Whether you're a seasoned investor or an individual just looking to put your money where it will see a return above the present pitiful saving account rates, small businesses can prove a rewarding prospect. Every world-beating business has to start small. Those with radical new ideas or unproven technologies struggle to win support from the banks can be the companies that change the way we live. However, for every start-up firm that goes on to be the next Facebook or Vodafone, hundreds will fail within their first couple of years. Investing in small companies is a high-risk activity, but it's also a gamble that can pay off spectacularly.

Spotting potential and taking advise

If you're new to the investment game, it's good to go for areas you already know something about. This way you have the ability to accurately assess a new company's potential. If you have an interest in the field, you have a better chance of buying shares at a bargain price before the city investors catch on. It's always a good idea to listen to the experts however, or at least to take advantage of whatever information is available, especially on the internet. The golden rule is never to put all of your eggs in one basket, especially where small businesses are involved. Assume a certain amount will go bust, don't risk more than you can stand to lose and be prepared to wait a long time before you see a profit. Also, be on your guard against fraud, especially if investing online see quantumfinance.com.au.

Tax breaks

In the UK, several government schemes offer tax relief to those investing in small, unlisted companies and start-ups. These can offer a buffer against losing money on your investments. The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) offers 30% tax relief up to £1m per tax year on profits and loss, while the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, specifically relating to start-ups, offers a 50% break. Not all businesses qualify however, and not everyone can take advantage of these breaks, so make sure you have all the facts before going ahead.

The risks of investing in small businesses are high; you'll need good strategy and more than a little luck to come out ahead. But you'll have the buzz of championing the underdog, and hopefully the thrill of seeing it grow into a serious contender.  

It has been more than a couple of months since Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. No later than April 2019, Britain should officially exit the European Union. This transition period is expected to be quite turbulent as demonstrated by the dramatic fall in the value of the GBP since the Brexit vote last year. While the government has eased interest rates in order to boost the economy, business confidence in the country has continued to weaken.

Uncertainty in the economy is never good news for business owners. Consumers no longer buy as much as they usually do and this hurts a business in terms of revenue. Cashflow is affected too since your vendors may now start demanding upfront payment or may at least stop offering generous credit periods like they once did. This hits your working capital which may necessitate your business to seek short term loans that often come with high interest rates. All of this has a cascading effect on the economy in general and your business in particular.

The first thing that a business owner must do under such circumstances is to maintain a steady working capital and cashflow. This way, one could make sure that the business survives the turbulent times till the economy picks up once again.

Pay As You Go (PAYG)

The easiest way to improve your cashflow situation is to cut down on excesses. Do you have a chauffeur-driven office car? Use Uber instead. Do you pay a monthly retainer to your PR agency or lawyers? Try to exit this arrangement and pay them by the hour when necessary. This is, of course, assuming that you do not need your agency or lawyers round the clock in which case it makes sense to have them on a retainer. The idea here is to bring down the outgoing cost wherever possible by paying just for usage.

Fixed Cost Alternatives

The PAYG model can backfire in some instances. Take your company’s website hosting for instance. A sudden increase in traffic could shoot up your bills beyond your monthly budget and this can hurt your cashflow. As Henrik Printzlau, CTO of Templafy writes, such fixed cost subscriptions “make it easy for you to win certainty over software expenses and allow you to budget your business purposes without any hidden money pits.”

Choosing between a PAYG model and a fixed cost alternative essentially boils down to your specific needs. If you have a hundred percent utilization of the product or service in question, then it is advisable to pick a fixed cost solution. On the other hand, if you will only need the product or service for a few hours a day, then it is good to choose a PAYG alternative. If the utilization percentage of the product itself is uncertain (such as web hosting), then it is better to err on the side of caution and pick a fixed cost solution.

Incentivize up-front payment

The biggest threat to your cashflow comes from the non-payment of dues from customers. This is exacerbated in an uncertain economy since businesses you transact with may shut down, or may have not been paid by customers they work with. This messes up the cashflow for everyone who is higher up in the chain. The ideal fix to this problem is to do away with credit periods. But this may not be practical all the time. A better solution is to create incentives for customers who pay up-front. For instance, you could offer a 5% discount on the invoice if the customer pays up-front. This is a win-win for both parties since the customer can now enjoy lower cash outflow while you can benefit from a predictable inflow of cash.

Managing contracts and retainers

The way to achieve healthy cashflow during uncertainties is by maximizing your predictable cash inflow and minimizing your outflow. The PAYG and fixed cost solutions mentioned earlier in this article primarily deal with cash outflow - the money you pay your vendors, attorneys, staff and for resources. This may require you to end contracts or retainers that you have signed up for with various partners. But while this is true on the supply side, businesses must move towards more contracts and retainers on the demand side of the chain. By pushing your customers to sign an annual contract or hire you on a retainer basis, you establish a cash inflow process that is a lot more stable and predictable.

The mantra to surviving a business uncertainty is simple - minimize outflow and maximize inflow. A sustainable working capital helps you tide over any uncertainties and ensures that your business survives to profit from a booming economy that is not a long time away. 

Saving Money with Coupons

By Pete | @kingpetey | 19 Jul 2017

With the ongoing decline in living standards and lack of wage growth, every family is looking for a way to save money. We all want to save ourselves some extra each month - no matter how small. One of the best ways to doing this is by making use of coupon and discount codes.

Using coupons used to be considered being cheap, but now almost everyone wants to get involved and people spend endless hours searching for discount codes that will help them keep some extra money in their pockets. Instead of sitting at your computer, surfing through different websites, and not getting good coupons and discount codes, why not join just one website and get the best discount on your favorite products.

Using a coupon nowadays is not just a necessity, it is also considered to be a smart move. So, how do you use these discount codes to save yourself that extra cash? Well, the process here is quite simple. Below are some factors that can help you out with saving money using coupons and discount codes.

CHECK YOUR SHOPPING HABITS

Discount codes at CouponGrind.com can help you save a lot but you need to be aware of your shopping habits so you can actually save money at the end of the day. Ensure that you are not just using the discount codes to buy products you don't need and be aware of what the deal entails before buying. Make sure the products you buy with the coupons are products you are actually going to use; don’t just buy them because they are cheap.

BE SURE ABOUT EXPIRY DATES

Coupons have expiry dates and these dates are subjected to change. Stores can make the decision to expire their coupons at any time. They have the right to do this and they can do it without sending notices. This usually happens when the demand is too much or when the product supply is limited. Either way, you need to act quickly when you get an offer as you may not find it there the next day.

CHECK OUT THE COMPETITION AND SAVE MORE

You do not need to wait until checkout before trying to get yourself a coupon. Log on to a competent deal and coupon website like CouponGrind.com. This way, you'll be able to cut down your visits to multiple sites as you'll get nothing but the best deals on this websites; you'll also be able to know the store that offers the best price.

TRY OUT A NEW STORE

This is another way to save money of coupons. Do not be afraid to check out a new store. Most times, new stores offer bigger discounts so as to attract new customers. As a matter of fact, new customers can get five to ten percent higher savings than returning customers. But keep it in mind that most times, these offers are only eligible for the first purchase you make at that store.

Get your coupons and discount codes at CouponGrind.com today and save more than you ever think you will. From food, to clothing, to health, beauty, professional services, etc. you have the best chances of saving now.

Happy Savings!

While every appliance might feel crucial in its own way, it goes without saying that the absence of a cooker really can limit a household's eating plans. Given that, one could argue that it's the most important device in the kitchen.

Bearing this in mind, the day when something does go wrong is often a frustrating one. The nature of cookers means that the potential for a problem always exists and unfortunately, these problems at least seem to always fall on the pricy side.

While appliance repairs are certainly becoming more affordable, to make things a little more bearable here are some of the most common cooker problems and the course of action if they should occur.

Problem #1 - The oven is burning everything

Firstly, we're going to assume that you have the temperature gauge set correctly - and you're also not leaving everything in for too long.

Once the above has been satisfied, the issue is most likely due to a broken thermostat. The problem with replacing this part isn't necessarily the cost, but more the complexity. It's not the easiest thing in the world to manipulate and you will have to make sure that the phial is not touched as you start the replacement process.

Problem #2 - You can't close the oven door

It goes without saying that not being able to close the oven door is going to have obvious repercussions for the state of your food.

However, at least in comparison to some of the other issues, this one is relatively easy to fix. It's not overly-technical, as the problem is mainly due to faulty hinges (or sometimes the runners).

In fact, it's usually both that are impacted (broken runners resulting in the hinges being damaged). If this has occurred, the general advice is to repair both hinges at the same time as it's rare for one to be in optimum condition, and the other to be broken.

Problem #3 - Your oven is noisy

The sound might suggest otherwise, but a noisy oven isn't always cause for disaster.

In fact, sometimes it's simply loose screws and while these should be fixed, it's probably not going to be game over if you do take your time before addressing them.

One of the most common reasons is the cooling fan motor being in the wrong position though. Even if it's slightly misaligned, it can give something of a screeching sound as it is catching other elements of the oven.

While the above might be true in newer models, if you have an older oven it could be due to a motor bearing failure. If this is the case acting quickly is absolutely crucial. If you don't, the motor will start to run too slow and the upshot of this will be that the fan will start to overheat. Suffice to say, when parts start to overheat, the problem is heightened significantly and more severe repair work might be needed.

The future of manufacturing will definitely include robots—and the future is now. There are already many automated processes, with more to come.  But how many more robots and automated machines will there be? Will all human factory workers eventually be replaced, or is this just science fiction?

Automation enabled manufacturing’s latest trend known as lights-out production, a term for facilities able to operate without lights and without any human oversight. At the lights out FANUC (factor automated numerical control) facility in Japan, robots are creating other robots.

Not only the lights are off, so are the A/C and heating. The automated workforce operates continuously, without any breaks. Through this automated, lights out process, FANUC creates 22,000 to 23,000 CNC machines monthly.

FANUC, with its 24/7/365 production schedule, is an uncommon production facility. What’s more common is having automated processes occurring during the third shift for a few hours a day—at least as a starting point.

However, before a company even considers lights-out production, automation systems must already be in place. Companies with interest in seeing if lights-out production is a cost-effective option, turn to specialists like Midwest Engineering Systems (MWES) for customized automation solutions and machine designs.

Although lights-out production isn’t for every company, there are some major benefits including the following:

  • Increased product quality
  • Improved throughput
  • Decrease in workplace injuries—especially in hazardous work environments
  • Fills in a skilled worker shortage
  • A decrease in labor costs

Douglas Peterson, general manager for collaborative robots maker Universal Robots, told Automation World the criteria to determine what would work is best for a robot vs. what work would be best for human workers.

“Robots are uniquely suited to any manufacturing task that is dirty, dangerous or dull. If the process doesn’t require human dexterity, mental agility or problem-solving skills, then it can be done by a robot.”

Implementing lights-out production is a complex and difficult process. CNC Cookbook outlines and details the many challenges that can come with starting a lights-out production process, with the largest challenge being perfecting processes.

For example, even with the most cutting-edge technology, if a single process is faulty, the whole system is at risk of failure in an automated environment.  Testing new equipment and ensuring a seamless production process is critical. Having human supervisors and maintenance techs on-site is often recommended.

On the finance side, the upfront costs of lights-out production can be cost-prohibitive for many. Experts say facilities debating a move to a lights-out system should expect a return on their upfront investment within two years. If the gains in efficiency and productivity will pay of the cost of the automated machines and components themselves within 2 years, the investment likely makes sense.

Automation’s popularity grows as lights-out production is becoming more commonplace and less of a novelty. Machines will likely replace many workers who perform more dangerous or repetitive tasks while helping to boost productivity gains and profitability for many manufacturers.

(Image Credit: Steve Jurvetson / Flickr)

Pages