How to Prep Vital Documents Before a Company Sale

Potential buyers for your business want to see the numbers. They want to see how profitable your business can be for them, what they should expect if they buy your business, and what your business includes. Otherwise, they won’t be interested in it. To show potential buyers what you have to offer, you’ll need to prepare a number of different documents you can share with them.

What Documents are Vital for a Company Sale?

You’ll need a variety of different documents to prepare for the company sale. These include documents describing the business, legal documents, financial statements, inventory lists and more. Make sure you have these documents as well as any other documents that might be useful for the buyer on hand before you start looking for a buyer.

  • Information About the Business – You’ll need basic information about your business to get buyers interested and wanting to learn more about what your company offers. This should include photos of your business, opportunities for improvement with profit projections, descriptions of your products or services and prices, your business plan, your marketing plan with samples, and your business procedures manual.
  • Legal Documents – Some legal documents will be needed before entering any agreement with a buyer, while some are going to be current legal documents for your business. Documents needed to prepare to sell the business include a non-disclosure agreement, a financial statement the buyer completes, an offer-to-purchase agreement, and information about seller financing. Other legal documents to have on hand include patent, trademark or other intellectual property documents and business formation documents.
  • Financial Statements – Potential buyers want to see your business is making money and that they can make money from the business as well, so financial documents are especially important. These include statements for recent earnings as well as tax documents. You’ll want to have on hand financial statements including the present year as well as the past 3 years, statements showing cash flow, description of financial trends, aging reports for accounts payable and receivables, and your tax documents for the past 2 to 3 years.
  • Inventory and Assets – What does the buyer get if they purchase your business? You’ll want to provide an inventory list detailing the value of all inventory, and a list of what they’ll get with the business, like the fixtures and equipment, with the value listed. All of your assets should be listed to ensure the buyer knows exactly what they’ll get if they purchase your business.
  • Contracts – Your buyer will need to know about any contracts, loan agreements, or liens they will need to handle if they purchase your business. This includes contracts for suppliers and distributors, a list of current clients and contracts for major clients, any outstanding loan agreements or liens, the building lease if applicable, any equipment leases, and any maintenance agreements.
  • Employee Information – Your employees will likely stay with the business through the change of ownership, so the buyer will need to know about them. With your documents, include a list of employees with hiring dates and salaries, any employment agreements, and the employment policy manual.
  • Certifications – You may have certifications, licenses, and other documents your potential buyer will need to be aware of. They’ll want to find out about business licenses and certifications, any professional certificates you might need, and any insurance policies they’ll need to keep for the business.
  • Other Unique Documents – It’s possible you’ll have other types of documents not listed here that are vital for your business. Keep these with your documents to have them ready to show potential buyers.

Assemble Documents Early to Prep for Sale

Go ahead and start assembling all the documents today to ensure everything is ready when you start to look for a buyer. You’ll want to have everything ready long before a potential buyer becomes interested in your business. They’ll want to see these documents right away to determine if they’re interested. If you don’t have everything organized and ready, the buyer might decide they don’t want to purchase your business.

How to Organize Physical Documents Before the Sale

Depending on your business, there may be quite a few documents you have hard copies of on hand. Physical documents should all be organized in a box, separated into files by the type of document. All files should be labeled so you can easily see what’s in the file and so your buyer can look through everything. You should keep informative documents about your business at the front so they can look through these first and have all other documents organized behind these so they can see what your business offers.

How to Organize Sensitive Digital Documents

Many businesses today keep their vital information stored digitally instead of having a hard copy on hand. It’s important to make sure all of the data is stored carefully so it cannot be accessed by anyone without authorization. This is crucial for documents that include sensitive information, such as legal documents or information about trademarks and patents.

For these types of documents, use a virtual data room like Docurex. A virtual data room allows you to store and organize documents with sensitive information, yet easily provide access to potential buyers who will need the information to determine if they want to purchase your business. The data room should be highly secure to ensure your documents are protected and able to be shared with only potential buyers you want to have access to them.

If you’ve made the decision to sell your business, start working on the accumulation of essential documents today so you’re well prepared when you do have a buyer who is interested. This ensures you’ll have everything you need on hand and easily accessible for them. Whether you choose to store hard copies or you’d prefer the security of a virtual data room, organizing documents today gives you the peace of mind you’ll be ready when a buyer does choose to learn more about your business and what it can offer them.

Business Building

10 Effective Ways to Raise Business Value Before Selling

Your business is your baby. Before it even got off the ground, you had a clear vision of the end result. Over the years, you nurtured it and watched it grow and thrive. All along, you knew the time would come to let it go, but like most entrepreneurs, you’re bound to encounter a common roadblock at this point. To you, this company you built from the ground up and drove to success is priceless. Unfortunately, prospective buyers approach the matter from an entirely different perspective.

Determining the True Value of Your Business

When the time comes to sell your company, calculating its worth takes a more neutral tactic. This is where business valuation comes in. Several different strategies are used to determine a business’ value, and a wide range of factors are figured into the equation, such as:

  • Price versus earnings
  • Future revenue potential
  • Past gains
  • Assets after liabilities are subtracted
  • Multiplying share prices by shares outstanding

These are only a few of the common aspects considered when figuring a company’s true. Various calculations can be used, and industry, size of a business and other elements work their way into the mix as well. Once the numbers have been crunched, many entrepreneurs find their business’ market value is quite a bit less than they’d imagined. If that’s the case, certain steps can be taken to boost your company’s financial appeal before actually placing it on the market.

Effective Ways of Boosting Business Value

Though you’ve most likely invested a great deal of time, energy and capital into your company, there’s always room for improvement. This is especially true in the eyes of prospective buyers. Plenty of measures can be implemented to raise your business’ value before placing a “For Sale” sign out front. Some of them are more costly than others, but all of them are sure to generate a noticeable ROI.

1) Set Yourself Apart

In the business world, being unique carries a great deal of weight in its own right. Consumers tend to appreciate distinction when looking for a company to do business with in terms of products, services, customer support and a range of other aspects. Public interest gives potential buyers greater incentive. With that being the case, they’re going to look for businesses capable of holding their own in their niche.

Today’s business landscape is so fraught with competition, even the smallest detail could be the one that propels your company to the top. Any aspect setting you apart from others in your field is crucial to success, but it’s equally vital to drawing buyers’ attention.

Research your top competitors to better understand their weaknesses as well as your own. Improve upon your shortcomings and play on your strong suits to further boost your status in your industry. Purchasing prospects are sure to take notice and respond with more lucrative offers.

2) Promote Your Strengths

Plenty of people are uncomfortable with self-promotion, but in the business world, it’s a must. Refining your products and services goes a long way toward building business value; still, some assets can’t be seen on the surface. In some cases, those underlying elements are the ones in which buyers may be most interested.

Have you patented a product competitors are trying desperately to imitate? Are you dominating a seemingly tiny sector of the market others can’t seem to reach? Does your research and development team have a revolutionary idea in the works that could prove incredibly profitable to future owners?

Be sure to let potential buyers know about those unseen aspects. Keep in mind, though, it’s only empty bragging if you can’t back it up. Have clear documentation to support your claims and concepts.

3) Streamline Your Operations

Efficient businesses are productive ones, and productivity tends to boost profits. Do a deep dive on the internal operations of your company, and evaluate it from every possible angle. Bringing in an efficiency expert could work wonders in this regard.

Man reading a financal plan

Whether you do this on your own or turn to a professional for help, the ultimate goal here is to find areas where your business is faltering. Then, develop and implement new practices to make things flow more smoothly.

Doing so should ramp up productivity and revenue while lowering the cost of operation without sacrificing quality. All these elements add up to higher earning potential and lower overhead, both of which are highly attractive to potential buyers.

4) Hand over the Reigns

If you’re like many entrepreneurs, you’re an integral component of your business. While there’s nothing wrong with inserting yourself into every aspect of the company, it could bring up a red flag in the eyes of prospects. They’re most likely going to be leery of buying a business if it stands to crumble once its current owner is out of the picture.

No one is saying you have to walk away before placing your company on the market, but it’s important to start weaning the business off your guidance and vice versa. Create a detailed hard copy of daily operations for future owners’ reference. At the same time, be sure everyone in the company’s hierarchy is well-versed in specific procedures and protocols. Pass your knowledge and experience on to someone qualified to oversee the business in your absence.

You can still play a fundamental role in the company right up until it’s signed over to a new owner, but make sure it can run smoothly without your help as well. Seeing the business is capable of retaining its strength when you’re gone is sure to be a significant confidence boost for prospective buyers; as such, they’ll probably be motivated to make a higher offer.

5) Bring in New Customers

Long-running customers are critical to all businesses regardless of size or industry, but having a steady stream of new ones is also vital. Creating a nice balance between the two ensures continual cash flow and keeps the company from growing stale. Targeting new prospects is the key to generating fresh clientele, so ramping up your marketing efforts is bound to boost potential buyers’ interest as well as your company’s market value.

6) Don’t Ignore Existing Clients

Whether they’ve been with a company for a month, a decade or several generations, repeat customers form a strong foundation for any business. After all, being able to retain clients shows newcomers you’re worthy of their attention. It also proves to prospective buyers you’ve developed ongoing sources of revenue they can count on.Man typing on a laptop with a business suit case

While you may not necessarily need to market to long-time faithfuls, they shouldn’t be ignored. Your continued marketing efforts will carry over to the next owner, offering benefits from a couple different angles. For one, those customers will have a certain level of reassurance they won’t be taken for granted once new ownership takes over. Secondly, prospective buyers will feel more confident in those clients remaining loyal to the brand rather than its founder.

7) Pay Special Attention to Prospective Clients

As you’re well aware, customers fall into a wide range of areas along your sales funnel. Those further along in the process play a key role in not only your bottom line, but that of potential buyers. They’re already primed for conversion, and they’re far closer to becoming paying customers than those just beginning to take an interested in your products or services.

Place extra effort in closing all those pending deals before setting an asking price for your business. Also emphasize follow-ups with any newly integrated customers for retention purposes. Having a diverse and dynamic clientele gives possible buyers plenty of variety to work with.

8) Keep Moving Forward

Continuing to invest in a business you’re planning to sell might seem counterproductive, but nothing could be further from the truth. Letting your company stall out will cost you in a number of ways, not the least of which is incoming revenue before ownership changes hands.

Don’t stop forging ahead just because you’re putting the company on the market. Keep updating equipment, improving manufacturing processes, developing new products and services and carrying out other upgrades just as you would under normal circumstances. Continue funneling funds into new marketing campaigns and SEO strategies as well.

Ignoring all these aspects will only lead your business to fall behind the competition. It’ll grow stale in the eyes of customers and prospects, causing your clientele and cash flow to run dry. In turn, it’ll lose a great deal of luster for potential buyers. Aside from seeing dwindling profits, they’ll be repelled by the thought of having to make numerous upgrades on their own after purchasing your business. Though these issues may not be deal breakers, they’ll definitely lead to much lower offers.

9) Hold onto Your Workforce

TeamFully trained and qualified employees hold a great deal of power. Regardless of rank, they’re the backbone of any company. Having to train an entirely new team generally spells losses for pending business owners where both time and profits are concerned, so don’t send your personnel packing if you’re planning to sell your business.

Giving prospective buyers a well-trained and highly skilled crew to work with once they take over provides a great deal of stability and assurance. Granted, some new owners wipe the slate clean and start from scratch when they acquire a business, but this should be their choice. Don’t make the decision on their behalf because it could add up to greater losses for you as well as them.

10) Give It a Facelift

This could easily be one of the least costly but most profitable options for heightening the value of your business. It’s an age-old tactic of the real estate world and has helped countless property owners ramp up their going rates.

interior of an business comapnyPlenty can be said for the power of fresh flooring and a new coat of paint. Spruce up warehouses and manufacturing spaces if applicable. Have your reception area renovated or new fixtures installed. Little changes can go a long way toward making a business more attractive to buyers.

On the outside, make sure parking areas and driveways are in good repair. Have new landscaping features incorporated across the property and give your company’s exterior a modern makeover. First impressions are crucial, so improving curb appeal is sure to help your bottom line.

Businesses operating solely on an online basis aren’t out of luck here, either. Virtual storefronts are just as important as physical ones. Having your website redesigned and thoroughly tested to ensure all its links are working as they should may very well help draw in higher bids from potential buyers. Since online presences are immensely and increasingly important to today’s businesses, this could be a positive pre-listing move for any company.

Bottom Line

When you invest your heart, soul and savings into taking a vision from the concept stage to a fully operational enterprise, the fruits of your labor are bound to be priceless in your eyes. Once the time comes to move on to the next phase, though, countless entrepreneurs are stunned to discover their businesses are worth quite a bit less than they expected.

Several different factors go into determining the value of a business when it goes to market. Even the most successful and profitable companies often fall short when the valuation results come in. If you find yourself in a situation like this, you don’t have to settle for less. Certain steps can be taken to boost your business’ worth.

Set yourself apart from others in your niche both on the surface and through underlying aspects. Increase efficiency in every way possible to improve productivity and profitability. Give your business the capacity to operate without your intervention. Foster relationships with customers and prospects in every level of your sales funnel. Don’t stop forging ahead with new ventures. Renovate the company itself rather than its workforce.

Some of these measures require a certain amount of effort on your part whereas others depend on leaving well enough alone. All focus on promoting strengths, transforming weaknesses into assets, lowering operational costs and spurring earning potential. In doing so, you’re guaranteed to heighten your company’s value in the eyes of prospective buyers.

 

Preparing your company for a sale: Tips, strategies & tools to keep in mind

When deciding to sell your company, you can either choose to sell it in its current condition or prepare for a Merger and Acquisition (M&A).

A strategic M&A plan can considerably increase the sale value of your venture and should ideally be your chosen plan of action. You will make your company more attractive to potential buyers if you address your businesses weaknesses well in advance of any due diligence or negotiation processes. Here are a few simple steps that can help you maximize the value of your business.

Create a pre-M&A improvement plan

Before devising an M&A improvement plan, you must first take stock of the different aspects of your company such as:

  • Identifying areas that are doing well, those that are performing below average and need your intervention, and those that need a complete overhaul.
  • Creating a timeline and dedicated project to address any identified concerns and complete upgradations.
  • Assigning resources that you are willing to allocate for handling the M&A process and internal performance improvement initiatives.

Remember, recognizing the needs of your company early on will help put you in a better position during negotiations. Investors are usually looking for small companies with the potential for larger projected growth in the future. Many owners often make the mistake of discontinuing investments to improve a company once they decide to exit. Instead, this is the time where you must attempt to increase the value of your company by investing in equipment and upgrading processes to lead to higher performance. Your company’s value is directly linked to how it performs in the period leading up to, and during the M&A.

Keep your plans to yourself

Avoid disclosing your plans to enter an M&A until after the deal is sealed. While consulting with your legal advisors and accounts department, emphasize the need for discretion even if their profiles are contractually bound in non disclosures.

The news of your plans to sell the company might induce panic in your staff, generating uncertainty, which in turn might devalue the business right when it needs to be performing at its peak. Instead, train your employees to be able to carry on tasks in the absence of your supervision. Develop repeatable processes and create quantifiable parameters to ensure that your business continues to grow even after your departure.

Pay close attention to managerial staff and resolve any internal conflicts. Take every measure possible to avoid high turnover before M&A. Remember a high rate of employee retention is the sign of a healthy business!

Increase your EBITDA

Your company’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization will be the most likely metric used to evaluate its worth. The higher your EBITDA, the larger settlement you’re likely to receive. Thus, instead of focusing on gross revenue, attempt to push your EBITDA. Analyze your expenses to highlight funds that can be reallocated to increase your working capital, BPS, and boost EBITDA. If needed, hire extra marketing personnel and increase your top-line growth to maximize earning potential.

An investor is likely to evaluate your company’s track record of sales to estimate its projected earnings. It then makes strategic sense to expand your marketing team while preparing for an M&A. You can also choose to set up a revenue juggernaut in this phase to help realize hidden potential.

Prepare for a financial audit

A financial audit is a likely requirement before an M&A. Hire a reputable firm to conduct your own audit before entering negotiations in order to help improve the financial health of your business

A professional audit will also enable you to better understand what potential buyers might be looking for, give you a sense of what a GAAP audit constitutes, and having this data at your disposal will grant you an advantage during negotiations.

During the M&A process make it a point to highlight a history of compensation. Many entrepreneurs tend to combine their personal financial portfolios with their company’s. It is always advisable to clearly demarcate a separation early on and pay yourself a salary which adequately covers your expense and leaves behind a safety net to sustain your lifestyle.

Prepare a 3-year financial projection

A plan which includes clear financial projections is critical to garnering credibility for your company during M&A presentations. While surpassing quantifiable goals and milestones can add value to your company’s acquisition offer, failing to meet set financial targets can seriously jeopardize a sale. Hence, be certain that the projected numbers are achievable in the proposed period.

There are a couple of measures that you can put into place before framing your proposal. These must include knowing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) of your business. A SWOT analysis is critical before attempting to prepare a financial projection. Setting achievable goals and highlighting your competitive sustainability attests to the business acumen of your enterprise, while a well-planned execution of the presentation puts the ball in your court during negotiations.

Identify potential buyers

Networking in the right circles is key to finding investors that best suit your agenda. Keeping up-to-date with industry trends, and potential investors’ investment portfolios can help you pitch your company for sale. Identify a list of potential buyers, establish contact, and foster their interest in your enterprise.

Treat buyers like clients, highlighting how your company can best serve their interests. Share your projected milestones with prospective buyers and highlight a potential business that might profit from partnering with your company. Paint them a larger picture of where you see your company in the years to come, focusing on how they would benefit from processes that you have already put into place and in motion for a seamless transition/integration.

Prepare for final negotiations

If you’ve successfully made it to this stage, you will now be the best judge of the value of your company. Armed with a SWOT analysis, a successful 3-year projection, and favorable EBITDA, here’s the last negotiation tactic to note so you have the upper hand, ensuring you have addressed any misdemeanors from your company’s past.

Investors will jump at the opportunity to poke holes in your company’s reputation in order to offer a lower buyout. By acknowledging any mistakes from the past, you can gain control of M&A negotiations. Remember to state things as they are, and not provide explanations or empty apologies. Set-up the circumstance that might have led to a disruption and focus on the measures you put into place to contain an unfavorable situation and prevent future occurrences. Assign a short duration to address these concerns right before commencing M&A proceedings, effectively warding off any possibilities of them being brought up later to throw you off track.

Assess the best exit option

Ultimately, while selling a business for considerable profit is the dream of many contemporary entrepreneurs, when the opportunity finally presents itself it can prove to be a surprisingly emotional decision. Before making the final leap and handing over a company that you have worked several years to build, it is important for you to consider other options that might be at your disposal. Signing over all rights to your company is only one among a plethora of alternatives to capitalize on your hard work. For example you could:

  • Opt for a part liquidation, where you can either maintain control of operations or become a silent investor. This will enable you to retain a stake in the business which you can decide to sell during a larger buyout in the future.
  • Open your company’s portfolio and raise capital through equity, helping your company become larger before exiting at a higher value in the future.
  • Hire a CEO and play an advisor role. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the growing size of your enterprise and feel like you are not being able to contribute to its growth and take it to the next level, you can hire a CEO with relevant industry experience and take on an advisory role for yourself, focusing on the parts of the business process that catch your fancy.

With many points to consider, preparing your company for a sale is by no means an easy task and can be very emotional! However, following these aforementioned steps will at least allow you to realize the full value of your business and give you the due credit for all the years of hard work you’ve put in.

 

Basic Business Etiquette to Be Aware Of

Individuals often feel uncomfortable in business situations, as this is one topic most business schools overlook. They don’t cover proper business etiquette at times such as this, leaving a person wondering what they should say and how they should act. Until this changes, a person may wonder if they are presenting themselves properly in this setting. Fortunately, people can learn what is expected of them by doing their own research. Following are some common business situations and how one should act in each.

Business Calls

The telephone remains an essential communication tool and not simply for the ability to check emails and send texts. Speaking to someone over the phone remains the fastest, simplest and most personal way to connect with another person. However, a failure to use proper phone etiquette can have a negative impact on the outcome of the call.

Woman making a phone call and smilingRemain amiable and professional on all calls while following the rules of common courtesy. Never let a phone ring more than three times before answering to show the call is important to you. However, don’t pick up immediately either, as this can be disconcerting to the other person.

Smile when answering the phone, as this has a positive influence on your tone of voice. In addition, be sure to address the other party by name to show you value them as an individual. Talk slowly and clearly while keeping the phone approximately two inches away from the mouth to ensure you can be heard clearly and provide appropriate answers. Never use the phrase, “I don’t know”, as it’s best to reply that the matter needs to be looked into and a reply will be forthcoming. In the event the other party must be on hold, be sure to ask permission and check in regularly to let them know they haven’t been forgotten. That’s the key to business etiquette on the phone.

Business Emails

Emails today tend to be the preferred means of communication for many businesses. An email ensures all points are clearly stated in writing to avoid confusion. However, the use of email can also lead to issues that are often unforeseen.

First and foremost, make certain the subject line presents an accurate representation of the contents of the communication. Never leave this line blank or provide a generic description. Including a descriptive subject line increases the odds of the email being opened and read.

Laptop and email interfaceAlways include a salutation and a full signature. While the message is being delivered electronically, this does not mean any elements may be left out. The salutation serves as a greeting to the other person and the full signature ensures they know how to contact you in the event of a problem or if a question arises. There is no need for them to search for this information, as it is right in front of them. This will be appreciated by the recipient.

Refresh the reader’s memory regarding past communications. Don’t assume they have this information. By taking this simple step, you can avoid confusion and make certain the recipient doesn’t have to search through past communications to remember what has already been discussed.

Formal writing remains necessary in all business communications. A failure to use proper punctuation, for example, may lead the other part to believe you are lazy and careless. Nobody wants to leave others with this impression, so don’t become lenient in this area. Finally, proofread all communications before sending, as this step ensures the proper message is being delivered and the email is well crafted.

Business Letters

Business LetterTraditional business correspondence delivered via snail mail has become less popular today. However, there are times when a letter must be sent. As a result, every person in the business world must be aware of etiquette when crafting one of these documents.

First and foremost, every letter should have a purpose and this purpose needs to be clearly laid out in the communication. Remain on topic throughout the letter and ensure it is composed properly. Never make use of industry jargon either, as this may confuse the reader and lead to the intent of the letter being unclear.

Proofread the document and walk away. Take a break for a few hours and read it again to detect any readability issues, grammar issues, or misspellings. These are simply unacceptable in any formal communication also.

Finally, be sure to check the name and address on the envelope, as having internal information shared with the wrong person or business could be disastrous. Furthermore, this helps to ensure the right individual receives the letter and the message it conveys. Always take this step when postmarking the mail and again before sending to ensure no errors are present.

Meetings

One wrong move in a business meeting can be disastrous for a person’s career. It negatively reflects on their professionalism, regardless of whether they know they did anything wrong. To avoid a mistake of this type, always be aware of business meeting etiquette.

Hand shakeBe sure to use full names when introducing individuals. This information is of great help when two people try to connect at a later date. Having the other party’s last name makes it easier to locate the individual on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn.

Never fidget during a meeting and refrain from chewing gum or eating. Obviously, an exception to this is those times when a meal is being served. Otherwise, hold off on food and gum until a meal break is called.

Meetings take up a great deal of time. When participants ask numerous, lengthy questions or ask the same things again and again, it holds everyone up. Be sure to keep all questions short and to the point. When more clarification is needed, follow up with the individual at a later date via email or a private meeting.

Any time you are extending an invitation for a dinner meeting, be prepared to pay. The bill becomes the responsibility of the person who initiated the meeting, yet many seem unaware of this. Being aware of this prevents an awkward moment when the bill arrives.

Meals

Table perpared for dinnerAs mentioned above, a person who extends an invitation for a meal is expected to pay for this meal. However, this is only one of the many business meal etiquette rules one needs to remember. The key to a successful meal is to find a way to blend the social and personal aspects and many struggle with this. Following are some guidelines to help anyone navigate a meal of this type.

Be on time for the meal. While waiting for everyone to arrive, introduce yourself to any new faces and shake hands with them. Once this has been done, follow the lead of the host or hostess. They should always be the first to sit and place their napkin in their lap. Furthermore, follow their lead when ordering. Choose a meal that is similarly priced and don’t ask for any extras, such as appetizers or a dessert, unless they do.

The use of silverware during a business meal terrifies many, but it is part of a proper business etiquette. A good rule of thumb to remember is to use the silverware from the outer piece inward. For example, use the fork that is farthest left for the salad and the knife that is farthest right for the same. The knife and fork for use with dinner will be closest to the plate. Butter plates and knives are located above the forks while water and wine glasses are on the other side.

Stand to greet new arrivals, but never pull out a guest’s chair for them. This is not standard behavior for a business event. Don’t ask for detailed explanations of different dishes and cut food one or two bites at a time. Finally, avoid controversial topics and, if someone else brings them up, politely defer to the opinion of others. This helps to keep peace at the table.

Dress Etiquette

Appearance is of great importance in the business world. People often make judgments based on nothing more than how a person looks. Fortunately, a person can dress for success and influence the option of others.

Man in a suit, standing next to stairsKnow the dress code of the company and follow it. However, even if cutoff shorts and graphic tees are considered acceptable, the clothing should always be clean and fit properly. This includes the shoes which need to be neat and polished.

Reserve strong colognes and fragrances for after work occasions. If a scent is worn, ensure it is subtle. Allow others to remember you for your personality as opposed to the lingering smell you leave behind.

Accessories need to be wisely chosen, and this includes hosiery for women. Don’t wear any jewelry that makes noise when you move and avoid open toe shoes unless you have recently had a pedicure. Men need to make certain their facial hair is trimmed and tidy also.

 

A person may feel overwhelmed by the many rules and guidelines regarding business etiquette. Spend some time brushing up on this information before an event. If you are still concerned about behaving appropriately in different business settings, don’t hesitate to practice when out with friends or family. Explain what you are doing and why. Not only will this give you extra practice, they may also learn something new that will be of benefit to them. When this happens, everyone wins.

Understand the Proper Etiquette for Writing Business Letters

Business letters are not an old way of communicating that has been turned obsolete by computers. It’s still important to understand how to write business letters, whether you’re sending them through the postal service or as an e-mail. Irrespective of the method of communication, you’re going to need to know how to write a business letter and understand the rules to ensure you’re communicating effectively.

Today, business letters are still used for many types of communication. They can be sent to convey an idea, create or accept an offer, inquire about a job, request information, and more. For the most part, business letter rules are simple. The business letter should follow a standard format to ensure everything looks clean and should be free of errors.

What to Consider When Writing a Business Letter

Business LetterThe same as when making a phone call, you’ll want to have the purpose for the letter in mind at all times, when you’re preparing to write a business letter. You’ll also want to make sure you’re taking the time to compose the letter properly. For the most part, business letter writing doesn’t have to be hard, but you will want to make sure you stay on topic and avoid many of the common issues letter writers may have.

The issues you’ll want to be aware of while you’re composing a business letter include using jargon, tangents, grammar mistakes, readability issues, misspellings, and misaddressing the letter. These are all a concern, whether you’re printing the letter to send through regular mail or you’re sending it as an email.

Even if you choose to send an email, it’s important to be concise and to have everything correct in the letter to send a good impression.

Avoid Jargon

Business letter etiquette dictates that you should avoid jargon whenever possible. While you might know exactly what you’re talking about, it’s possible the person you’re writing to will not understand all of the terms you use if you use profession-specific terms in your letter.

Instead, use language the average person would be able to read and understand so your message is as clear as possible.

Avoid Tangents

A man watching on the clock

Keep your letter short, so you make sure the recipient will read all of it.

With business letter writing, it’s never a good idea to go off on a tangent. Instead, make sure you stick to the main topic of your letter and keep it as concise as possible. Today’s business professionals don’t have a lot of time to spend reading letters, so the shorter your letter is, the more likely it is they’ll read all of it.

When you add unnecessary topics to your letter, it increases the possibility the recipient will stop reading it before they fully understand the reason for your letter.

Avoid Grammar Mistakes

Most business professionals consider grammar mistakes to be unacceptable today. With computers and the ability to add a grammar checker to your email or your word processing program, it’s expected you will take the time to correct grammar issues in your letter before sending it.

Word processing programs should already have a grammar checker, and some can be downloaded to use with your emails so you can make sure everything is correct before you send the letter.

Avoid Awkward Phrases and Other Readability Issues

Your entire letter should be easy for the recipient to read. You’ll want to avoid awkward phrases or any other issues that make it more difficult to read your letter.

To make sure your letter is easy to read, go ahead and read it out loud. Your ear will pick up on awkward phrases or other issues easily, even if you don’t see them while you’re proofreading the letter.

Avoid Misspellings, Especially Names

letters

Make sure everything is spelled correctly before you send a business letter.

Spell checkers, like grammar checkers, are vital today. You should make sure everything is spelled correctly before you send the letter. Additionally, letter etiquette dictates you should make sure the recipient’s name is spelled correctly.

Avoid Misaddressing the Letter

While you’re checking the spelling of the recipient’s name, go ahead and check the address for the letter as well. With email and postal service, an incorrect address means the letter will not get to the recipient and they will not get the chance to read it. Always check the address carefully to ensure everything is correct before sending.

 

Though writing a business letter doesn’t have to be hard, there are rules you need to follow to ensure your letter is well received and understood by the recipient. Keep the aforementioned business letter rules in mind whenever you’re writing a letter.

This will help you improve your letter writing ability and help you ensure the recipient understands what you’re saying in your letter.

CC Flazingo Photos Flickr

Why Business Owners Sell Their Business

As an entrepreneur, the penultimate day of your life is the day you hand over your baby to someone else. Baby being your own business that you’ve built from the ground up. Making the decision to sell a business you’ve invested so many years of blood, sweat & tears into is incredibly difficult.
Depending on the circumstances, it can be either a deeply positive or a deeply negative experience – but it’s almost ALWAYS an emotional, and bittersweet event. There’s a ton of different reasons why business owners decide to take the leap – let’s talk about a few of them.

Personal Reasons

First and foremost, most business owners do part ways with their own venture purely due to personal reasons. Why? Cause as it’s usually said, running your own show is a 24/7 job and this can get exhausting pretty fast. Other times, it can be a purely be a shift in interest, or that they are hitting retirement. There are many reasons but here are the key ones:

1. Burned out or health problems

Nothing is more demanding than running your own business and this can sometimes either lead to owners burning out or experiencing health issues. In either case, running a business demands a lot of time and effort from its owner and the workload only keeps growing as the business grows in size. When the pressure becomes too much to bear, the owner usually decides to sell the company.

Building on this, owners can also sometimes fall ill, either by way of burnout or just bad luck. In such a case, some businesses are heavily reliant on the owner for its day-to-day operations and if the owner is suffering from health issues and physically not able to run the business. It may be the best option to sell the business in order to keep the business alive.

2. A shift in interests or priorities

We’re all human and we get bored easily, even when it comes to running a business. Especially with owners who may be serial entrepreneurs, once they’ve built a business and successfully got it to steady state, they may get bored and would like to pursue the next business idea in their head. We only have 24 hours a day and this means owners might sometimes fully cash out by selling their business to fund a new one or take a step back from direct ownership, still retaining equity but no longer involved in the day to day operations of the company.

Similarly, we all get old and the time comes when we need to hand over the keys to the kingdom. One of the most common reasons business owners sell their businesses is retirement. Although running a business has its own rewards, doing so for a long time can be exhausting! In such cases it’s normal for owners to feel that the benefits of selling the business far outweigh those of maintaining ownership.

Financial Reasons

methods of company valuationIf personally everything is going great. Sometimes, the reason for selling a business is purely financial, either to cash out and go live in the bahamas for a few years, or to capitalize on a inflated market value, or purely hedge your bets against an economic downturn. Whatever it is, here are the most common financial reasons we’ve seen for owners selling their business:

 

1. Liquidity

Although many business owners have a high net worth for their years of toil and growing their business. A considerable amount of this value is often tied up in the business as equity, and therefore, illiquid. Business owners may decide it’s time to reap some of the rewards and sell all or some their equity to convert it to cash.

In the cases where they only sell some of their equity, this is known as recapitalization. It’s a process where the exiting owner retains a minority equity stake — normally in the range of 10 to 40 percent. Usually, this is done by owners to reduce risk exposure by selling their equity to free up some cash but still retain the benefits of ownership. Generally in this case, you’ll see the exiting owner’s role slowly diminish, allowing them to almost act as advisors to the business but gain more freedom with their time to pursue other interests.

2. Macro Environment factors

Sometimes the industry of an owner’s business is suddenly gaining a lot of interest from outside investors (e.g. Artificial Intelligence right now), this vast pool of capital pushes up acquisition prices. Some owners decide to take advantage of the upswing in value and sell their businesses off at a higher than normal price.

economy businessesSometimes, the revenues of a business can decline for macro factors reasons far beyond the owner’s control — like an economic downturn or a high unemployment rate. Some business owners may choose to wait out such changes, but others can’t or don’t want to. In such scenarios, if the owner doesn’t want to wait till things get better, selling the business becomes the most viable option.

If business owners feel that their industry may go through some changes in the future that can affect their businesses negatively, some owners may be risk-averse and decide to sell sooner rather than wait an economic downturn that devalues their organization or impacts future profitability of the business.

Strategic Reasons

Sometimes, the reason for selling a company can be strategic or operational. An owner may decide to sell the company for the following strategic reasons:

Finance an expansion

If a company lacks the cash to buy new equipment, hire new employees, and increase advertising to broader its operational footprint, the owner may decide to sell some stake to an entity that can bring in the cash required for the expansion.

Raise capital for an acquisition

A company can benefit from being acquired by an entity that has the capital or debt capacity to consolidate the industry by acquiring a series of smaller competitors. In this scenario, the company improves its profitability by operating in an industry with fewer competitors. Moreover, it gets access to its former competitors’ resources like management talent, patents, etc.

Improve your competitive position in the market

Improve market share

A company being acquired by another one help it improve its market share by allowing it to leverage the larger acquiring company’s distribution and marketing channels, as well as the brand equity and goodwill.

Diversify customer base

Most small companies depend on a single or a relatively small number of customers to generate a large percentage of their revenue. This kind of customer concentration increases enterprise risk as losing even one or several key customers may cause the business to go bankrupt. In such cases a company can significantly lower the volatility of its cash flow by gaining access to the acquirers diversified customer base.

Diversify product and service offerings

A company may also look to be acquired so it can leverage the addition of the other company’s product and service offerings to its portfolio. The company can use the improved product and service portfolio to increase its customer base and revenue.

Import better management

man with business suitA company may seek acquisition by another company that has superior management practices. This strategic move can help to unlock value in the for the acquired business. The acquired business can benefit from the better, more professionally managed IT systems, equipment maintenance, accounting controls, executive leadership, etc.

Leadership succession

Sometimes business owners have to sell their businesses due to poor succession planning. If a business owner doesn’t have a worthy successor, selling the business allows it to continue operating effectively instead of closing its doors or risk declining business performance.

Conclusion

Ultimately, every decision to sell a business is based on various circumstances. Regardless of the reason to sell, it’s important for a business to be professionally appraised by an independent valuation firm so that it’s sold at a fair price, under fair terms, and in the owner’s best interest.

Bitcoin

What is an Inititial Coin Offering (ICO)?

It’s undeniable that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been turning the financial world on its head in recent years. These decentralized digital currencies are unlike fiat currencies in that they do not rely on a central bank or another major financial institute for their production and credibility, instead making use of a technology known as blockchains to keep track of transactions via a public ledger. Given how unorthodox the entire world of cryptocurrency use and investment already is, it should come as no surprise that those startups tasked with creating new cryptocurrencies are also using some fairly unorthodox methods to raise venture capital. One method that has been swiftly growing in popularity despite regulatory concerns is known as an Initial Coin Offering, or an ICO.

What is an ICO?

An ICO is a largely unregulated method for raising venture capital to get new cryptocurrencies off the ground. It allows startups to bypass the highly regulated alternative of capital-raising through venture capitalists and banks. Instead, an ICO campaign sells a percentage of its future cryptocurrency, known as a token, to early backers in return for either fiat cash or another established cryptocurrency.

The ICO Process

When a firm decides it wants to raise funds via an ICO, its first step is to create a project plan known in the industry as a whitepaper. This document describes what, exactly, the project is about, including how much money will be required to complete it, how many of the new digital tokens will be kept by the project’s pioneers themselves and its initial backers, and how long the ICO campaign is intended to be run. A firm’s whitepaper also lays out what needs their project is intended to fulfill once it is completed and what type of money they will accept in exchange for percentages of its cryptocurrency.  If the firm manages to meet its minimum requirements for getting the project off the ground within the time frame specified in its whitepaper, it will then use its backers’ money to initiate or complete the creation of a new cryptocurrency.

Advantages Over Traditional IPOs

Some financial experts cite this process as being similar to that of a more traditional Initial Public Offering, or IPO, transaction; however, this new means of acquiring venture capital is still largely unregulated, making it potentially riskier than an IPO, which trades shares of the company rather than tokens.  That’s not the only difference between ICOs and IPOs, though. IPOs are designed specifically with venture capitalists and large-scale investors in mind, while ICOs are open to anyone and tend to draw in small-scale enthusiastic backers rather than major players within the investment world.

Unlike the venture capitalists investing in IPOs, those who choose to purchase ICO tokens are not offered partial ownership of either the project or its parent company. They do, however, still stand to reap substantial benefits in the event that the cryptocurrency is successfully adopted within the larger marketplace.

Risks of ICOs

While investing in ICOs can be quite lucrative for those who choose their cryptocurrency startups wisely, the process is certainly not without its risks. Many enthusiastic investors are unaware that the development of ICOs as an investment strategy is still in its infancy, so they will not have the same protections as venture capitalists do when they invest in more traditional IPO shares. In fact, even the blockchain technology itself that lies at the base of all new cryptocurrencies is still in development, which has the potential to leave investors vulnerable to both unanticipated code errors and intentional theft by hackers.

Digital theft isn’t the only thing investors should be worried about, though; ICOs themselves are, as they currently stand, an ideal platform for fraudsters looking to prey on enthusiastic but ultimately ignorant investors. Unfortunately, even legitimate ICO providers are often less than transparent in offering information to potential investors, making it even more difficult for them to distinguish legitimate startups from fraudulent projects. When combined with the fact that tokens are exchanged on specialized trading platforms that are not currently subject to financial supervision, it should be clear that ICO investors face substantial risks even in the event that they choose to invest in a legitimate startup.

International Regulations

The fact that ICOs, as they currently stand in their largely unregulated state, offer a perfect opportunity for those looking to defraud investors has played a large role in some countries’ decisions to ban this practice entirely. China and South Korea have both unequivocally banned the use of ICOs for raising capital and have required those companies that have already completed their funding cycles to refund any fiat currency or cryptocurrency altcoins invested.

Other major players in the international business world, such as Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, the United States, and the European Union, are tentatively allowing the use of ICOs despite their risks and are beginning to implement market regulations such as licensing, consumer protections, and designation of altcoins as a security rather than a currency.

The Future of ICOs

ClockWhile critics, including many financial experts and government officials alike, say that ICOs constitute a serious risk to investors and should not be trusted, there are still plenty of proponents of this investment strategy who believe that ICOs are the wave of the future, but only if companies and investors start focusing on blockchain technologies rather than the cryptocurrencies themselves. Given that ICOs are both more cost-efficient and more time-efficient than traditional IPOs, and that they make global investment strategies much more feasible for a larger number of companies, they still constitute a practical means of raising venture capital for startups using blockchain technologies.

The Take-Away

While ICOs currently constitute an extremely high-risk investment due to their current lack of regulation, their future as a feasible method for gaining venture capital still looks bright. Potential investors should be hesitant to jump on the bandwagon today but should keep an eye out for regulatory and market changes that may make ICO investment a far more reliable strategy for moving forward with blockchain technologies in the future.

How Bitcoin May Affect The Worlds Future

Bitcoin is one of the oldest and most widely-known cryptocurrencies. There are no coins to mint or bills to print. It is decentralized, which means there is no banking institution or government in control. Owners remain anonymous; rather than using names, Social Security numbers, or tax IDs, bitcoin uses encryption keys to connect sellers to buyers. Bitcoin is mined by extremely powerful computers, rather than being issued like conventional currency. It involves math, technology, social dynamics, and economics, and although it has been around since 2009, it’s rapidly gaining traction. In this guide, readers can learn about some of the basic concepts of bitcoin while getting answers to some common questions.

The Effects of Bitcoin on the World Economy

During the last few years, bitcoin has rapidly risen to global prominence. In becoming the world’s leading cryptocurrency and a top performer among currencies overall, it has gained an astounding 35% over the past year. However, attaining this level of recognition hasn’t been easy. Bitcoin’s association with crimes such as the narcotics sales and money laundering that commonly occurred on dark-web sites like Alphabay and Silk Road, as well as its high level of volatility, left conventional financial market participants very wary of its risks.

How Bitcoin Has Changed Banking

skyscrapersBitcoin’s potential impact on the central banking system should not be underestimated. The BIS, or Bank for International Settlements, which is owned and operated by the world’s top central banks, observed that Bitcoin could potentially affect their ability to control the global economy and issue currency. As of the time of this writing, many of the world’s central banks are closely monitoring Bitcoin developments. Others, such as the central banks of Ecuador and Canada, have already taken action by creating proposals for issuance of digital versions of their countries’ fiat currencies.

Bitcoin’s Effects on Industry

Bitcoin has recently brought changes to a range of industries as well. Most industries that accept Bitcoins as payment are run online. For instance, Cheapname, which provides domain registry services, accepts payment in the form of Bitcoin. Other online companies like WordPress, which allows users to set up personal and professional blogs, also accept Bitcoin payments. Finally, Steam, a gaming platform, accepts cryptocurrencies as well. Bitcoin’s success has brought it from the online realm into the brick-and-mortar world. Virgin Galactic, a company with a known preference for state-of-the-art technology, research, and development, somewhat unsurprisingly accepts Bitcoin, as does Elon Musk’s Tesla car company.

Bitcoin’s Political and Societal Effects

Along with its benefits, Bitcoin brings a fair amount of political upheaval. As stated before, it is not controlled by any single government or bank. Because it’s a highly individualized type of wealth, and because of the cryptography involved, no state can take away that individuality. As people begin to understand that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are advantageous because they’re governed by code rather than by human bias, the political controversy is likely to continue.

Cryptocurrencies’ effects on society haven’t yet been fully realized, nor will they be felt immediately. Despite the rise of digital currency, it is just now becoming mainstream, and many people are still unsure how Bitcoin works. An increasing number of sellers are accepting cryptocurrency payments, and it’s a matter of time until more follow suit.

How Bitcoin May Affect the World’s Future

Most of today’s international and digital transactions use one type or another of virtual credit or currency. Bitcoin is built to provide the same convenience and security assurance afforded by credit, while bypassing additional processing fees and time requirements. International remittances, or payments sent home by those working abroad, are the area with the biggest growth potential for cryptocurrency. As of now, money sent home must pass through several wire services, banks, and currency exchanges.

According to a recent Businessweek study, the average international remittance fee was 9% of the total transferred, with cash conversion costing an average of 5% more. Companies like Western Union work on profit margins of nearly 16%, and many of their costs are incurred because of the technology involved in moving money from place to place and guaranteeing transactional legitimacy. In short, what these companies spend billions of dollars to accomplish, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can do at no cost.

Which Sectors Will See the Most Significant Changes Because of Bitcoin?

Many of today’s financial experts predict that cryptocurrency and blockchain technology will be the biggest disruption since the Internet was created. With the number of industries that can potentially be affected by this technology, it’s easy to see the truth in these predictions. While the financial sector is testing and using blockchain tech to increase operational efficiency and decrease per-transaction costs, other sectors face potential effects, as listed below.

  • Private transportation: The industry will see potential disruption in two forms; the development of eWallets for in-car use, and the advent of decentralized, blockchain-based, peer-to-peer ridesharing. For instance, companies like Innogy, ZF, and UBS are now developing eWallets that allow auto owners to quickly and seamlessly pay for parking, tolls, and electric car charging with the car’s blockchain-based, built-in eWallet. Ridesharing services are likely to increase as a part of the global sharing economy, and basing these services on blockchain tech takes the control away from central third parties. Here, owners and riders can agree on ridesharing terms and conditions via secure, smart contracts. Startups currently building such services include Israel’s La’Zooz and New Hampshire’s Arcade City.
  • Cybersecurity: This has become a popular topic among corporations and individuals as cybercrime becomes more common around the world. In fact, the World Economic Forum highlighted it as one of the biggest risks in the world. Because of its immutable, decentralized nature, blockchain technology can be utilized to prevent the theft of data, because that data is stored using secure, safe cryptography. Furthermore, blockchain tech can be used to build a more secure Internet that’s less vulnerable to distributed denial of service or DDoS attacks. Startups like Nebulis are developing new blockchain-based domain name systems, which can’t be harmed by DDoS attacks.
  • The distribution of music: Today’s music industry will also be affected as cryptocurrency changes the way things are bought and sold. Several startup companies are using blockchain to change the way music is shared and royalties are paid, further disintermediating an industry that has previously been heavily centralized. These companies are building new ways for artists to sell their albums and singles directly to fans, with no need to go through a record label or other distributor. This will create a more open, fair music industry where artists receive direct payment and are able to form closer relationships with listeners.
  • nurses and doctorsHealthcare: The health sector will greatly benefit from the use of blockchain tech. Hospitals and nursing facilities often struggle to securely warehouse and share data, and they regularly fall victim to cyberattacks. Using the distributed ledger method to safely share and store data will improve the security of that data while allowing for more accurate, faster diagnoses.
  • Storage in the cloud: Most sectors are wholeheartedly embracing the concept of cloud storage. However, with the current condition of the cloud, the sector’s users must trust third parties such as Dropbox and Google to safely handle their important data. However, by combining blockchain and cloud storage, that doesn’t have to be the case. Startup companies are now allowing users to share unused space with others for a low fee. This creates a crowd-sourced, decentralized storage solution that’s less likely to suffer from data loss and cyberattacks.
  • Management of the supply chain: This industry is primed for serious blockchain-related changes as it continues to focus on transactions that must be noted in a transparent but secure manner. There are multiple startups working on blockchain-related supply chain management methods.
  • Voting: One of the most significant areas of societal disruption will be the use of blockchain tech for vote tallying and voter registration. As the world saw during the last US presidential election, a process in which the Russians were alleged to have interfered, a publicly viewable, immutable ledger of votes would be a big step toward fairer, more democratic form of global politics. Several startups are trying to hack the democratic process by creating online identity verification and voting processes that use blockchain technology.

Some of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency skeptics are starting to accept that blockchain will play a substantial role in various industries by storing, recording, and sending data in a low-cost, secure manner.

Tips for Investing in Bitcoin

Bitcoin’s exploding popularity has created a significant buzz among investors, traders, and consumers. Low fees, high transaction speeds, increasing values, and other factors have convinced millions to adopt the cryptocurrency as a primary method of exchange. Large trading groups have capitalized on the Bitcoin boom, but in this turbulent environment, dedication and discipline are two requirements for success. Below are several tips to help investors turn that volatility into an advantage.

  • Become a technical analysis expert: Bitcoin’s nature makes it much different from other currencies. As there’s no governing body to affect its value, it’s highly susceptible to effects from outside sources such as news event. Bitcoin’s value model is highly speculative, and it disregards a large portion of conventional financial theory. Understanding how to perform technical analysis is an important prerequisite for entry into the cryptocurrency market.
  • Set a pace that’s sustainable for the long term: As in conventional financial markets, trading isn’t a sprint, but a marathon. One of the most vital steps cryptocurrency market participants must take is to establish a schedule that can be kept over weeks, months, or even years. No one can do their best trading at all hours of the day and night, and the ideal practice is to set a manageable timeline by focusing on optimal trading times.
  • Stay updated: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are unique in that most news events’ effects on the market can’t be predicted. There are no inventory reports or GDP releases to influence pricing and increase participation. However, unexpected happenings can significantly affect the price of Bitcoin, and it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the news feed, just in case.
  • Implement a stop-loss policy: Long-term volatility is a Bitcoin attribute that’s especially compelling to active investors and traders. Valuations can fluctuate by up to 10% each day, which creates ample opportunities for traders who are willing to take a few chances. Whether a trader works in the Bitcoin futures, CFD, or cash markets, a stop-loss policy is essential. It’s important to use a stop-loss somewhere in the market to protect open positions.
  • Use leverage wisely when trading or investing in Bitcoin: While it seems cliché, leverage really is a double-edged sword. It magnifies one’s gains, but it substantially increases their losses as well. If leverage is excessive, an investor is more likely to mismanage their money and lose everything. However, too little leverage can inhibit performance because trades may not always perform to their full potential. In the end, effective management of leverage is a delicate balancing act, but it’s an important one for Bitcoin investors to perform.

An easy way to define a position’s size is to use the 3% rule. Under this guideline, only three percent of the trading account’s total is assignable to each trade. This ensures that the risk matches the reward in regards to stop-loss location and position sizing.

In Conclusion

The world is quickly approaching the ten-year anniversary of Bitcoin, and cryptocurrency, decentralization, and blockchain are continuing to evolve. Cryptocurrency is in a bit of a bubble right now, and like others, the bubble will burst eventually. Surviving currencies such as Bitcoin will become the Amazon, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan of the next few years, and they may even form the basis of future governments.

As existing players enter the system, they will leverage their power to protect the system from outsiders. Decentralized currencies will become a parallel economic OS for the world, especially in countries that saw the most significant effects of the US dollar’s dominance. However, to accomplish these goals, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have to become indispensable.

Laptop and email interface

Etiquette Basics for Business Emails

Five years ago, analysts with technology research firm, The Radicati Group, Inc. predicted more than 130 billion business emails would be sent and received each day by the end of last year. Current figures indicate we’ve met those expectations in full force. This form of communication has not only inundated the business world but transformed it. In light of this development, understanding proper business email etiquette is the key to conveying professionalism and authority in today’s online landscape.

Building a Winning Email Strategy

Email has certainly become the norm these days, leaving some a bit lax on the finer points of the game. As a result, many formal emails fall short of delivering on their intended purposes. To carry a professional image, business etiquette dictates certain elements should be included.

  • Straightforward Subject Line: Subject lines are our first, and possibly our only, opportunities to grab recipients’ attention and convince them reading further is worth their time. These shouldn’t, under any circumstances, be left blank. Of course, a vague generic description, like “read this now” reeks of spam and could be equally ineffective. Be direct and concise regarding the email’s contents, such as “End-of-Year Marketing Report Attached”. Specificity greatly increases the chances of an email being opened and read through.
  • Appropriate Salutation: Salutations are also crucial components of business etiquette. Openings like “Dear”, “Good Day”, “Greetings”, “Hello” and “Hi” all serve nicely in a professional environment. These should be followed by the recipient’s name. While “To Whom It May Concern” and “Dear Sir or Madame” once ruled the world of formal salutations, they’re both considered somewhat off-putting in the modern-day sense.
  • Writing a business emailFull Signature: Be sure to add your signature to business emails as well. Though these shouldn’t drone on beyond five or six lines, they should definitely contain your name, email, company designation and phone number. All these give recipients ample ways of contacting you directly in the email, so they don’t have to spend extra time looking up your information elsewhere.
  • Be Thorough: Regardless of how many past exchanges you’ve had with a recipient, it’s important to provide details. Compose each email as if it were the first communication between the two of you, briefly but fully covering the subject at hand. This helps avoid confusion and prevents recipients from having to scroll through previous conversations to remind themselves of what you’re talking about.
  • Follow the Rules of Writing: Though the world has become fairly lenient when it comes to the ins and outs of written communication, business email etiquette places great emphasis on them. Write in complete sentences with proper punctuation and capitalization in all the right places; otherwise, you’ll appear sloppy or even uneducated in the eyes of others.

After all is said and done, be sure to proofread before sending. Walk away for a few minutes and come back to it, so you’ll read what you wrote rather than what you meant to say. With all these elements in place and careful attention to detail, you’ll build a well-crafted formal email strategy sure to draw the attention of coworkers, clients and prospects.

What to Avoid in Business Emails

Just as certain components should be part of your winning email approach, some things should be left out of the mix. Allowing anger or frustration to sway your good judgement could be considered the most vital point on this end of the spectrum. Other factors to sidestep include:

  • Sharing Private Info on Group Emails: This may seem like common sense, but it’s easy to forget who and what are involved in a hasty moment. Never share private contact information or files in group chats unless you have explicit permission. Doing so compromises security and trust, and it could get you into quite a bit of legal trouble if the breached individual decides to take the situation that far.
  • Five guys jumping in the air

    Humour is suitable for the working atmosphere, but not in a professional email.

    Using Humor: Humor is a wonderful gift when used in face-to-face exchanges, but it tends to lose something in digital translation. Statements that might be hilarious in person could be taken as outright offensive via email, so just don’t make the attempt. It’s better to come off bland than boorish.

  • Inserting Informal Features: Casual acronyms certainly have their places, and emoticons are capable of brightening people’s days, but there’s no room for them in business emails. Smiley faces, LOLs, excessive exclamation points and other non-essentials tend to detract from professionalism, so leave them out of the mix.

Last but not least, don’t leave an email sitting in your inbox unless it’s the definitive end of a conversation. If a recipient took the time to read an email from you and respond to it, return the courtesy.

Professionalism is vital when it comes to online correspondence where facial expressions, vocal indications and other communication tools don’t apply. Follow these rules of email etiquette, and you’ll be all set to impress. Attention to detail takes a little extra time and effort, but it pays off in the grand scheme of things.

The Arrival of Automation: Will a Robot Take Your Job?

The Arrival of Automation: Will a Robot Take Your Job?

The Arrival of Automation: Will a Robot Take Your Job?Job automation has arrived and it’s already saving manufacturing businesses a good deal of money. But with tech masterminds like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk celebrating the rapid rise of artificial intelligence and automated labor, there’s reason for some workers to be worried about their jobs.

How Artificial Intelligence and Robots Save Money and Put Jobs in Jeopardy

How Artificial Intelligence and Robots Save Money

Human workers have a lot of needs. Sick days, paid holidays, minimum wage, government-mandated lunch breaks and other hallmarks of a humane employment situation can attract talented workers. But these perks aren’t necessarily good for the bottom line, especially when it comes to menial jobs with high turnover. Robot workers, on the other hand, don’t really need much other than some routine maintenance and the occasional big fix for an equipment malfunction or software bug.

It’s no surprise, then, that some businesses are bringing in robots to take the place of their low-level employees. With high rates of productivity and no need to worry about everyday HR concerns like salary and performance reviews, robots are proving a worthwhile investment. It’s an attractive prospect that has many business leaders wondering how they can replace some of their human laborers with computers, machines, and robotics that operate autonomously and perform the same work for less than a human employee.

As it stands now, we’re still in the early phases of the predicted robopocalypse of job automation, but if recent innovations are any indication, the robot job takeover could happen sooner rather than later. In particular, open-source artificial intelligence (AI) efforts such as Elon Musk’s OpenAI make the source code for AI programs available to anyone who wants to use it. This could make it much more efficient for developers to write code for computerized bots and other artificial intelligence, even at smaller companies and startups.

Which Jobs are at Risk?

Which Jobs are at Risk?

This all means that skilled and unskilled labor jobs, particularly those focused on tasks that involve repetitive gestures and the creation of identical items in an assembly-line fashion are at high-risk for robot replacement. Many laborers, especially those in automotive manufacturing, are already seeing large-scale job loss as manufacturing bots move onto the factory floor. Construction may be next as robots prove their worth in manufacturing and, in March 2017, the CEO of Taco Bell and KFC’s parent company indicated that he sees a big future for automated food prep in the fast food industry.

Even some menial office jobs, particularly those fulfilled by receptionists and assistants, are considered prime targets for automation. Paralegals, whose jobs are largely based on fact-finding, could also see themselves made obsolete by the right artificial intelligence (AI) program on their lawyer boss’ computer. But some higher-level jobs may also be at risk. The senior VP of digital marketing could feel the squeeze when marketing automation makes the human involvement in everything from social media posts to email blasts all but unnecessary. A manager may be needed to monitor feeds and other such oversight tasks, but the menial labor will likely be taken over by a specially coded computer program. And as more and more jobs get taken over by robots, recruiters, temp agency workers, HR professionals and others who deal with the human side of labor may also feel the squeeze.

However, there are plenty of jobs that aren’t considered to be vulnerable to job automation. For example, we aren’t at the point of letting the robots program or design themselves, so anyone who wants a secure career future may want to start learning how to program AI and engineer robotic machines. It’s highly likely that robots will be used to service and repair other robots, though, which means that a displaced factory worker who hopes to a robot mechanic isn’t exactly setting a realistic long-term career trajectory.

History and the Robot Uprising

History and the Robot Uprising

So will a robot take your job? If you’re a low-level worker in fast food, automotive manufacturing, bookkeeping, financial analysis or other industries in which menial, repetitive tasks are the name of the game, you have good reason to be worried. However, that doesn’t necessarily spell a future of widespread poverty. After all, if a significant percentage of wage earners are completely displaced by automation, the economic impact could do immense financial damage to the companies investing in robot workers in the first place. If no one can afford to buy cars, what’s the point of having robots build them in the first place? Job automation allows for high levels of productivity, but that productivity isn’t worth the investment if it isn’t actually driving revenue gains.

There’s also a question of the human touch. Job roles such as bank teller, financial advisor, and even movie star are said to be on the chopping block, but nuance and emotional awareness are notoriously difficult tasks for AI to master. Anyone who’s become frustrated by Alexa or Siri’s inability to understand pronunciation subtleties knows this firsthand. AI will likely get better at human-style interaction with time, but will that really mean that the benefits of social interaction itself become obsolete?

The point is that future jobs will likely look different than the jobs of the present day, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any jobs for humans. This false assumption dates all the way back in the 16th century when Queen Elizabeth I of England denied a patent to a man who’d invented the automatic knitting machine. The queen was afraid that such a machine would make it impossible for poor women and girls to earn money with their knitting skills. Hundreds of years later, textile factory jobs ended up being a boon to many, especially after the introduction of safe labor practices and fair wage laws.

Even the 20th century had its fair share of unfounded hand wringing over the prospect of new technologies. Economists in the 1960s raised the alarm about computers taking jobs and destroying the economy, but they actually facilitated the creation of dozens of new career paths. Job automation may be the end of work as we know it, but likely not the end of work altogether. So, while robots in the future may take all or part of your job, historical context tells us that there will likely be another opportunity waiting for you in the brave new automated future. What will the future and technology hold? Self-driving cars, 100% person-free labor market with humanoid robots doing everything people once did? Though a robot takeover seems a little farfetched right now, who knows what the future skills of robots will bring.