Staying successful: How to keep the customer  
Despite the billions big name brands spend on marketing to new customers every year, the real profit is to be found not in bagging new business but in retaining old business. This makes the statistics that the majority of companies lose half their existing customers every five years all the more frightening. So, rather than chasing after every potential customer who is yet to know about your brand, why not take the time this year to zero in on the ones already on board.
Here are three key steps to retaining business.
Get honest opinions from your customers
While the internet might lead you to believe that people only open their mouths to complain, in fact the opposite is true. The majority of time, if you ask a customer their opinion of your service or product, they will say nice things, regardless of how they really feel. If asked their opinion by an independent third party, however, they are likely to open up in a far more honest manner. Do your market research anonymously, mixing questions on your brand in with questions on other brands. You will be likely to get a much broader, clearer and more honest picture.
Get to know your customers
It is amazing the number of business people who hold only a vague notion of the kind of person at whom their product is aimed. This kind of fuzzy thinking translates to lost revenue and lost custom. Consider not just the spending patterns of your core base but also their lifestyles, the places they live and the outlook they have on life in general. Then, consider strategies based on this information.
Offer discounts to the right people at the right times
The difference between a customer staying and going can often be nothing more than a good offer that appears just before they were about to switch. Does this mean it's all about luck? Not at all. In reality, it is about timing. If you take a proactive interest in the behaviour of your core base, you will be able to time product-releases, discount offers and incentives that will keep them on board for the longest possible term.
The best countries in the world to start a busines  

These days, the entrepreneur that wishes to launch a new venture can think beyond their native soil when it comes to launching a new venture. With long distance travel becoming easier and quicker by the day and improved communications shrinking the business world, it is a good idea to consider what country would best suit your new business idea.
The World Bank recently released a report listing the best countries in which to start a new business, rating 185 economies across the world in terms of their lack of red tape, taxation and the general straightforwardness of getting a new company up and running. Here are the top three.
1. New Zealand
For the second year running, New Zealand took the top spot, rated as the best country in the world for a new business. As soon as you register your business' name online, you can start applying for tax related account and incorporating the company. Essentially, starting a business is a one day, one step process that costs just NZ$163.55 and comes with no minimum capital requirement.
2. Australia
It seems the English speaking nations of the Southern Hemisphere really do have their ducks in a row when it comes to encouraging new business. The Aussies lowered the registration fee for businesses a few years back (to AUS$426) and it has encouraged a flurry of new business activity down under.
3. Canada
A notable lack of red tape characterises Canadian business practices at all levels, and starting a company is no different. A simple, one step online registration process is all that is needed. In five days time you will have your company number and can begin trading.
4. Singapore
Singapore is a real business hub, with a culture that is very focused on business. One of the most significant parts of the three step process of starting a new company on the island, is making a company seal, which will be used as an ink stamp signature on official documents.
5. Macedonia
This one might surprise you, but in recent years Macedonia has become a really attractive prospect for new business investment. One of the main reasons for this is a general lowering of the obstacles to those looking to launch a company with a low capital requirement and a short online application procedure.


The best ever movies about business  

The Wolf of Wall Street hit cinemas back in 2013 and it has divided critics across the globe. Some have called it a disgraceful celebration of corruption and greed, others an unfair attack on the financial sector and other as a modern classic that tackles the subject of greed head on. It also raises the question of how big business is generally depicted on the silver screen. Here are a few of the most famous examples of films that deal with business.
Wall Street
The obvious place to begin and, in many ways, a companion piece of The Wolf of Wall Street, Oliver Stone's 1987 hit takes on stock market corruption and insider trading. Charlie Sheen's financial up and comer's corruption at the hands of Michael Douglas' ruthless investor Gordon Gekko has informed how finance has been portrayed on screen ever since, with the immortal quote “Greed is good” falling into common parlance as the rallying cry for ultra-ambitious business people the world over.
It's a Wonderful Life
A far more positive view of how business people can affect the world around them is offered by Frank Capra in this Christmas time favourite from 1946. Sam Bailey is a small Savings and Loan officer from a small town whose common decency and humanity touches all those around him.
Working Girl
Mike Nichols' 1988 comedy about Melanie Griffith's working class secretary's tough time as she works her way through the ranks at Wall Street should be closely watched by anybody planning a career in finance. By no means an attack on corporatism, it still underlines the importance of watching your back in the corporate environment, particularly when you have a boss like Sigourney Weaver's Kathleen Parker around to steal your ideas and claim them as her own.
Too Big to Fail
Directed by Curtis Hanson, this television film depicts the 2008 financial crisis, in particular looking at the way the American Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson attempts to address the issue as the severity of the breakdown became apparent. It's a sobering look at how arrogance and greed in the place of confidence and ambition can lead severe problems across the business world.


The most influential business books of all time  
One way to improve your business brain is to feed it. There are tomes and tomes of writing about business that have been penned down the centuries. Regardless of how long you have been in business, being au-fait with the best of these titles will add more weapons to your arsenal.
The Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith (1776)
It's quite incredible to think that the information contained in Smith's famous and highly significant volume is still considered gospel by economists across the globe. It was written back in the days when a British entrepreneur looking to invest in America had a lengthy sea voyage to look forward to. Yet, even today, in the age of Skype, email and the iPhone, Smith's clear vision of good economic practices is cited time and time again by experts and lecturers across the globe.
Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand (1957)
The bible of the neo-conservative movement, Atlast Shrugged is the novel that best encapsulated Rand's provocative, compelling and romantic view of capitalism and capitalists. Business leaders, she argued, are the engine of a healthy society, whose vision, bravery and ambition support and protect the well-being of the masses. Rand was a true rebel of the literary scene of the late 50s. As more and more poets, novelists and journalists called for left-wing revolution, she stood firm in her resistance of collectivism and her belief in the fundamental role of those who create wealth.
Guerrilla Marketing – Jay Conrad Levinson (1984)
Guerrilla Marketing changed the way corporations and companies of every size and shape addressed advertising. Levinson's simple though key argument, that a target market is more likely to respond to an unconventional marketing tactic than one they have seen before, was revolutionary. Suddenly, businesses realised those huge, expensive TV spots that they were pouring half their budget into each year might not be as effective as a creative piece of flyering.
The Greatest Salesman in the World – Og Mandino (1968)
Eleven years after Ayn Rand changed the way people thought about business leaders, Mandino reshaped the concept of the salesman with this seminal work. Salesmen were not, he argued, down-at-heel Willie Lomans or devious snake oil dealers, but decent people that helped people to connect with things that made them happy. It's still a revolutionary thought today.
Today’s great business leaders  
So, who are the greatest, most influential and most skilful business leaders currently operating in the world? Depending on who you ask that question to, you might get a thousand different answers. Here, in no particular order, our some of the ones we rate highest and why. If you run a business of any kind, paying attention to the careers of these powerful operators is well worth your time.
Howard Schultz
Schultz is the head of Starbucks, a small, local coffee house you might have heard of. What makes his story so incredible, however, is not just the incredible, globe spanning success of his franchised outlets but also the journey that took him to that position. After growing up in the poorest part of the Bronx, New York, he worked non-stop, driven by a vaulting ambition and a brilliant nose for opportunity (he's also a key investor in eBay).
Larry Page
As the head of Google, Page has been a wonderful example of a truly steadfast visionary business person staying committed to his core beliefs regardless of what the world throws at him. In its 16 year rise to global dominance, Google has been viciously criticised and gushingly praised. Page has shown the calm and self belief to let neither of these elements blow his far-sighted thinking off course.
Warren Buffett
Is there anything to say about Warren Buffett that hasn't already been said? A true legend of capitalism, his conservative, surefooted investment strategies have flown in the face of the boom and bust economics of the last four decades. The net result? He remains the most respected and successful investor of modern times.
Sir Richard Branson
Anybody that wants to know about how to successfully brand themselves, should look no further than Richard Branson. Perhaps the world's most recognisable business leader, Branson's is brilliant self-promoter, measuring his public appearances beautifully, with just the right amounts of confidence, self deprecation, humour and intelligence. The man has now amassed a personal fortune of an estimated £3 billion and owns over 400 companies, including Virgin airlines, Virgin Racing, Virgin Gaming and Northern Rock. His success in such a diverse range of ventures is testament to the pervasiveness of his brand.
Want to run a business from home Read this  

Are you about to start a small business? Then there is a good chance you have already considered running it from your home. Before you do, there are a few things to think about. This guide will run down the pros and cons of working out of your house and give you a few key tips to doing so effectively.
The Advantages
  • The one that most appeals to those who punch a clock in an office every day is that you get to spend the day at home. This is, in many ways, the ultimate freedom for the self-employed person. Your hours can be every bit as flexible as you would like them to be.
  • Cost is another important factor when it comes to running a business at home. No rent to pay, no commuting costs and, if you are a parent, you can save money on childcare costs. Plus there's a number of tax benefits for those launching a home based business.
  • Thanks to the lower start-up costs, you can launch the company as a part time business and allow it to develop from there.
The Disadvantages
  • The first advantage could also be read as a disadvantage: spending all your time at home could lead to cabin fever pretty quickly. Running your business at home might also disturb your lifestyle and family privacy.
  • There's also your neighbours to consider. Running a company results in all kinds of comings and goings at your address that could lead to disturbances in your neighbourhood.
  • Being at home can sometimes make it difficult to get into the business-like frame of mind, making the establishment of daily timetables and disciplined working tough. There's a lot more distractions at home than there are in the office.
Tips on getting it right
  • The first thing to do is to assess the risks in your home. The Health and Safety act applies to a home business just as much as an office-space.
  • Will there be employees in your home every day? If so, you are legally required to take out employer's liability insurance.
  • Will you be taking meetings with clients, customers or business visitors not employed by the company at your address? Then public liability insurance will be essential.
  • Insurance will also be required for any business stock that you keep at home, plus a business interruption policy is worth picking up too.

What can 3D printing do for your business?  

Chances are, you've heard plenty of chatter about 3D printing over the last 12 months or so. Depending on who you ask, it is either the future of manufacturing, a nerdy pastime for gadget geeks and gamers or a passing fad that will be gone the way of the mini-disc by this time next year. Despite what the cynics might say, the technology and business headlines in early 2014 all indicate that 3D printing is very much here to stay, with numerous large, multinational companies and major organisations firmly getting behind the technology.
Dell has just signed a deal to sell MakerBot 3D printing products through its online store, NASA is convinced 3D printers will play a huge part in getting astronauts to Mars and Credit Suisse's Jonathan Shaffer has estimated that the global worth of the 3D print industry in 2016 will reach $800 million.
The big question for you in all of this is: how might this impact my business?
If you do not work in a company that sells a tangible product of any kind, then the likely answer is ‘not at all.' If, however, you work in any industry that relies upon manufacturing then the almost certain answer is ‘very heavily and very soon.'
3D printing is particularly useful in the prototyping stage of product development. From the earliest moments of designing an object to the production of the final prototype, 3D printing can make the process more cost effective, quicker and, most importantly, more effective. Small details can be changed on the original CAD, and then printed without compromising the prototype's structure.
So, if you work with prototypes, then 3D printing will be essential to your future. Then there is the question of 3D printing for small parts. While mass producing machinery or products through 3D printing is not cost effective enough for widespread implementation, the printing of individual components for machinery is being adopted more and more across the globe. For example, an RAF jet that recently took off from a UK airstrip included 3D printed parts. Future plans are to house 3D print devices at bases across the world, meaning airplanes can be repaired and maintained using parts printed on-site, massively speeding up the repair process.
The same principle could be used on a much smaller scale for engineers, plumbers or maintenance workers. Rather than having to check they have all the spare parts for a job before arriving at a job-site, they could 3D print them after examining the broken device, once again saving time and cost.
For these and more reasons, 3D printing is a technology to which it is well worth paying attention.

What can Machiavelli tell you about business?  
The Prince, Nicolo Machiavelli's 1513 treatise on history and political theory, was a landmark volume that provokes controversy, debate and fierce argument to this day. Characterised by the famous quote, ‘The end justifies the means', it called upon political leaders to not only be intelligent and diplomatic but also to be calculating and cunning, so long as the final results were to the betterment of society in general.
Though chiefly written about politics, The Prince is a must read for anybody looking to get ahead in modern business. Within its pages, you'll find a wealth of deep thought and wise advice on long term economic, financial and business strategy that will help you stay ahead of the competition.
As the princess cannot help being hated by someone, they ought to endeavour with the utmost diligence to avoid the hatred of powerful people.
Nobody succeeds in business without making a couple of enemies along the way. Yet, similarly, nobody succeeds in business without making even more friends. In particular, powerful friends are essential to securing your own power – it doesn't matter if you are the manager in a franchise of a fast food restaurant or the CEO of a multinational corporation. If you want to get and stay in an advanced position, ensure you make strong connections with the top echelon in your industry.
The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.
While we all like to feel that we are the smartest person in the room, if you deliberately fill your business with people you know to be inferior to yourself, it will show in your results. Do not be afraid of people with more experience, more intelligence or more capabilities than you. Welcome the input of those whose input is worth having and reject those who are not up to scratch.
"Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times."
There's not a business person alive who can afford to stand still. Pay attention to changes, not just in your industry, but also in society at large. No matter how disconnected they might seem, everything is an influence on your company.
What does a new year mean for your business?  
The way you start the year has a huge impact on how much success it offers to your business. Obviously, we all want to do better this year than we did last, regardless of what kind of company you run. So, how do you make sure that will happen? Here are our six key tips to kicking off the next twelve months the right way.
In particular, small business owners often overlook this key step to success, assuming that managing the day-to-day operation of the company is more crucial than the overall business plan. This is a great way to work your fingers to the bone but run out of steam three months into the year. Instead, set clear goals for the year and keep them at the front of your mind as the days tick by.
Don't just let those annual goals sit on a file on your computer. Keep them close and check on your progress every week. Set real deadlines for completion of each goal and be sure you hit the target on time.
Even successful companies need to develop and change as time goes by. The start of a new year is a great time to think about the things you can do to allow this development to take place as smoothly as possible. One great place to start is your company's website. Take a look at it and ask yourself how well it is selling your business to your target market.
Does your business use social media? If not, it might be that you think it doesn't apply to your industry or the market into which you are hoping to tap. In 99% of cases, this would be a wrong assumption. The vast, vast majority of companies could improve their standing with intelligent social media. If you are already operating a social media arm, how is it helping your company? Perhaps you should consider changing your approach if you aren't seeing the dividends being paid.
Take a look at all the equipment you use on a day to day basis. How up to date is it? Could you gain from upgrading to more modern hardware and software? Use this time to look into what improvements can be made.
What kind of startup do you want to run?  
Starting a new business is both one of the most exciting and most terrifying things you will ever do. In order to put the entire enterprise into perspective and thus make it a somewhat more manageable and practical process, you should ask yourself a key question: what start am I?
This big question is, really, a series of smaller questions and answering them with complete honesty will help you focus upon making the right decisions for your company.
What is your role in the startup?
The overarching question for every new business person is what exactly their purpose is. Simple and straightforward you might think, but in truth a lot of people struggle to give a concise response. The first thing to do is be clear about where the product or service is coming from and who is responsible for what parts of it.
It could either be a product brought from your own creative skills, a product that is the joint creative output of you and another person or a product that is the somebody else's creative output but which you are selling or marketing for them.
This classification will help you understand what you should be contributing and how much power you should have in each decision being made.
How separate should your business and personal assets be?
When you first go into business for yourself, one of the biggest dangers is that your personal and business finances and assets will begin to bleed into one another in a way that is both confusing and dangerous. Make a decision right from the start: are you prepared to put everything you have behind the venture? If not, then you have to either make a percentage of your personal wealth that you are prepared to let bleed into the business or make a firm commitment that none of your own assets will be on the table.
None of these are right or wrong – it is totally up to your own personal levels of comfort and ambition. Once a decision is made, however, stick to it no matter what happens.
Is your eye on going public?
Here is another seemingly simple question that an awful lot of business people do not answer straight off the bat. It might be the case that you want to go public as soon as the chance presents itself or that you never want to hand over your business' independence. Or, it might be that you have reservations about going public and need more information about how wise a choice it would be.
Whatever your position is, be sure of it before you launch the company and it will help keep your focused on doing the right thing.
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