy is still very low. The trend in the business world seems to have followed suit, where businesses are demonstrating lower literacy standards. Emails and text messages seem to be showing an all time poor written standard. This is probably due to the fact that these electronic messages are very cheap or free. This seemed to have made businesses less careful about what they do. For example, could you imaging a batch of leaflets being printed without being proofread? Yet email communication is rife with poor spelling, poor grammar and txt talk.

Multilingual Communication

This seems to have taken a sharp rise in prevalence. It now appears that businesses are prepared to translate their messages into another language. Ironically, this is not in order to communicate with people from other countries, but to communicate with people in their own country. For example in America a lot of communications are done in Spanish to accommodate the massive influx of Hispanic immigrants that have taken residence there.

Mobile communication

Many people will tell you that mobile communication is higher in prevalence where business communication is concerned. This is not true, because even though a lot of advertising happens online, and is aimed at mobile users, it is not actually a bigger means of communication. For example, if a company were going to call someone’s mobile phone ten years ago, that is still the way they would contact them today. Companies who give results via SMS, still do! Nothing has changed. But because mobile Internet is used more, and mobile apps are used more, people assume that this means businesses are communicating with peoples mobile devices more–but this is not the case.

Social media

This actually is one of the newer trends that has affected business communication. More businesses are using social media to communicate with clients. Some use social media that are aimed at business-to-business traders (LinkedIn) and others are using social media as an FAQ and helpline forum.

Author’s bio: My name is Sonia Jackson. I represent the UK web-site We’ll help you to solve all problems with writing different essays and research papers according to the rules in the UK.

Is Your Small Business Leaving You with Less Energy?

For small business owners that are counting every penny, how many of them do you think worry about their heating and cooling needs during the year for their offices?

While some may check the thermostat every couple of hours, others are more likely to not be on top of how much air or heat they and their employees are actually wasting. As a result, money is essentially being thrown out the window, money that one can never get back.

Although some business owners may think that it doesn’t take much to heat or cool their buildings during the year, they would probably get quite an awakening if they knew the truth. In a day and age where the economy is still proving a challenge for many, saving money on heating and cooling costs is important.

energy saving tips
Image by / Flickr

In order to make your office as efficient as possible, keep the following in mind:

1. Check the thermostat – The easiest and most efficient way to save on your office energy bills is by checking the thermostat on a daily basis. Let’s assume you operate a 40-hour per week, 5-day a week office. With that being said, make sure you keep the thermostat at a reasonable level during both hot and cold weather. If the office will sit empty over the weekend, be sure to turn back/turn up (depending on season) the thermostat when leaving at the end of the day Friday so you spend less over the weekend. Two days may not seem like a great deal, but you should notice savings when doing it on a regular basis;

2. Work with the weather – If your office space has a number of sizable windows, make sure you take advantage of the weather to let light in and out. In the warmer months, keep the blinds or other coverings closed during the warmest part of the day to lessen the need for air conditioning. In the cooler months, keep the light coming in as much as possible during the day to decrease the need for heat, letting the sun warm your office space;

3. Review heating and cooling systems – One of the big money grabbers when it comes to your heating and cooling needs is having air conditioners and heaters that do not work properly. Before the start of winter, check the office heater to make sure it is running at full efficiency, along with it being clear of debris and dirt in any vent areas. The same holds true prior to the start of summer with your office air conditioning. If the appliance is only operating at half capacity, you are losing money by the hour;

4. Shop around for providers – While you may be limited on who provides your heating and cooling needs on where your office is located, that doesn’t mean you can’t investigate if there are other affordable options. Also shop around for office heaters, air conditioners, fans, etc. when possible. As more energy-efficient and environment-friendly products hit the market, you could realize additional savings with the right selections;

5. Sell your employees on savings – Finally, your employees can and should be your biggest proponents of saving money in the office. Remember, the more you save on your heating and cooling needs, the more you have to potentially give to them, increase your advertising and marketing budget to bring in more business, and the more the business can grow over time. Getting your employees to go along with a little higher or lower thermostat and not wasting energy helps them out too.

With the New Year right around the corner, are you energetic enough to see where your money is going?

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers small business topics for various websites, including louisville heating and its heating and cooling options.

The Wrong Payroll Solution for Your Small Business Doesn’t Pay

As a small business owner, what holds you up most at work?

If meeting your payroll needs on time has become an issue for you, what do you plan to do about it going into the New Year?

Payroll is one of if not the most important issues a small business owner must deal when employing others. Whether they are full-time, part-time or freelance employees, it is a no-brainer that workers want to get paid and paid on time at that.

payroll management

So, if you are finding payroll to be an issue for your small business, is outsourcing it the right call to make?

When you find the right payroll provider, you can take the time and effort that you or one of your employees were doing to meet payroll and direct it elsewhere. Finding that right provider, however, can take some doing.

Among the things to look for in a payroll provider are:

Dependability – First and foremost, have you ever dealt with your workers not getting their paychecks on time? It can oftentimes lead to reduced effort on the job, not to mention disgruntled employees if it happens too often. By outsourcing your payroll needs to the right payroll service, you lessen the chances of errors happening on your watch for starters. Any well-run payroll service provider can easily cut checks or handle direct deposit, make sure your taxes are properly covered (see below), and handle items such as health insurance and 401k deductions;

Taxes – One of the biggest fears any small business owner has is getting a letter from the IRS, stating that the company’s taxes are off. With the right payroll provider handling your finances, you can make sure that the proper payroll tax deductions were made each pay period, and that W-2’s and 1099s are properly handled. Keep in mind, however, that you as the employer still maintain the final responsibility for the proper deposit and payments of all federal, state and local tax liabilities, not the payroll provider;

Direct deposit – While some employees still prefer a paper check, many workers in today’s fast-paced world like the money to go right into their bank accounts via direct deposit. Not only does this cut down on the paper expense, but it saves you from having to have checks mailed to your office, with the potential of course for being late or misplaced. Many payroll providers are happy to oversee direct deposit for your workers, making it one less thing for you to worry about;

Staying up to speed on changes – It is not uncommon for there to be changes in regulations, withholding rates and forms. As a result, do you really have time as a small business owner to review all of them? A payroll service provider has the time and the knowledge to deal with such changes, meaning your payroll will be handled according to the most recent rules and regulations;

Timing – With the New Year right around the corner, going with a payroll provider in 2013 could make it easier for both you and your workers. You start a new year off with a new service, you are up to speed on any new rules that oftentimes commence at the start of a new calendar year, and you can start saving money over the long haul by outsourcing your payroll needs;

Referrals – Last but not least, how will you go about finding the right payroll provider? Online searches and referrals are two good roads to travel. Make sure that each provider you look at is properly licensed and bonded, has a track record of proven customer service, does not come up under searches for numerous customer complaints with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and most importantly, go over their fees. It is not uncommon for providers to charge per payroll check, along with a base account expense. With potential add-on costs, know what you will be financially responsible for before agreeing to any contract. Also, check to see if the provider has a security system in place so that no employees end up having personal data such as salaries and Social Security numbers compromised.

If you have been thinking about switching to a payroll provider, it could pay off in more ways than one for your small business.

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers small business topics for various websites, including why companies should consider payroll outsourcing.

Tips on Improving Your Business Sales

No matter what industry you find yourself in, there are probably multiple ways that you can improve on what you’re doing. Many companies have a hard time figuring out how to improve sales numbers without spending a ton of extra money to get the job done. If you are interested in improving your business sales, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

sales promotion girl
Image by nSeika / Flickr

1. Motivate the Sales Staff

If you want to be able to improve your sales, one of the best things that you can do is make sure your sales staff is motivated. When your staff is motivated, they’ll be much more likely to produce numbers. One of the best ways to motivate sales staff is to make sure that they are fairly compensated for the sale that they bring in. Come up with a compensation plan that rewards sales and extra effort. If your sales staff doesn’t think that your compensation plan is fair, they won’t be willing to go out of their way to get sales. Besides offering a better compensation plan, you should also consider offering some other incentives along the way. For example, recognizing your top performers were giving them some type of a prize for making the most sales can go a long way toward motivating them.

2. Get Your Marketing Efforts in Line

One of the biggest mistakes that many businesses make is that they allocate too much money to the wrong types of marketing avenues. You will probably need to spend a big chunk of your money on advertising, but you need to make sure that you’re putting your money into the right channels. For example, if you are throwing money away on a television advertising campaign that doesn’t work, it might be in your best interest to try to advertise online with pay-per-click ads or banner ads. Track your marketing efforts to make sure that you are getting the most bang for your buck regardless of which channel you choose.

3. Get Pricing and Promotion Right

As part of the marketing mix, every business has to focus on pricing and promotion. If you have your products at the right price point, this will go a long way toward helping you increase your sales. In some cases, you may have your product overpriced just slightly, which can drive business to one of your competitors. In addition to making sure that you have the right price, you also need to offer the right promotions. For example, you may want to offer a coupon discount or advertise a sale periodically.

Once you implement some of these strategies, you should be able to improve your company’s sales over time. Tweak the different variables involved until you have a strategy that works.

About the Author: This guest post is contributed by Debra Johnson, blogger and editor of She welcomes your comments at her email Id: – jdebra84 @

Does Your Small Business Need More Mobility?

How does your small business go about trying to land more customers?

For some companies, it means providing better customer services. Others, meantime, turn to more advertising of their brand, be it through traditional ads and/or social media. Still others look to improve on their products.

In other cases, the man or woman running a small business comes to the realization that they need to be more mobile. When you break it down, it essentially means offering mobile payments to their clientele.

According to a Yankee Group estimate, the global transaction value for mobile payments will be around $984 billion by 2014, up from a figure of $162 billion just two years ago. That involves transactions including mobile banking, contactless cards and mobile coupons among others.

If your small business has been slow to adapt to the mobile payment world, you have likely been missing out on a decent share of revenue.

mobile payments
Image by monty.metzger / Flickr

In order to better understand the world of mobile payments and how they can help your small business, consider the following:

Mobile payment providers work with you – As more mobile payment providers work their way into this growing market, small business owners have choices as to which provider they want to work with. Many mobile payment providers do not charge small business owners a start-up fee, while many provide free card readers. The goal here is to do your research of which provider best fits your business needs. Make sure you have a good idea of what your company’s revenue is to help you determine the best provider. Also research a provider’s financial stability, track record for customer service, and if there is any pattern of customer complaints (you can use the Better Business Bureau in this effort);

Get to work on mobility – Once you have a mobile payment provider lined up, the setup time is minimal, while there is little training for you or your employees to process such transactions;

Impulse buying – It is not uncommon for many customers to buy on impulse. That being the case, you stand to increase your revenue when you offer them a mobile payment option. If a customer has to wait to go online to buy from you, they may end up not making the purchase, meaning you lost out on potential revenue. On the other hand, letting them swipe a smartphone at checkout or when you visit their office or home (if you sell on the road) can lead to more sales;

Sell on the go – There are many small business pros who sell products and services on the road. For those occasions, offering mobile payments just makes sense. Whether you go to someone’s home or office to deliver products or services, you have the mobility to conduct a transaction without being tied to your store or office. Not having to rely on a point-of-sale terminal or magnetic-stripe card reader opens up more revenue opportunities for your small business, as customers like the flexibility of being able to do business with you in the comfort of their home or office, meaning they do not have to travel to your business locale. In the end, it is a win-win situation for both parties;

Emphasize security – One common concern customers can end up having with mobile payments is will there data be secure? Make sure you point out to them that the information they provide is encrypted and is entirely safe to transmit via a mobile payment. Once you have the customer’s sense of security covered as it relates to privacy and avoiding fraudulent charges, there is no reason not for them to want to do business with you in this manner;

Promote your mobility – Finally, make sure that your current and potential customers know about the fact you offer mobile payments. Use your social media outlets to advertise the fact, plus make sure you note it through both your employees and your traditional advertising venues. Offering customers specials and rewards for making transactions via mobile payments is a great way to increase such revenue.

While many small business owners are still warming to mobile payments, others have taken the ball and run with it.

The question is, are you ready to make your small business more mobile in 2013?

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers small business topics for various websites, including why companies should accept credit cards online.